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I thought I would make a post on this since we periodically get members asking about it, and I keep referring back to old posts for info. So, this is one post with everything (hopefully) in one spot. :)

Steps when bringing home your new pet

When you have a cat and plan on bringing a new dog into the household (or vice versa), set up the area for the new pet a few weeks prior to bringing the new pet home. This will allow your current cat or dog to acclimate to the new crate, toys, cat trees, etc. without being stressed out about a change in environment as well as a new animal.

When you bring the new pet home, spend a week or two acclimating each new pet with the others' scent before doing a visual intro. Keep the cat confined to a separate room with a Feliway diffuser plug-in to keep her calm. Swap bedding daily, and if neither animal gets too excited, let them sniff under the doorway. You can also regularly wipe a washcloth from snout to ear on one pet, then use the same cloth on the other pet.

When ready to visually intro the two animals, make sure the cat has plenty of high places to jump up to, use baby gates to allow the cat to get away, and keep the dog on a leash while the cat is out. When the dog initially sees the cat, treat him for staying calm. If the dog lunges or barks as the cat is getting closer, body block the dog, or walk the dog away from the cat in the opposite direction. You’re doing two things here: conditioning the dog to the cat using food so that the dog learns calm behavior around the cat means reward; and the dog losing cat-viewing privileges when he is too excited. Do not verbally reprimand the dog or give him any kind of correction other than visually blocking him from the cat. You are trying to create positive associations, and corrections can backfire.

As your dog is more successfully calm while being around the cat, begin treating when the dog looks away from the cat, or gives a calming signal (yawning, sniffing, etc.). You can actually begin training this way if your dog is calmer and isn't as focused on the cat during the initial intros. Ideally, you don’t want the dog to do hard stares, so you treat him for breaking focus. You can also use a positive interrupter to help him break focus and treat that, or throw a handful of treats on the ground when the cat appears, which will break his focus.

Depending on your cat, and how scared she is, you may need to lure her closer and teach her not to run in the presence of the dog. Most dogs lose interest in the cat when they realize she will not run and isn't exciting. You can throw treats at the cat while also treating the dog. Make sure the dog is always on a leash during this process. You want the cat to realize she will not be chased. With enough high value treats, the cat should continue approaching the dog. Also, having high spots near the dog that the cat simply lays on can help the dog lose interest in the cat while she is present (sleeping cats are not exciting).

Don’t be stingy with treats or what you give at this point. You want both the cat and dog to learn that they get delicious food from you when in the others' presence. Once they will sit beside each other for a few minutes for this, you can reward them regularly, and you should see improvements in their behavior quickly.

Variations

Instead of, or in addition to using treats, you can use a combination of body blocking, scent exchange, DAP and Feliway diffusers, and a lot of cat nip for visual intros (rubbed on the cat's body). You're still building a positive association for both animals - for the cat and dog, you’re using diffusers to reinforce calm behavior, and for the cat, you're introducing a euphoric high, which changes the cat’s body language and makes her less exciting for the dog. Personally, I have not used this method, but other members have successfully trained this way without using treats. It would probably work better for dogs with lower prey drive.

"Leave it" is a good cue to train and use if the dog is getting too rowdy with the cat.

You can also teach the "gentle" command and use it around the cat. To teach the command, when the dog is calm, say "gentle" in a slow, calm tone and give treats. Once you have done this consistently and the dog knows the command, you can use it around the cat or in general when the dog is over-excited.

If the dog doesn’t get too excited, and the cat isn’t too scared, you can also try having one or the other in a crate, while the non-crated pet checks out the crated one. I have not done this since my dog is too high-strung, but it may work with a calmer cat and dog.

If you have a cat that is very afraid and is not warming up to the dog, you can clicker train her as you would a dog. Clicker training her to stay on a tall cat tree that is backed up to a baby gate would be a good way to start. This way she learns that staying on the tree even with a dog below her is very reinforcing, and she can still get away.

How long will it take?

Be consistent. Don’t let the dog off-leash while the cat is out. If you don’t want the dog on-leash all day, put the cat away, and set up two or three 5-minute training sessions a day where the dog is on-leash to work on it. The biggest hurdle, typically, is teaching the cat not to run. Most dogs will not chase the cat once they get over the prey drive hurdle, which takes a lot of management.

Within a few weeks to a month, you should be able to let the dog off-leash around the cat, for limited amounts of time if you are unsure still. Continue to treat them both around each other (or use a combination of diffusers and cat nip). Watch interactions carefully, and only leave them unsupervised together once you are certain no one will get hurt.

Lastly...

Dogs do not generalize training. Just because your dog is safe with your cat does not mean your dog is safe with all cats. Be aware of this on walks or when intro'ing a second cat into the household.

Finally, some dogs have a very high prey drive, and will never be 100% safe with any other small animal. As with all training, if you feel overwhelmed or are not seeing results, seek a qualified trainer.

Additional resources

<> DIAMONDS in the RUFF - Cat Chasing <>

Making Cats Friendly, Clicker Style | Karen Pryor Clickertraining


 

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Great post! :)
 

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Great post, have tried this method and it really works, having two cats in the house before we adopted an older dog (staffie)who has never been around cats was a minefeild, but consistancey and regular supervised introductions has paid off.He ignores them now and has accepted that they are just part of the family as he is. Although he does still go to chase cats that are unfamiliar to him until told to 'leave'.
 

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What if it's the cat's being a danger to the dog? My mother just got a toy poodle pup and.. the cats are twice her size and not too fond of her happy march towards them.

Does anyone know how to make the kitties be nice?
 
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