Next steps for getting along with the cat

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Next steps for getting along with the cat

This is a discussion on Next steps for getting along with the cat within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; OK, first some background: So, my dog is terrible with cats... I got her at 10 weeks and initially, she was fine with the cat. ...

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Old 04-12-2018, 03:26 PM
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Next steps for getting along with the cat

OK, first some background: So, my dog is terrible with cats... I got her at 10 weeks and initially, she was fine with the cat. About a week later, that started to change. at first when she was real little, it wasn't a big deal. We just watched her closely and controlled the environment. As she got bigger, however, we had to separate them more and eventually have them completely out of each other's line of vision. We worked on their interactions and saw improvement, but then backsliding. Because the cat was about to die, we separated them and didn't deal with it for a period of time. Because she had shown improvement before a backslide and she was showing improvement with cats outside, we decided to get another cat because at our core, we're more cat people than dog people and I had anticipated that we could get things back on track. Well, I was hugely mistaken. She DID improve, but she also had huge backslides. One was to the point where we really plateaued with progress and she couldn't tolerate seeing the cat. I finally realized that the reason we couldn't move forward was because I couldn't get them far enough apart inside in order to not overwhelm her. So... we moved to leashing both critters and going outside. On our property was too much, so we went to the street. We have seen incredible progress since then. She is now a year old and we can do the training on our property.

Current situation: She is to the point where she can play nicely with the cat under the door to the cat room. The two times our critter management system broke down, she wandered into the cat's room and acted like everything was totally normal and relaxed. If I try to control the situation by putting her on a leash or putting a barrier between them, she is reactive, but in more of an over excited way opposed to a "kill it" sort of way. If I bring the cat within sight of the dog's room, she acts somewhat "reactive." However, she acts the same way when she sees a balloon on the other side of her gate and she excitedly plays with the balloon like a little kid if given access to it, so it's not a fear thing. If left to play with the cat under the door too long, she does start getting too worked up. I can easy scoot her out of the way and get her back to her space in the house though.

Next steps: So, obviously I should continue with the outside stuff and slowly move it inside. I'm also giving her opportunity to play with the cat under the door each day while trying to limit it to not be overwhelming or negative... I've tried excitedly calling her name while out of sight and then going to where she can see me and tossing her a treat while holding the cat. This method worked for getting her to relax about the laundry basket, but I stopped doing it with the cat, because I wasn't sure if it was working or making it slightly worse. Any other ideas about next steps?
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Old 04-13-2018, 08:57 AM
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If I understand you correctly when the dog is leashed she is reactive compared to without you she can play calmly. I think part of that is the dog may be becoming reactive because of you. If you are worried and hold her on a tight leash she can feel your anxiety and assumes something is wrong.

To introduce our dogs to our rabbit we started at a far distance and worked up slowly while having them completely focused on us. Once they got distracted we would stop and let them watch but then would call the direction back onto us and only work at a distance where they would listen to us. That was to train them to ignore the rabbit but may work in your case.

If they can play calmly let them do so but don’t allow either to get too excited. The dog could easily kill the cat even if she means to play so playing should be calm and under control. I hope that helps
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Old 04-13-2018, 08:54 PM
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I never let any past or present dogs play with any of my cats. 60-90 pound dog vs 8-16 pound cat = death for said cat. Plus I've owned at least eleven or twelve cats in my life and I've never had even ONE single cat show ANY interest in playing with any of my dogs. Way too dangerous.

I introduced with dog on leash. Any signs of aggression or chasing or lunging, VERY firm corrections from me and my very assertive former feral street cats. I purposely introduce the dog to my meanest most assertive cat first. Current dog lunged once the first night while leashed and instantly got a scratched cornea. And made an instant enemy. That cat chased, stalked and attacked him, even in his crate, for at least six months before I started correcting the cat for bullying. The other cats were so assertive the dog was afraid to go from one room to another without their permission. Once he learned he was at the very bottom of the pack, they all started sleeping together and cuddling on my bed with me. But if he kicks them in his sleep or pisses them off they hiss and swat him and he moves fast. When they play and wrestle and chase each other, he is absolutely forbidden to take part or join. Both by me and by them. If he joins, they stop playing and either hide or hiss and swat him and put him in his place. He wasn't invited.

