Introducing Cats to Dog

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Introducing Cats to Dog

This is a discussion on Introducing Cats to Dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hello! Some context first, but you can skip to the last 2 or 3 paragraphs if you want to read only about the behavior in ...

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Old 12-26-2018, 10:41 PM
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Introducing Cats to Dog

Hello! Some context first, but you can skip to the last 2 or 3 paragraphs if you want to read only about the behavior in question. I have two cats (one mostly blind, the other completely but not sure if relevant) and sometimes I watch my mom's dog. The dog, Bella, is a pit/german shepherd/??? mix, 58 pounds of muscle, and an absolute sweetheart. Her previous owner didn't care for her and she lived outside with her littermate and a chihuahua. Littermate was food-agressive, Bella was friends with the chihuahua, and the littermate killed the chihuahua in a fight over a treat while Bella tried to fight her off. Owner surrendered her and my mom adopted her a year ago as an only pet. Bella barks and growls at strangers and raises her hackles, but has never snapped. On walks, she sometimes sees the neighborhood feral cats and will watch very intently, but never lunge after them even when they take off. She gets along with other dogs at the dog park.

Anyway. My mom is visiting her parents, so I have Bella in my spare bedroom. Bella stays her in crate most of the time whether she's locked in or not, it is her safe place. Last time, I only let the animals smell each other through the bedroom door and by switching bedding. This time, I'm doing introductions by leaving Bella locked in her crate while I sit with her on the floor and let the cats in.

***Here's the important part*** When the cats crept into the room, Bella immediately became very still and watched them intently. She didn't growl, whine, or make any noise. No one had raised hackles. When the cats got a little closer, she started trembling all over but stayed quiet and I continued rubbing her ear through the crate. The cats crept in and out, and when one got within about a foot, she stopped trembling for a few seconds and stayed very still again. The cat moved away again, and she resumed trembling. All was well until she seemed to lunge at my blind cat. I immediately chastised Bella and she instantly lowered her head and eyes, looked ashamed, and laid back down. She watched calmly as my blind cat looked panicked and very carefully crept back out the door (being blind she doesn't know precisely where Bella is so sprinting wasn't an option). The cats haven't been back in but everyone calmed down and continued to check each other out from a distance.

How should I proceed? Is Bella staying still and/or trembling because she's in prey mode? Is she frightened of the cats? She's seen them before when she's been on a leash and seemed eager and curious, not agressive or frightened. I grew up with dogs, but have only had cats in my adulthood, and have never firsthand mixed the two. I'll keep them separated indefinitely if I have to but it would be nice to let them all roam the house and intermingle eventually.
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Old 01-19-2019, 04:19 PM
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How are things now with Bella and the cats? Any improvement? I just today saw your post and saw that there was no responses or updates.

You may want to try counter conditioning with your dog and cats. It really, really works wonders!! I use it all the time for so many issues with my dogs.

If you want to try counter conditioning Bella to your cats (or other cats) you could do this:

So....Perhaps have some short sessions with your Bella dog on leash with you and have her sit (if possible) in the same room or area with your cats. Relax your body as you sit.

As Bella is watching the cats, talk gently and happily to her about the cats. So for example I would say, "Hey, Bella, look at the pretty kitties. Aren't they cool? Look at how pretty their fur is. We loooove kitties. This kitty is special bc she's blind, so we have to be extra quiet and careful around her" Etc etc.

Doing this calmly, gently, and happily will transmit the message that you think the cats are A-ok and Bella doesn't need to worry about them. Or chase them. Or fear them. I find that talking like this to my dogs (esp my fearful cautious Gracie dog) really works to calm me down and helps my dog understand how I feel about a situation. If I'm not worried or anxious, they will be more apt to chill out and not chase or worry.

But----the other super important part of counter conditioning is to give your Bella really, really great treats when you are doing your training sessions in front of the cats!!!

No lame kibble, use lots of tiny bites of "high value" food such as meat, chicken, cheese, hot dogs, liver, turkey deli meat, etc. Dry treats generally aren't motivating enough bc they don't smell very exciting esp in the beginning of the training sessions. Eventually you can probably practice with lower value treats but start super high to get your message across!

You want to change your dog's mindset into: Hmmm whenever I see cats nearby, mom/dad is happy AND really great things happen (yummy treats!!)

Initially if your dog is too nervous to sit or lay down, it is ok as long as they are not chasing or lunging. Always work with your dog on a relaxed leash until you are certain that your dog will not harm your cats. Eventually your dog should be able to go see the cats and lay down/relax in their presence and gently take the treats from you.

