Introducing a cat to a 1.5 year old dog

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Introducing a cat to a 1.5 year old dog

This is a discussion on Introducing a cat to a 1.5 year old dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi, We recently got a young Saint Bernard from a rescue. Molly is a wonderful dog. She needs a lot of training, but is very ...

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Old 05-08-2019, 07:16 PM
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Introducing a cat to a 1.5 year old dog

Hi,
We recently got a young Saint Bernard from a rescue. Molly is a wonderful dog. She needs a lot of training, but is very friendly and eager to please. She is not aggressive at all, but since she was in the rescue since she was a small puppy, she never had a "formal" training. So she gets easily excited by anything. We are mostly working on getting her to recognize us as the leaders.
With other dogs she gets very excited, but not aggressive. So far we did not have a chance to let he really get to know another dog completely.

Oreo is a small 3 year old cat. We found him outside 2 years ago. He is an indoor cat and does not interact with other animals. He is not aggressive. He loves and trusts us very much. He is very curious but also prudent. He is used to his quiet routine.

So now the question is how do we get them to become best buddies, and not have Oreo end up in Molly's stomach. For now we never leave Molly unleashed in the house, unless Oreo is locked in a room. Initially they met at a window while Molly was outside and they were not aggressive. Just very curious and nervous. But since then, two times Molly was on the porch looking at Oreo through the screen door and she jumped at him. It is not clear to me if she just wanted to play, or if she wanted to eat the funny little furry thing.

When Molly is just lying on the floor (on leash) and Oreo is looking at her from the other side of the room, she mostly looks at him with minimal interest. But sometimes she stares at him intensely, which I think may either be because she looks at him as a prey, or just because she is a puppy and wants to play. We see videos of big dogs with small cats and the dog looks at the cat very intensely. How do we know if it is a dangerous stare, or just a "you're funny and strange" stare?

Our trainer told us to keep them at a distance until they get closer by themselves, without any intense stare. But we had Molly for 2 weeks now and this is not making much progress. In the meantime we always need to keep Molly on leash in the house, or keep them in separate rooms (which does nothing for the integration). Preparing dinner with a leashed 110 lbs dog in the kitchen is quite inconvenient...

Is there something we can do to speed things up WITHOUT increasing the risks? Someone suggested placing Oreo in a carrier and placing him close to Molly. But Oreo hates the carrier because he associates it with going to the vet. Plus he would be forced to be way too close to the scary giant, against his will. So I think it would traumatize him and he would lose his trust in us.

Sorry for the super long post...
But I think knowing the background is important.

Any suggestions?

Thanks! The dog forum is a great source of information!

Ben
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Old 05-08-2019, 08:32 PM
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Use counter conditioning to acclimate new dog and older house cat

Hi! You are right-- your "long" post is very helpful. I personally agree and think the more info and background, the more we forum folks can help you.

Sounds like you are doing things right between your new dog and your cat. I especially appreciate that you are keeping them safe at ALL times... and supervised.

Now all you have to add is some good ole counter conditioning.

Oh, and personally I disagree with your trainers advice to wait for them to work it out themselves, even at a distance. Some animals acclimate on their own, many do not and certainly need our help to be safe and comfortable and not stressed.

I have counter conditioned my very fearful cautious Gracie dog to our Tortie cat who looooooooves to stare at Gracie. Man, cats love to mess with dogs, right?

In addition, I have actually taught my Gracie to call all of our cats and dogs to eat their meals. No one eats til Gracie dog calls each animal (specific bark) and tells me to put their food bowls down in a very specific order! Yup, Gracie dog feeds Tortie cat now. I keep saying I need to make a video of this because it is pretty dang amazing, esp if you knew how fearful Gracie was of this cat...and everything else in her world.

Used to be we were terrified Gracie would eat Tortie, or the reverse!! Seriously. Very scary between them.

I actually almost lost my eye during training years ago when I misjudged distance between them and picked up the cat when Gracie suddenly charged her ---and got back clawed near my eyeball!!! I call this "operator error"
or my fault!!

Live and learn. And counter condition!!!

And now.... I have done the same counter conditioning with my newer Puma pup and she helps feed the pets, too!

In fact, today it stormed here like crazy and so as part of my thunder training, I took Puma to several fun stores, including her fave pet shop... and there we visited the rescue cat Sophie that was living there in a large cage waiting to be adopted.

We practiced our counter conditioning with Sophie cat.
I asked Puma to sit or lay down in front of cat and I gave her lots of small yummy high value (bbq chicken) food bites for looking at the kitty. I ask her "Puma, where's the kitty?" and she knows to look at the cat, look back at me, and she gets the food.

It is our fun game that I play with my dogs. We also play "Where's the... squirrels, deer, cats, other dogs, skateboards, stollers, babies, birdies, you name it!!" This fun game works wonders to acclimate dogs to just about anything that may stress them.