Sorry no offense at all, but encouraging your dog to play is just amping up his prey drive and very dangerous to your cats in my opinion. I've had three large dogs with two to seven cats at one time in city apartments and never one concern or issue. So no encouraging play but encouraging a quiet down stay at all times with the dog leashed and the cats free with many escape routes. Praise and treat quiet gentle or ignoring the cat behavior. Redirect or firmly correct any chasing or lunging at the cats. If cats get assertive good let them establish that they're in charge.
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Old 04-14-2018, 10:39 AM
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It’s up to the person whether or not they allow the dogs to play with the cats. I’ve known dogs who play well with cats and dogs who don’t. Depending on the dog it could be an option to let them play or strictly forbid it. The owner may be the best to make that decision because they know both animals best.
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Old 04-14-2018, 12:19 PM
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It sounds like you've done a remarkable job taking it slowly and arranging your environments for success. Nice work!

Have you played "Look at That" with your dog? Donna Hill has a really nice youtube video on teaching the game, and it can be a great tool for reducing the frustration/excitement that you describe. Play on opposite sides of a barrier to start (like an x-pen or a baby gate), of course, and always (no matter how far you get with intros!) make sure your cat has access to safe, dog-free space in your house.

I like games like "look at that" because they remove so much conflict from dog training. This means my dog ends up much less stress-y and emotional about the things that excite her, which is especially nice when we're battling reactive-type situations. Basically, she gets what she wants (a chance to engage -- at a safe level -- with the things that excites/interests her), and I get what I want (a dog who can engage AND disengage from an exciting thing).

Personally, I would never employ "corrections" in the context of trying to integrate two pets, nor do I encourage them to "correct" each other (I do reinforce de-escalation behaviors in my dogs, which do help encourage "polite" behavior in the other dog, but that's a little different). What I want my pets to learn is that when they are around each other, really good (and ideally, relaxing!) things happen. So I aim for training exercises that promote calm, happy emotions, and reinforce the behaviors I like (typically, disengaging). So in addition to LAT-type games, I play relax-on-a-mat around the "distraction," do a lot of classical conditioning, and basically aim to reduce tensions & conflict all around. I think you can find relax-on-a-mat videos in the impulse control sticky, if that helps. Again, opposite sides of a barrier, or two leashed pets, to begin with, and then a veeeeeeery slow reduction of distance.

Good luck!
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Old 04-14-2018, 09:52 PM
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Funny, my methods have worked excellently with three large high prey drive dogs that behaviorists predicted would hurt or kill my multiple cats. Akitas are known to be dangerous with small household pets, as are chows and gsds, my dog's had all those breeds.
I always am as positive as possible in all my interactions with all of my animals. I don't interfere if my eight pound cat feels the need to hiss or swat at a ninety pound brand new dog to establish that the cat is in charge in the house. I will tell the cat verbally no and remove the cat from the room for a short timeout if six months later he's bullying the dog without provocation. None of my many cats has ever shown one inkling of interest in playing with any of my dogs. Id never encourage anything that my cats weren't comfortable with. With the huge size discrepancy the cats could easily be accidentally hurt or killed.

The way the op described the play sounds like the dogs prey drive kicking in and the cat being uncomfortable and scared. That's not play, that's terrorizing the cat and very dangerous to amo up the dog imo.
I have well over fifteen years experience socializing adult difficult dogs with many cats and not one injury. All bonded. I also have a lot of advanced education in behavior theory and firsthand experience.

