ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Cats and Dogs

I'm sorry you are having difficulties with your pup and cats together. From your description, it certainly sounds like the cats are very stressed, so I would make them your first priority. The pup sounds fine, just curious about the kitties and perhaps wishes they'd be playmates. But I would focus on HIS behavior in order to show the cats that it's safe to venture back into the home even when he is present, and learn they will not be bothered by him anymore. They certainly deserve to be unharassed in their own home and I think it is reasonable to teach the pup that, at least for now, the cats are TOTALLY off-limits to him.

I do have 2 cats myself (17 years old, and they grew up with dogs) and I recently added a BC pup (now 10 wks old) into my home. In deference to my sweet old cats, I am teaching the BC very strict rules about how he is to behave around the cats. I tackle this from a variety of angles:

1. I make sure the BC gets plenty of exercise and has a variety of fun outlets (other than the cats) -- this includes playing with toys, playing with me, having food puzzle toys, and romping with my other dogs. (He is in an x-pen when I can't watch or entertain him.)

2. I supervise him completely when the cats are around. So far, he has an excellent recall, so if I see he's even remotely interested in the cats, I call him away for treats and an alternative passtime. If and when he's not super reliable about this, I wouldn't hesitate to use a drag line or even tether him to me or near me to prevent him from playfully molesting the cats.

3. I'm teaching him an OFF cue (meaning don't touch) and I use this when he is walking by a cat and thinking about sniffing or poking the cat. This is also a very useful tool.

So in your case, I'd keep your pup tethered with you as you are walking about AND when you are settled down to read or watch TV. When you'll be at one place for a while, give him a nice stuffed Kong to keep him content. (At other times, you might close the cats into a room they are comfortable in, so the pup can have more freedom.) The tether will totally control his options and prevent him gaining access to the cats (which is a self-reinforcing behavior). Plant fabulous cat treats around the room so that the cats suddenly find it highly rewarding to be in the same room as him. When the pup catches sight of a cat, watch him quietly. He'll figure out he can't get to the cat. When he directs his attention back to you on his own, reward with stunning food. You can do the same if he redirects his attention to his own toy, too. You can also reward him with a fun-filled game of tug whenever he ignores the cat's presence. This tends to be a highly enjoyable game to most dogs, and you could teach him that every time he sees a cat, his best option is to turn to YOU for a fun game.

Teaching your pup any variety of skills will also help. A well-trained "down stay" prevents cat chases. "Off" means don't touch. "Play dead" for a belly rub prevents cat interaction. "Touch" my hand redirects the dog's attention to your hand and it's movement rather than the cat. You get the idea...

Give the cats time to edge closer, continuing to reward your pup for ignoring them and never giving him the chance to reward himself by dashing up to the cat. Eventually, as the cats start to feel more at ease with his presence (as well as finding fabulous treats in any room where the dog is) you can start working on very calm and brief sniffs with the dog in a down position. Build from there according to the CAT'S comfort level.

Finally, how is the pup kept at night? In a crate? In your bedroom? It would be nice if the cats could enjoy your attention and proximity overnight in your room. Is this an option?

Virginia Broitman
copyright 2000 Virginia Broitman


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