For most of us, our Christmas traditions are ingrained.  In particular, the way in which we decorate the house isn’t questioned.  You will know months in advance whether you plan to have a real or artificial tree, how the cards will be hung and what additional ornamentation your house (and possibly your garden) will wear for the festive season.  

There are however certain “life changing events” (a technical term from my place of work!) that may have an impact on Christmas decorations.  Whilst Christmas may be primarily for children, puppies have to be thought about more than normal at this time of year.  

For his first Christmas with you there are many dangers for your puppy that you have to keep him away from, but I will concentrate on the vegetative ones here.

New Park Christmas Trees

The first thought is that a dog puppy might be tempted to lift his leg against the tree since that is what he is probably starting to get used to outdoors (depending on quite how young he is).  Assuming that the trunk is not too exposed, this may not be too much of a problem since the branches will protect it, although presents may be a different proposition.

Far more likely is that your tree will be placed in a strategic corner and your puppy will want to investigate behind the tree and will probably knock the decorations off either in his forward or backward journey (assuming there isn’t room for him to turn around).  This is not a good experience for either you or him when you want your tree to stay looking at its best, so it is probably a good idea to ensure that this cannot happen.

I have to admit that over the years, I have found that it is much safer not to have a tree indoors, but that may be a solution that many find hard to tolerate.  Maybe you could surround your tree with puppy panels to keep the puppy away from it, removing them during the present opening festivities?

The other key issue to be aware of is the possibility of dropped berries.  If, like me, you like holly as a decoration, then toward the end of the holiday period after the sprig has been kept in the realtively hot and dry environment of a house can cause the berries to drop to the ground.  Holly berries can cause stomach upsets amongst other things, so please keep a vigilant eye for berries.

More worrying, for those that can get hold of it, is Mistletoe.  According to the Dog’s Trust list of poisonous plants, just a few berries can be fatal for a puppy.  Maybe we should be glad that it has become less common in homes over the years.

This isn’t technically Anya’s first Christmas with us but she was a month old last year and as such, she was securely protected along with the rest of the litter for any Christmas dangers.  This year is rather different.  Thank goodness she has just about learnt what she is and is not allowed to play with in normal life.  Now our Xmas challenge begins.

I usually put the cards up the weekend before the holidays.  They go around the (unlit) fireplace, so she will be able to easily reach them.  In a few days we will therefore have to start teaching her that they are not toys for her amusement.  We never leave her loose in the house unattended, so should be available to reinforce the message.  Luckily we have older dogs who should also be able to explain Christmas etiquette to her.

Holly Wreath

There will be no Christmas tree to tempt her and the Scandianvian lights are in the dining room. the door of which is always kept closed when she is loose.  There should be no way that she can get near the holly wreath on the front door and we don’t have Mistletoe.

Hopefully everything should be safe for our puppy’s first Christmas.  I hope you keep yours is safe too.

While I was looking at the planting at work, I suddenly recognised Euonymus europaeus (aka the Winged Spindle).  I had this shrub in my garden, but hadn’t seen it for quite a while.  Last weekend, I was pruning my shrubs and decided to clear the area between the shrubs and the fence of dead branches as I have a fence post that needs to be replaced.  Suddenly, I found my Euonymus.  It has been shaded out by the other, faster growing shrubs, but it was still alive!

This is a very distinctive shrub as the stems have wings sticking out at right angles to them which are a real feature in the winter.  It is supposed to have pink to red flowers in May, but I can’t ever recall seeing them, maybe because they are described as “inconspicuous”.  As I read up on the shrub though, I realised that there are some down sides to it.  It is much liked by aphids and more to the point poisonous – so not a good plants where there are dogs around, especially a young puppy.

It is a good job therefore that I had the perfect position in mind to move it to.  The Phormium in the front garden that only just made it through the winter before last has finally given up the ghost.  It was planted beside a conifer and so the part of the conifer that was shaded by it is brown and will not recover.  I therefore need a tallish plant to fill the whole – the perfect place for the Euonymus :).

Despite the fact that much of the Phormium is rotten and so the leaf spikes just pull away from the plant, the roots are very firmly still hanging on to the soil.  I will have to borrow a pick axe to get it out of the ground – good job I have a friend who owns one.

It was so nice to not only find a “lost” plant, but also to have the perfect spot for it just waiting to be filled.

I find it interesting looking at the search terms that people use to find my blog.  Today, there was a more descriptive one than most – “why is my 7 month springer tearing my plants up”.

Well, there are a number of answers to this question

  • Because he can
  • Because he thinks it is fun
  • Because he is bored

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

Because he can– Puppies spend their time finding out about the world around them.  They pick up leaves and sticks, they want to see if they are edible or what the purpose of them is.  Digging up plants is (to the puppy) the natural extension of picking up a leaf.  The key thing is to ensure that your puppy understands that he should not do this and respects your authority over the garden.    The first thing to do is to make sure that your puppy fully recognises what is expected of him indoors and then move on to outdoors.  The article on Whose Garden is it? may help you with this.

Because he thinks it is fun – If you turn the retrieval of a plant into a game (in the puppy’s eyes) by chasing after him to retrieve the plant, then you are undoing much of the training you have already put in.  Do not allow this to happen.   Often the best thing to do (assuming the plant is not poisonous) is to remove yourself from the garden.  If you have worked hard with your puppy to ensure that you are the light of his life then he will quickly come looking for you.  If he doesn’t, try distracting him with one of his favourite toys and then quickly remove the plant.

Because he is bored – Puppies need lots of stimulation.  If you don’t provide it, they will go looking for things to do.   There are lots of things that you can do to keep your puppy’s mind busy and not all of them require mountains of exercise.  (A good thing since puppies should only have a daily 5 mins exercise for each month of their age to ensure there is no undue pressures on their growing bones).  Our 3 month old puppy has been to farmers markets, supermarket car parks, pubs, schools at going home time – all places where she sees and experiences lots of people and things going on without having to walk far.  Build it up gradually so as not to frighten them.  Eventually, as an adult, they should be able to go into a city centre on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy their afternoon out as much as the humans with them.

It should be said that these comments apply to all breeds, but there is little doubt that springers can be a little more energetic than some breeds!

PS – it should be noted that the photo above was provided by a friend of mine!