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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! I am new here. I just adopted a 2.5 year old shepherd mix (Belle) from one of my local animal shelters. She is very reactive about a few select things (mostly, other small animals), but is particularly reactive about cats. My family has two cats (ages 11 and 4). They have been around small, calm dogs before, but never around a large, barking dog.

I am doing everything I can. This includes following the training advice in the sticky--the cats are the only ones with access to the basement, when they come around and the dog starts up barking I have her "watch me" and sit and get lots of yummy treats while I try to distract her, and I got her a Gentle Leader head halter to have better control of her--but I am concerned that no progress is being made. The cats are more terrified than ever and now refuse to come upstairs if the dog is out at all (she is crated for a few hours a day to give them the opportunity to come upstairs, which the 4 year old usually takes). I have been reading a lot of online advice and am honestly discouraged.

If you have a story of your dogs and cats getting used to each other, I would love to hear it (and about how long it took). I am afraid of her hurting or even killing one of the cats, and since the cats came first and my family loves them more than the dog, I am afraid of the dog having to go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks for sharing! I feel bad, because I feel like I can't make either one completely happy- I can't trust Belle to be around the cats when I'm away (which is fairly often, as I am taking classes) and at night, so she has to be crated far too often. I try to alleviate this by taking her on runs, but trying to increase her amount of play and stimulation to make up for the amount of crate time she is receiving is exhausting. And the cats are not happy with having to be in the basement so often, they love the windows upstairs. The whole situation is making me physically ill a bit.
 

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Keep trying the training for another week or two. If she doesn't settle down then I don't think she will. It's very possible should would catch and injure or even kill one of yor cats. Some dogs just have such a high prey drive that they can't live with small fuzzy animals. I'm sorry you're struggling with this. It's really hard when pets don't get along.
 

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I used this and it did take time but it worked. Its been a couple of years since I did it so I dont remember how long it took. Maybe a couple of months of conditioning the dogs and cats to be in the same area without any reaction. I kept the dog on a leash and rewarded for the dog being calm. Especially when the dog looked at the cat with no reaction at all.
Diamonds in the Ruff
 

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Thanks for sharing! I feel bad, because I feel like I can't make either one completely happy- I can't trust Belle to be around the cats when I'm away (which is fairly often, as I am taking classes) and at night, so she has to be crated far too often. I try to alleviate this by taking her on runs, but trying to increase her amount of play and stimulation to make up for the amount of crate time she is receiving is exhausting. And the cats are not happy with having to be in the basement so often, they love the windows upstairs. The whole situation is making me physically ill a bit.
Completely understandable. It's stressful during the training period but I've seen it accomplished with more drivey dogs as well, a GSD and Australian Shepherd come to mind. They were a pair of farm dogs living with first, one cat and then another cat and her kittens.
The dogs were older though, around 6-7 years old? something like that.

If I were in your situation, I would continue with the conditioning.

It can take months of hard work to reach a training goal - for example, my dog has a fear of having his nails trimmed and it took me 18 months of counter conditioning to get him to merely tolerate it long enough for me to get the job done. He still gets a treat after every paw - but he no longer rolls violently or tries to climb up my wall. He used to have to be leashed, restrained, and fed a constant flow of treats to get his nails done.... now it's as easy as asking him to lay down, putting a leg over him (he can get out easily) and doing one paw - treat, next paw - treat....

18 months of conditioning, to get to that point.

So in your case, another week or two may show no difference, but give it another few months of rewarding calm behavior and redirecting prey drive and you *might* see improvements - and even a small improvement is still an improvement, so take it when you get it and use it as your motivation to keep going.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all the input again. I am still feeling extremely discouraged...The cats will not come out (We lost one to the basement for a good 22 hours. She has also not been eating or drinking much). The dog goes nuts just at the jangling of their collars. I am beginning to think that this will never get better. She completely loses her mind at the second she hears the slightest jingle. Every time she comes into the house, she does a lap to check for the cats upstairs, and she cannot focus on anything else until she has completed this lap.

I am all for adopting older dogs, but is it really fair to my cats to have such a prey-driven dog around?
 

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I am all for adopting older dogs, but is it really fair to my cats to have such a prey-driven dog around?
I honestly don't think it's fair to your cats. They sound extremely distressed and we don't want their physical or mental health to suffer. There are plenty of older dogs who have lived with cats or who won't bother them, but it just seems like sadly, this dog is not one of them. I did say earlier to try for a few more weeks but if your cats are this traumatized already? ...I think it might be best to return this dog and see if you can get a cat-friendly one after your kitties recover from this.
 
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Thanks for all the input again. I am still feeling extremely discouraged...The cats will not come out (We lost one to the basement for a good 22 hours. She has also not been eating or drinking much). The dog goes nuts just at the jangling of their collars. I am beginning to think that this will never get better. She completely loses her mind at the second she hears the slightest jingle. Every time she comes into the house, she does a lap to check for the cats upstairs, and she cannot focus on anything else until she has completed this lap.

I am all for adopting older dogs, but is it really fair to my cats to have such a prey-driven dog around?
Unfortunately, no. It is not, and it is dangerous for the cats. Not all dogs will safely adjust to life with cats. I have terriers and ferrets, and for their safety I keep them separate all the time. Not worth the risk to the ferrets, and the same applies to cats and some dogs.

I have the flip problem with my cat/dogs. I've been trying for a couple of years to get my cat used to dogs. She still hates them and seems scared if they get too close. We manage, but the point is that you can't force everyone to get along and like each other. There are plenty of adult dogs out there who grew up with cats and get along with them, but it sounds like this dog is not one of them.
 
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