elf with dog wrapped in colorful christmas lights is a cute elf on the shelf pets idea
Per Breiehagen/Stone/Getty Images
15 Elf On The Shelf Ideas That Involve The Family Pet

You can have some fun with this one.

by Lindsay E. Mack and Meguire Hennes
Originally Published: 

Coming up with a different Elf on the Shelf scene every night can be fun, but chances are, you want to change things up a bit. To do so, why not bring the family pet into the tradition? These creative Elf on the Shelf ideas that involve pets show that four-legged friends (or those with fins) make great props for the different scenarios that you put Santa's little helper in. Well, at least some of the time.

If you plan on setting up these elves with your pets, then you'll definitely want to just take a picture or shoot some video featuring their encounter and show them to the kids later. By doing so, you'll help enforce the "no touching" rule that goes with the elf, so that the magic stays in tact. Plus, you'll have time to stage a few reshoots, in case it takes Fido a few minutes to get used to the whole elf idea.

But you can also set up your elf with different pet items throughout the house so that it looks like they were involved in taking care of your furry family member, too. Maybe the kids find the elf with the dog food, or the leash is ready to go by the elf, hoping they can take your pup for a walk.

Can cats and dogs touch Elf on the Shelf?

The “no touching” rule applies to anyone in the house; parents, kids, grandparents, visitors. However, cats and dogs don’t really understand what the Elf on the Shelf is and what it’s doing in their home. To them, it might look like a toy — it’s small, lightweight, and a bright color. Even though you don’t necessarily want your pet touching Elfie, he certainly won’t lose his magic. Elfie and Santa understand that cats and dogs have a mind of their own, so if your pup accidentally decides to play with Elfie, don’t worry, just rely on your handy-dandy tongs to separate your pet and the elf. Remember: Humans can’t touch, pets can if it’s an accident. And if you’re really worried, you could always keep your elf tucked away in something like an elf carrier to keep them protected from the elements of the real world.

By bringing your pets into the elf tradition, it helps to solidify what you already know: Pets are totally a part of the family, too. Even if your fur baby doesn't take to the elf at first — cats in particular seem a bit wary of him — it's still fun to film their reactions. Just make sure to keep the elf away from any dogs who might be tempted to use him as a chew toy once your scene has wrapped.


Pet sleigh

picture alliance/picture alliance/Getty Images

Put your pet’s leash on and tell them to sit, place the elf behind the pet in a tiny chair, attach the leash to the chair and you’ve got your very own homemade sleigh. Take a picture and use this idea if your pet has a vet appointment and you want to give your kids a cool story to tell their friends at school. “My pet flew my elf all the way back to the North Pole for a day and met Santa!” They’ll be the coolest kid in 1st grade.


Dog on the Shelf

janiecbros/E+/Getty Images

To truly involve your pet in the fun, replicate the iconic Elf on the Shelf costume in pet form. All you need is a red Santa hat, possibly a white collar, and a red shirt. Have Elfie write a note saying he needed a day off, so your pet is on elf duty for the day. We can’t guarantee that your pet will tolerate the outfit for longer than five minutes, but surprise the kids with this in the morning and your pet is sure to get tons of attention.


Elf hamster ball

snapphoto/E+/Getty Images

Place your elf in a hamster ball, take a video of your pet playing with the hamster ball in the backyard. Your kids will get a kick out of the feud between your pet and Elfie.


Christmas tree dog

Victoria Neer/Moment Open/Getty Images

If your dog is a professional napper, place some Christmas lights and tinsel around your pup, have the elf sit calmly on its back, finish off the look with a star, and you’ve got yourself a Christmas tree dog. Take a picture before Fido gets fidgety, show your kids when they wake up, and they’ll be excited to see the family dog getting in touch with Christmas spirit.


Prank war

Why not stage your pets trying to get rid of the elf? The dogs Ricochet and Rina got into a prank war with the elf that involved whoopie cushions, a toaster, paper shredder, and more. By the end of it they were pretty much over the elf's shenanigans. Basically the whole video is good to watch for some good puppy and elf inspiration.


Cat attack: Part 1

Il'â Parubenko / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you balance the elf on the edge of a table, the cat will almost certainly knock it off. It's what cats do. Film the whole ordeal and share it with the kids when they wake up.


Dog ride

I mean, having the elf ride on your pet is a very cute idea. But one can assume that different animals have different reactions to the practice of being turned into a method of transportation. So if you want to try slipping your elf into your pup’s collar as a surprise for your kids, be prepared for the elf to possibly go flying.


Pet chores

Emma Innocenti/Stone/Getty Images

If you’re more into using your elf as a full prop throughout the day, set him up near the dog food bowl or the fish food or even the tinned cat food as if he was going to help out for the day and feed the family pet. Your kids will love how involved your elf is in the rest of the fam, especially the furry ones.


Pet massage

Stage a series of photos in which your elf appears to sit on or massage the family pet. It's pretty much guaranteed to be super cute, and your kids will love seeing what fun the elf had with your pets throughout the night.


Go full Elf on the Shelf pet style

If you want to get super detailed, you could get your Elf on the Shelf their own pet to bring from the North Pole! Maybe have your elf write a note to your children about how much they love their own pets, and there can be some sweet little bonding moments between the elf’s pup and your family’s.


Chill cats

Anna Denisova / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

Because wide-awake cats are probably tempted to attack the elf, it might be better to stage photos when the felines are asleep, or at least super calm. It will make the whole process easier for everyone and you can tell the kids you found the two new best friends cuddling in the middle of the night.


Cat attack: Part 2

Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

The first time you introduce your cat to the Elf on the Shelf, be sure to film the results. Sniffing and/or slapping appears to be the most common cat reaction. To be fair to the elf, this is a cat’s go-to reaction for almost everything, but we especially can't blame them in this case because the elf is a little bit creepy.


Grooming session

Svetlana Repnitskaya/Moment/Getty Images

Grab some pictures of your elf sitting near the dog with a pair of clippers and a comb. Or even better, take your pup for their normal grooming session and then stage the elf with the clippers and comb as if they were the ones who gave your family dog a haircut. Your kids will crack up.


Fishing pond

GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Stone/Getty Images

If you have a fish tank, pose the elf nearby. Give them a tiny fishing rod and let them dip it just above the tank, as if they are trying to catch your family’s pet and take it for a ride to the North Pole.


Elf the Pet Walker

Set up your cute Elf on the Shelf with your kids’ favorite toy animals and turn them into a bonafide animal walker. Bonus points if you can put your own pets’ accessories nearby so that it looks like the elf is going to take a turn walking a real pet.

Yes, Elf on the Shelf is a children’s Christmas tradition, but who said pets can’t be involved? Pets make every situation better, especially the hectic holiday season, so it’s quite inevitable that they’ll add a magical twist to Elf on the Shelf. And if you’re running out of Elf on the Shelf ideas, including pets in the skit opens up tons more options for setting the scene in your house.

This article was originally published on