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Old 04-16-2018, 09:23 PM
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I actually agree with those who teach the dog that the cat is a possession of the human members of the household, rather than a friend. They may eventually become "friends", but that is inconsequential to them living together peacefully, and I don't usually go out of my way to encourage them to interact, particularly if the dog has previously shown inappropriate behavior to the cat. Mostly I just confine/physically control the dog in such a fashion as to make success likely, and reward for good cat behavior, redirecting or correcting inappropriate behavior, ideally at the very beginning of it (hyperfocus, posturing, eye stalking). In the case of dogs who have previously been aggressive to cats, my goal is really for the dog to ignore the cat, regardless of what the cat is doing. Letting the cat "correct" the dog can go either way, as some dogs will heed the cat's sharp claws, others seem to see it as a war cry and are dedicated to taking the cat out thereafter. Better for things to never reach that point if it can be avoided.

It's also much easier if the cats are indifferent to the dog, as aggressive cats can make things worse, as (particularly) can cats who run/hide/spook at the dog, as they make even more inviting prey. I took great care with my cats to not let my cat aggressive dog ever hurt them, and they as a result never really acted like targets for her. If a cat is skittering by rapidly, or shrinking back when it sees the dog, a prey driven or even "socially climbing" type of dog may be more inclined to chase.

Do you know what your dog will do if she actually contacts the cat? A dog who is freaking out about a cat because it wants to chase and try to roughhouse or chase with no real predatory intent is a pain and can be dangerous (as these behaviors can shift into a more predatory mode), but IME is not as difficult to manage as a dog who actually wants to get a cat in its teeth and injure it. I would caution you about letting them "play" under the door, as I have seen cats with degloved legs from other animals grabbing them under doors, and it probably is only increasing your dog's interest in the cat.

If you gate your dog away from the cat, does she obsess at the gate, or go off and do her own thing? Unless she obsesses at the gate for an extended period of time (hours/days), this is the route I would probably take. Place the gate (to keep the cat away) and leash the dog, keeping her away from the gate. Work attention exercises in the area without the cat present, and reward heavily to make them high priority. When the cat appears, continue, using the leash to keep the dog at a sufficient distance to keep her attention, and encourage movement to keep her distracted from the cat. If she has minimal toy/food drive, feed all her meals during these sessions to increase her food drive. If you aren't able to keep her attention in this environment, I would practice with the attention/training sessions sans cat more, then reintroduce the cat.

Have you spoken with her breeder regarding the behavior you are seeing? If memory serves, she is a spitz variety or similar breed, and IMO it's not entirely unusual to see a degree of predatory behavior in those breeds. They may have successfully dealt with similar behavior or know someone who has.

My current dog is very cat friendly, and does like to play with cats (he actually prefers and plays nicer with cats than with other dogs ), though they often don't want to play with him. He's pretty good about accepting their disinterest or "get lost" gestures, but sometimes I have to admonish him for persisting with a couple of our own cats. He is a nice change from a couple previous dogs who wanted cats (both strange and ours) to die- cat/dog conflicts are no fun, for sure.
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Old 04-17-2018, 07:25 AM
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Putting up gates in many cases restricts the dog's access to the cat. Every cat I've ever had could easily climb and leap over any gate up until about age twenty. My diabetic fifteen year old cat with cancer and infections was proudly hopping the gate to get to the non-diabetic tastier cat food in the kitchen the day after surgeries.
My dog can easily jump it so I put a tall chair behind it. He doesn't try now. The cats take it as an obstacle course.
Never had any of my dogs not learn quickly to respect a cat's assertive and defensive body language. That's why I'm there and dog is always leashed at first so he learns fast that I'm in charge and cats also outrank him and peaceful happy life means he listens to me first and basic rule number one is never chase or harass the cats ever. Also why I never leave them alone unsupervised together. If I have any safety concerns I lock in separate rooms with doors. I use a gate now only because place is small and they're all pretty bonded. Cats can easily go under bed or in kitchen if needed where he can't reach. I only correct excessive unprovoked bullying from cats.
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