In the beginning when it was new and a challenge for Puma to remain calm near kitty, she got "paid" (fed the treats) for just looking at the cat. She was not required to do anything else. I just wanted to change her mindset about seeing the cat. Seeing cat=yummy treats, good things happen.

Over time I have shaped her behavior into doing advanced things such as please sit or lay down in the presence of the cat.

My gauge is always if my dog can perform her tricks for me in the presence of the cat (or other dog or stressful stimulus) than we are A-Ok.

If Puma got too hyper or barked, I just backed her up away from the cat and resumed the training/conditioning at a greater distance.

Today she did excellent and zero barking or excitement, very calm as she laid down next to kitty's cage and watched her peacefully.

We also practiced seeing the many cages of birds, ferrets, rabbits in the same exact manner. She did fantastic today, esp near the chirping moving lil birds which used to be her tough challenge. She went right up to their cage and looked at them with no reaction. Interest, but no reaction. Yes! Good job Puma!! Last week she was still a bit reactive and over excited to see the cage o lil birdies and we had to back- it- up!!

So today was DOUBLE BONUS training day: I got to counter condition Puma pup to crazy thunder storm AND a cat AND a bunny, ferrets, and birdies.
So much fun...but too much fun....I was late for work again....me bad.

Practicing counter conditioning really, really works wonders for so many things with dogs!!!
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Last edited by AthenaLove; 05-08-2019 at 08:39 PM.
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Old 05-09-2019, 01:04 PM
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Thanks so much for the useful (and funny) advice!
Being able to train Gracie that way is quite amazing!!
We will put that in practice starting today and I'll let you know how that goes.

Regards,
Ben
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Old 05-09-2019, 04:44 PM
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Repeat: Counter conditioning works to help cats and dogs get along peacefully.

Oh, you are most welcome! I know how stressful it can be having a dog and cat live together in NON HARMONY! Scary, too!

I just took photos this morning of Gracie dog sharing some kibble with Tortie cat in our hallway. It was actually super great because it was not "official feeding time" but yet Tortie cat wandered in our bedroom and Gracie took note. Preciously this would have freaked poor nervous Gracie out totally and then Gracie would have charged her! (We actually gave Gracie the nickname of "credit card" bc she was always chasing the cat away in the past!)

Anyway, today, Gracie ran right up to Tortie, stopped and looked away (dog language for "hey, I am not a threat, you can chill out now") so I asked Gracie if she would like to feed Tortie a snack. Gracie woofed me, to say heck yes, and I then gave Tortie some kibble at the same time as I asked Gracie to please lay down.... and then I gave Gracie her kibble. They were mere inches from eachother as they shared a snack.

Great sharing moment between these two who could not even be in the same room EVER before without totally freaking out.

Now I just gotta get those pics uploaded here to show you guys! It will make believers out of y'all!!!

I can't wait to hear your own progress stories, @BenDawg!!!!

Repeat: Counter conditioning works to help cats and dogs get along peacefully.
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Old 05-09-2019, 06:04 PM
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Proof: Pics of my dogs & cats together after counter conditioning!!!

For anyone who wonders if their "aggressive" dogs and cats can be conditioned/trained to live in peace together....

Here is proof that it can happen! Takes a lot of precisely done counter conditioning, a lot of yummy treats, lots of patience and practice....but it does work!!!

I know just how stressful it can be having a dog and cat live together in NON HARMONY! Scary, too!

Here are the "proof pics" of my dogs and cats now (after tons of great counter conditioning by me!)

1)Gracie dog and Tortie Cat
2)Gracie and Tortie
3)Puma pup watching 5 deer peacefully this week.
4)Puma pup learning to feed her Kitty last year. Puma at age 7 months here.

**Notice that Gracie and Puma are so relaxed now that they can look at me when I ask them, instead of hyper focusing on the other stimulus (cat/dee
r)

I just took photos this morning of Gracie dog sharing some kibble with Tortie cat in our hallway. It was actually super great because it was not "official feeding time" but yet Tortie cat wandered in our bedroom and Gracie took note. Preciously this would have freaked poor nervous Gracie out totally and then Gracie would have charged her! (We actually gave Gracie the nickname of "credit card" bc she was always chasing the cat away in the past!)

Anyway, today, Gracie ran right up to Tortie, stopped and looked away (dog language for "hey, I am not a threat, you can chill out now") so I asked Gracie if she would like to feed Tortie a snack. Gracie woofed me, to say heck yes, and I then gave Tortie some kibble at the same time as I asked Gracie to please lay down.... and then I gave Gracie her kibble. They were mere inches from eachother as they shared a snack.

Great sharing moment between these two who could not even be in the same room EVER before without totally freaking out.

Repeat: Counter conditioning works to help cats and dogs get along peacefully.
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Last edited by AthenaLove; 05-09-2019 at 06:13 PM.
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