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A Safe and Merry Christmas: Ensuring Your Dog's Safety and Well-being During the Festive Season

I can't believe it's already time flies! The days are short now, and we need our warm coats and woolly hats when going out, as winter is coming. For your and your dog’s safety when walking in the dark morning and/or evenings, please make sure you and your dog are clearly visible. There are some simple solutions to this, ranging from reflective vests, collars, leads, harnesses with torch-holders, collars with built in LEDs or even simple clip-on collar lights.

Remember, the list is not exhaustive, so feel free to explore other options that might suit you and your pet better.

The magic of the festive season is nearly upon us, and what better way to embrace it than by taking a moment to plan activities, meals and rest times for all family members?

The sights, sounds and smells of the many celebrations during the festive period can be a sensory overload for your dog. There are visitors, the general frenzy of family members and changes in the daily routine to cope with.

Preparing Your Dog for the Festive Season Hustle and Bustle - Christmas Dog Safety

  • Breakable Christmas decorations should hang high enough to avoid knocking with a waggy tail.

  • Edible decorations should be avoided as some dogs may decide they are a nice snack to be had.

  • Keep to your dog’s daily normal routine as closely as possible under the circumstances.

  • Allow time to take your dog to get a relaxed walk before visitors arrive

  • Have a distraction prepared for your dog when your guests first arrive, i.e. long lasting chew, snuffle mat, frozen kong

  • Make sure your dog has somewhere they go for peace and quiet with a bed and fresh water when the festivities get too much.

  • Explain to children (especially children coming who aren’t used to being around dogs) to be calm, to wait for the dog to come to them, and not approach the dog when eating or sleeping.

  • Supervise children around dogs at all times.

  • Observe your dog’s body language so you can give your dog space when they get stressed / over-zealous.

  • Indulgence and spoiling your 4-legged friend is fine, but it is important to feed dog friendly foods and treats.

  • Here are a few examples of things your dog might encounter over the festive period which are not safe for them to eat: grapes, raisins or sultanas (and wine!), chocolate – don't forget chocolate decorations on the tree and in advent calendars that are easy pickings, macadamia nuts, mince pies, Christmas pudding, rich fatty foods/fat trimmings, any cooked bones from Christmas meats, avocado, onion, holly berries, mistletoe, alcohol, xylitol – an artificial sweetener found in some sugar-free foods.

Christmas dangers for our dogs (and cats). Here are a few more pointers to help keep our dogs (and cats) safe.

Please don't let this list put you off anything, and I am certainly no kill-joy! If we are aware of the potential dangers and poisons, then a few simple steps can ensure we can relax and thoroughly enjoy the festive season!

Christmas Lights

They look amazing, and no Christmas tree would be complete without them. They are also responsible for a number of fires every year for a number of reasons. One of these could be your furry companion chewing on the wiring. As well as a fire, this can also result in serious electrocution.

If you have a dog (cat or other furry friend) who likes to chew, then think about getting battery operated lights, make sure that they can't get to the plug and cable or only allow them in the Christmas tree room under supervision. Also, ensure you don't overload any plug socket and check the wire for any damage or broken bulbs before turning them on.

Dressing up safely

Festive Attire Considerations: If you're planning to dress up your dog, ensure the costumes are comfortable, safe, and non-restrictive. Always supervise your dog while they're dressed up. And please make sure your dog is happy to take part in the dressing up activity.

Tree Decorations

Christmas baubles look nice and shiny and great fun to play with, especially for puppies (and cats). If they are broken by our pets, then they can be very sharp, and smaller decorations might even be swallowed whole. Tinsel is another issue. If played with and eaten, then this can cause severe peritonitis by sawing through the intestines. So-called linear foreign bodies can be much worse than solid items.

Christmas Plants: mistletoe, holly and poinsettia

Next, we have our common Christmas plant decorations that are dangerous for pets. Mistletoe, Holly and Poinsettia are all poisonous, although thankfully, they would need to be eaten in large quantities to be really dangerous. In most cases, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach ache are likely to be the signs you would notice. Holly and poinsettia rarely get worse than this.

Mistletoe, however, can cause wobbliness, collapse, seizures and even death. To be on the safe side, exclude your pet from the room while you are preparing these Christmas decorations and always hang these plants out of reach of your pet.

Cooked Bones

Our remaining dangers are all food related, it is, after all the season to eat, drink and be merry! There can be nothing more satisfying to our pet than secretly raiding the bin on Christmas night and scoffing all the tasty morsels found within.

Cooked bones of any type, turkey, chicken, ham, or beef are very brittle and have a tendency to form sharp shards that are just great at getting stuck in the intestines and puncturing holes in them. Make sure this can't happen to your pet, and never, EVER be tempted to actually give them a cooked bone.

Fatty Food

If you have a dog who has had pancreatitis in the past or some breeds (such as a Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodle or Cocker Spaniel) which are more suspectable then you should avoid fatty foods. We know that high-fat meals can trigger this potentially fatal condition, so resist giving high-fat food to your pet no matter how long they look at you with their saddest eyes. Cutest begging eyes


Chocolate is poisoning, which I'm sure most of you will be well aware of. Thankfully, it is rarely serious because the dangers of chocolate to pets are well known. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that chocolate is actually safe. Sure, some types may have very little chance of causing harm, but if your dog is a small breed or gets into dark chocolate or cocoa powder, then the danger is very real. Always call your vet for advice.

Raisins + Grapes

There are a lot of them, from Christmas Pudding to mince pies and fruit cake!

Grapes and raisins have the potential to cause deadly kidney failure, even if only relatively small amounts are eaten. The big problem is that some dogs are A LOT more sensitive to it than others, but we have no way of predicting this. When the risk is the complete destruction of kidney function, the potential Christmas danger is definitely one to take seriously.

Onions + Garlic

Onions and garlic cause destruction of the body's red blood cells, causing anaemia, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

One of the big differences between onion and garlic poisoning is the fact that the effect builds up over time. This means that while eating a lot in one sitting can cause issues, small amounts eaten over a number of weeks can be just as dangerous.


Last but not least, never give your pet alcohol. This is obvious but can be a hidden danger in a rum-soaked fruit cake and is also one of the serious poisonings caused by eating bread dough, where the yeast forms alcohol in the stomach. Alcohol causes a drop in blood sugar, low blood pressure, and hypothermia, all leading to death.

New Year’s Training Goals

Setting Up for Success: Post-Christmas is a great time to set new training goals. Reflect on any behavioural challenges and plan for a year of fun, effective training.

Please share with us if there is anything else you think people should be aware of on our Facebook page.


Celebrating Christmas with your dog can be a heartwarming and joyous experience. By planning activities and taking necessary precautions, you can ensure a festive season that's enjoyable and safe for every member of your family, including your cherished canine. Remember, the holidays are about creating lasting memories and shared moments of happiness. Merry Christmas from all of us at Lead and Listen!

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