Home & Leisure

My Pet World: Halloween is October surprise for most dogs and cats

By Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

My dog Buster has a simple daily routine. He gets up and eats, spends 30 minutes outside, sleeps by my desk while I work, plays outside midday, sleeps by my desk again, has dinner, plays fetch, and then goes for a 30- to 60-minute walk with me in the evening. Buster, like most dogs (and cats), likes routine.

So, you can image his consternation when humans dress up in strange costumes, ring our doorbell, and shout "trick or treat" on Halloween. He would bark like crazy at every "trick-or-treater," if I let him, determined to keep the ghouls and goblins out of our house. But I always keep him safely inside during this October ritual, and pass out candy from my front porch to keep him from reacting to the doorbell. That's my advice for most dogs and cats on Halloween.

There are dogs, however, who don't seem to mind Halloween. These dogs don't mind waddling around the neighborhood in costumes, looking like a hot dog or bumblebee. Some dogs may not want to wear costumes but are fine seeing costumed kids or dogs. As long as the people in the costumes don't act strange and still smell the same, these dogs seem fine with the revelry. Cats, on the other hand, don't generally tolerate costumes, but they might tolerate a bow around the neck.

As a pet parent, it's up to you to know what your pet can handle. If they don't like costumes, don't put one on them. If they don't like the doorbell ringing or seeing anyone in costumes or anyone walking past their house, keep them in a back bedroom for the evening. Stick to a routine as much as possible that day -- and give your dogs and cats the right to say no to Halloween.

Dear Cathy: My 8-month-old "shih-poo" has been eating the rocks in my landscaping. She's been throwing up and there's always a rock in it the size of a quarter. How do I get her to stop eating the rocks? I can't spray the whole yard with Tabasco sauce. -- Lisa, Las Vegas, Nevada

Dear Lisa: Some dogs, especially when they're puppies, must learn what's not acceptable to put in their mouths. Rocks are especially dangerous because they can cause obstruction, tears in the gastric and intestinal lining, and can be difficult to pass.

Always rule out health problems first. If there are none, then the problem is the result of boredom, which can lead to bad habits, or Pica, a compulsive disorder characterized by the eating of non-food items, like rocks, gravel, socks, and doggie poop.

Put a pheromone collar on your puppy for the next four months to calm her. During this time, teach your dog to "leave it" to discourage her from entering the landscape bed, and "drop it," if she puts anything inappropriate in her mouth.


Next, remove temptation by fencing off the landscape bed temporarily. Introduce puzzle toys and alternative things for her to chew on, like a large Nylabone, when outside to distract, redirect and engage her mind. You can also try switching her food to see if that settles the behavior.

Build on these things until the behavior stops. If she is still doing this after the first of the year, you may need to see a behaviorist.

Dear Cathy: I read your column in the Hartford Courant and have been meaning to pass this along. Any time a vet gives you meds for your pet, ask this question: Will it make my pet urinate more? I never ever thought to ask this question before, but many years ago, my vet prescribed some medication for my dog. When I came home from work, my dog, who usually comes bounding with a wagging tail, was cowering in the corner. I looked around and he had had an accident. After cleaning it up I called the vet. He stated the medication would make the dog want to go more. Why didn't he tell me this when he gave me the prescription? I would have come home at lunch or hired someone in the neighborhood to come let him out a few times a day. -- Liz, Newington CT

Dear Liz: That's good advice. You should always ask about potential side effects of any drug before giving it to your pet. There are several medications out there that can increase urination output and would be good to know about in advance so you can make the appropriate arrangements for your pet. Thanks for passing that tip along.


(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)




Carpe Diem Blondie For Heaven's Sake Ginger Meggs Dana Summers Nest Heads