This was a post I put up in 2012, but with the holidays on the horizon, it’s applicable again!
If you ever have an occasion to wrap a gift, you probably don’t want it torn up by the dog. Keeping them away from presents is much like keeping them away from food: practice it and watch for sniffing!
When I have puppies and gifts, I train them in stages. First, I take some zip string and curl it so it’s fun and bouncy. I make it quite clear to the puppies (and adult dogs) right away that this is not for them; I don’t even want them sniffing it. If they go to sniff it, I make a hissing noise (my personal bad dog noise) and shoo them away. (I might shoo them away with a quick poke in the side or a squirt from a squirt bottle.) I continue this until they’re no longer interested in the ribbon.
Note: if your dog is LOOKING at the ribbon, he is going to re-engage with it. Keep shooing until they no longer look!
After that, I ball up wrapping paper, add ribbon, and start all over. I do things like throw the ball of paper in the air and roll it across the floor — anything to make it more interesting. When my dogs get interested, I hiss and shoo them away. I want them to think that no matter what happens with those presents, they are NOT to tear them up! The one thing I won’t do is call my dog and hand a gift to them: I want my dogs to know that anything I hand to them can be trusted. But I can certainly “play” with it on my own, make it interesting, and tell my dogs to stay back. Sneaky, innit?
Now, with enough work you can even wrap up dog bones and expect your dogs to leave them alone… but that would take a LOT of work! I’ve been known to do just that with my dogs, but keep in mind my job is dogs: I spend the time making sure mine are excellent.
Finally, once the gifts are in their appointed place, I tell the dogs not to go near there. I want this to be so ingrained that if they’re playing, it’s automatic for them to stay away from that area. I don’t want my 110-pound shepherd dashing through the gifts and trampling anything breakable!
There is one additional thing I DON’T do, as well: though the dogs always have gifts for the holidays, they never unwrap them themselves. I don’t want my dogs learning it’s okay to unwrap presents, since they’re not so good at reading the name tags, and after I’ve spent all this time telling them to avoid the presents it wouldn’t be fair, anyway! I call my dogs over, unwrap their gift, and hand them whatever that gift is. Everyone is happy!