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Give your dog or cat a treat on Halloween night
With Halloween only a matter of hours away, a few precautionary measures should be taken before swarms of lion kings, power rangers, and assorted creatures of the night fill the streets. First and foremost, if you have a black cat, keep it indoors for the next few days. It's probably wise to keep all cats in, but black cats are especially prone to getting themselves snatched up this time of year for ghoulish pranks and some rather offensive occult rituals. For dogs, this holiday is no holiday. Unless yours just loves being protective and territorial, having scores of loud, frenzied, strangely- dressed creatures dashing across your lawn and ringing your doorbell a thousand times is hardly a treat for most dogs. The impressions left behind by the ghosts of Halloween night on the mind of a dog can lead to more intense reactions when post-Halloween visitors come knocking on your door or cutting through your yard. If you hope to save some candy money by allowing your dog to bark and carry on so as to scare away the little demons of the night, let this be a warning -- When a dog is allowed to put on this kind of aggressive display and it serves its purpose of driving away those who dared intrude on your territory, the behavior becomes reinforced, it grows stronger, and it becomes more difficult to break. It's like when the mail carrier comes and brings your mail. The dog puts on its show, the mail carrier leaves (which he'd do anyway), and the dog is quite pleased with the effects of his performance. The behavior is self-reinforcing unless owners intervene appropriately. So, this Halloween do what's best for your dog, and make the holiday a little more pleasant for the neighborhood kids. First, before the kids hit the streets (late afternoon or as soon as you return home from work), take "Fido" out for an EXTRA-long walk or run to the point where he's pooped. Then give him a nice warm, filling meal (e.g., his regular food, mixed with some table scraps and warm chicken or beef broth), and close him off in a comfortable room away from the door with the t.v. or radio on to help mask outside noises. Stay there with him for 10 or 15 minutes, but don't interact with him. Provide him with a pet bed, or let him up on the couch. If you've done everything prescribed so far, he'll likely sack out for the better part of the night. When he's dozed off, quietly leave the room (leaving t.v. on), and assume your post at the front door. By leaving the main door open, and the storm door closed, you can see the parade of candy collectors coming and they?ll have no need to knock or ring your bell. If you bend over and whisper quietly to the children, they'll usually whisper back, and this can help to keep from... disturbing the sleeping monster!! Remember, also, to keep candy, and especially chocolate, up high and out of reach from your dog, or in a sealed container. A correction to last week's column: The correct number for Westie Rescue is Anne Sanders (206) 629-2615.