If your dog is biting "hard" on the treats, that generally means your dog is nervous at that moment.

I hope this helps and good luck to you guys! Keep us posted on your progress ok?
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Old 01-29-2019, 03:30 PM
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Based on your description I would say Bella is definitely in prey mode. Our dog shakes, pauses and shakes exactly like that when she sees a squirrel.

I'd go a step further than AthenaLove & say that you need to teach the dog not even to look at the cats (at least not until she can do it calmly, without her prey drive kicking in). She needs to learn the cats are not even remotely close to fair game and that they are to be respected as members of the household just as she respects you.

When we brought our 7 month old lab mastiff rescue home she was VERY interested in the cat...like, in a "I want to squish that little fuzzball in my mouth" kinda way. And, we suspect she was left in a backyard to chase whatever went by, at her free will. So, we had them separated by a baby gate at all times until we were confident in her training.

Check out my other posts & you should find a lengthly post about teaching dogs and cats to get along safely. I truly believe that if our extremely high prey drive dog can live safely with our not-so-chill cat (which they have now done for 7 years), any dog can live with any cat. It just takes very diligent and patient training.
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Old 02-05-2019, 05:42 PM
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A different perspective on working with dogs and cats, etc

Quote:
Originally Posted by newdoggirl View Post
I'd go a step further than AthenaLove & say that you need to teach the dog not even to look at the cats (at least not until she can do it calmly, without her prey drive kicking in). She needs to learn the cats are not even remotely close to fair game and that they are to be respected as members of the household just as she respects you.
I take a different approach to working with my dogs. I think it is pretty unrealistic to think that any dog won't or can't even or isn't allowed to look at the cats or anything else. Unless the dog never is in the same room as the cats.

For me, I want my dogs to be able to look at anything, including people, objects, and all animals, and be able to be safe and stress free and not aggressive acting. This is why I use counter conditioning all the time with my dogs!

I constantly play the "Where is it?" or "Look at that" game with my dogs to teach them that we can surely look at something, but it pays to just relax and not chase or react negatively to the other animal (or thing) When we play this game I reward heavily with delicious food and praise.

I train my dogs to look at the "trigger" or stimulus and be conditioned to feel comfortable so they will not chase, bark, growl, lunge, bite etc. For me and my dogs this has worked really well.

My Gracie dog has now learned to feed our cats and will sit and share treats with my spunky Tortie cat at less than a foot away. Today in fact they shared treats only a few inches apart. No reactivity or chasing or anything. Super relaxed body language from both Tortie and Gracie. Previously she would chase Tortie from across the room.

Did Gracie (heeler/pointer mix) chase bc of prey drive or fear or anxiety... or is it a combo platter? We know she has fear. But prey drive? Maybe...she did once "find" me a non living baby raccoon in our yard in the middle of the night. So maybe.

But the way I train or work with my dogs, covers anxiety, reactivity and prey drive. But that is me and my dogs. Everyone trains differently.

Gracie will not chase squirrels on a walk now, she can look at deer and lay down in front of them quietly as they stare at her. She can now watch 25 birds eating seeds in our parking lot right in front of us. All of this bc I used counter conditioning and fun games to change her mindset about how she feels about something.

Last edited by AthenaLove; 02-05-2019 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 02-05-2019, 06:12 PM
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Oh, it wasn't that I expected the dog never to look at the cat. It was more about resetting her thinking about the cat. Just seeing the cat immediately kicked her into prey mode. It wasn't an option to have her obsessively looking at the cat. I needed her to understand how she was allowed to look at the cat. Eventually we worked on looking at the cat calmly without letting her prey drive take over. Looking without going to prey mode was totally fine & also rewarded. But I needed (for the cat's safety) to not have her obsessively looking at the cat before I could even start teaching her how she could look at the cat.

My dog & cat live together super peacefully now. They even snuggle on the couch together.

She doesn't have this self control about things out in the world that are considered "prey". But, that's simply because I've never worked with her on those other versions of "prey".
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Old 02-11-2019, 02:58 AM
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Avoid any interactions between your pets that result in either fearful or aggressive behavior. If these responses are allowed to become a habit, they can be difficult to change. It's better to introduce your pets to each other so gradually that neither animal becomes afraid or aggressive. You can expect mild forms of these behaviors, but don't give them the opportunity to intensify.
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