The Howliday Cast- A Podcast of Holiday Safety for Your Pets

pet holiday safety

The Howliday Cast- A Podcast of Holiday Safety for Your Pets

Or click on this link:  The Howliday Cast

Hey hey everybody.  Sammy the Dog Trainer here for your semi regular podcast…we don’t really have a set schedule, but we make sure to get in those podcasts sponsored by our listeners.  If you want a podcast dedicated to the topic of your choice, check out that sponsor this podcast button on and make sure to shoot me an email at with your topic.  So today we’re going to tackle holiday safety for our pets.  Can you believe thanksgiving is over and the winter holidays are upon us?  Crazy right?

So every year I make a point to put a little dent in my family’s holiday bonuses by talking about holiday safety with our pets.  For those of you how don’t know, my family is chock full of brilliant veterinarians, and it’s a family joke every year that they make their Christmas bonuses doing ornament extraction surgeries…it’s a joke but it’s not a joke.  Every year someone’s new puppy eats a glass ornament off the Christmas tree and they pay a hefty price.  So let’s do my family a disservice and your family a service by talking about holiday safety.
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I was laughing at my past year’s holiday safety articles because people come up with some ingenious ways to keep their pets safe over the holidays.  One of my articles features the family Christmas tree encased in a wire dog crate so the family’s cat can’t get at the ornaments.  It’s funny…but also kind of genius.  So let’s talk about the Christmas tree…or Hanukkah tree or Yule tree or whatever.  We’re equal opportunity here at Camp Sammy.  So whatever flavor of winter holiday tree you want to bring into your house, let’s talk about how to make it safe.  So pretty much when you bring a big honking tree into your house and pay a bunch of attention to it by decorating it with lights and ornaments and leaving little calling cards that smell like you under the tree (aka presents all nice and smelly with your scent from your wrapping), I mean…it’s going to attract the attention and regard of your animals.

Now I’m a dog trainer…I don’t train cats…yeah good luck with that.  They can be taught but not reliably.  Actually it’s kind of funny, the Army did a bunch of research studies in the 70s on what animals they should use for their various military programs.  They studied a whole slew of different animals and came to a few conclusions.  The first is that domestic dog was the most pliable and useful for their purposes.  The second is they wish they could use cats.  Cats are agile and smart and sneaky and kinda awesome.  But they could not be reliably trained.  Yeah big LOL on that one.  I wonder what politician decided THAT was a project worth funding because anyone who has a cat could have told them that for a fraction of the cost.  Yay government spending.

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So this all segues into my holiday cat Christmas tree story.  So I found a great deal on this pretty little flocked artificial Christmas tree.  Now Sammy the dog trainer is savvy to pooches.  In year’s past I have only decorated the top half of the trees or put them on pedestals or whatever to keep the ornaments out of reach of prying little doggo mouths.  Over the years I had devised the perfect spot for the Christmas tree- on top of my tall rustic dining room table, far out of reach of any doggies who might want to steal a bob from the tree or hike their leg on the new indoor potty spot.  So I got to setting up the fluffy white little tree and got it all decorated.  Now when I have agreeable dogs, I open up the kitties’ door on the barn door I built to separate the back half of the house from the front half where my doggy boarder friends hang out with me in the main living area.

This particular year, I had some pretty mellow boarders, so the kitties came out to investigate the festivities.  Now being as I am a dog trainer and not a cat trainer, the cats jump on my counters and tables and what have you because…meh.  I spend every waking moment training dogs, so the cats
kinda just do their thing.  One of my cats in particular really does his own thing.  His name is Attila THE CAT and he is as large on personality as his name is on history.  He also has a guilty baked goods fetish.  Danishes, muffins, what have you- he loves them.  He’s my phantom cupcake licker.  This one year I got this really nice smelling vanilla shampoo, the ones all special edition for the holidays.  I woke up in the middle of the night to find Attila attached to my head mowing down on my hair.  A few days later he had a hairball and it was definitely not his hair. Yeah gross.  So he has issues.  And apparently he decided to have one with my lovely, newly set up Christmas tree.  He waddles over and starting munching on the white fake snow flocking.  I was like…uh oh.

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So being the dog trainer, I get out my handy dandy homemade no-chew spray that I use for the dogs.  It has super hot peppers and vinegar in it and works way better than the store bought stuff.  So I go ahead a spritz the bough Attila was munching on.  He looks at me with disdain and then sidles over a couple inches and starts munching again.  So I spritz THAT place.  Then he moves again and I spritz again.  We went on like this until pretty much the whole tree was covered in Camp Sammy famous no-chew spray.  At this point one of my clients shows up to pick up her dogs from doggy daycare.  With a completely amused yet semi-disgusted face she says “Damn those dogs have got good aim.”  She totally thought the dogs had peed all over my Christmas tree.  And after a glance I realized the nice white flocking was now not only super spicy but also yellow.  We threw out the Christmas tree.  Now I get a real one and Attila is not inclined to munch on that one.

Moral of the story- find what works for your household.  If your cat has a hankering to eat your tree, try a different tree.  If you puppy wants to hike his leg on your tree, get the tree up out of reach or maybe fence it off with a gate.  And please please please keep ornaments out of your dogs’ reach.  Sorry Aunt Roni.

What else can pose a danger during the holidays?  Power cords to light up all those lights and tiny villages and whatnot.  Christmas foods- keep those well out of reach as well.  Turkey bones can be just as deadly as a glass ornament.  Burning candles and sweeping tales do not mix.  Christmas presents.  So your dog with his super awesome amazing smeller can smell foodstuff through wrapping paper.

I experienced this first hand one year when my mom’s German Shepherd perused through all the packages and found the one with dark chocolates in its proceeded to eat the whole box.  Now chocolate and artificial sweeteners are toxic for your dogs, but she was lucky enough to be a bigger dog so it did not affect her as much as if she had been a small dog.  So she pretty much had festive, brightly colored foil turds for a few days and that was it.  But had she been a smaller dog, it could have been tragic.  So keep the food presents, even if they are wrapped, up and out of reach as well.
Notice a trend here?  Up and out of reach is the safest thing for pets.  Sure you can train your dog to leave things alone when you are there and watching…but when you are not, do not tempt fate.  You can’t correct what you cannot catch in the moment, so the best way is to keep those instances from happening when you are not there.  The crate is your friend.  Baby gates are your friends.  High out of reach places…again.  Friends.
*not an endorsement of CBD oil.  Check with your vet

What else?  Make sure your dog is trained to come reliably on command because when visitors start coming over, inevitably a door or a gate gets left open.  Be aware of hunting seasons in your area and take precautions for your family to be safe, both two and four legged.  Also, socialize your dog, with the supervision of a professional trainer if need be, so that your dog doesn’t bite Aunt Suzie or is so annoying that no one wants Fido to partake in the festivities.  Your dog is part of your family.  Make sure you include them in the holidays!  Which may mean a bit of training work beforehand, so your dog can have the best possible holiday too.

Oh yeah, and if you have a protection trained dog…just be aware.  Santa’s suit looks an awful lot like a bite suit.  Just saying.  So with that lovely thought to gnaw on, I will bid you all adieu for now.  If you liked today’s podcast and would like to support the continuation of these little on air diatribes, please click on the support this podcast button.  Also check us out on  It’s because of listeners like you that this small veteran owned business is possible.  Love to you all.


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