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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We went to the shelter yesterday and brought home a 5 or 6yr old Akita named Mya. She's a wonderful dog in terms of integrating into the human family (2 boys, 1 girl). Kids love her and she's very good with them so far. Family friends have come by and she was okay with them, watched our reaction and matched it. House training has clearly already occurred and she knows a few commands (sit, shake). Did well in the car.

The one immediate problem that concerns me is her Prey Drive instinct as it regards our 3 cats. She's already chased one, no ill effects thus far. My concern is that as an older dog, is it possible to acclimate her to our cats? They were here first, so I have to give them precedence.

Can't say enough how wonderful the dog is in all other respects.
 

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Have you tried investing in gates so your cats can get away and or have their own space away from the dog?
 

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The diamonds in the rough link suggests putting the cat in a cage and letting a dog sniff (unless that's since been edited out, I hope so). Don't do that unless you have a VERY calm cat likes crates and being sniffed by a predator. It's otherwise a good protocol for low to medium prey drive dogs.
I prefer Jackson Galaxies cat-friendly advice, because I love my cats. It takes the cats mental well-being into equal consideration.
Cats should not be forced to run for their lives in their own home, so gates and escape routes such should be used as a 'just in case something goes south' route (and those routes will also help put the cats at ease), just don't leave it up to them to be safe.
Introducing Dogs and Cats | Jackson Galaxy
And yes, it can be done, cat chasing quite typical behaviour for some dogs, but not acceptable if you love your cat.
BTW. Your dog is VERY new to you, so you might want to look up 'two week shut down' which suggestions using 'management' (keeping everyone separate) for a short time so your new dog can relax and settle in first. Many weird/over-excited and bad behaviours can simply be an expression of stress in the early stages.
I'm guessing though, the cat chasing will be something you'll have to deal with though (prey drive won't just go away).
And yes, I've been there and done that with a previous dog.
 

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So, from the dogs point of view, there's a strange smell in the house and the dog has a visual. What I would do is take 2 towels, one towel per cat, rub them all over from arse to appetite - then introduce the dog to the towels for a start. Put the towels near where the dog sleeps. The first thing is to try to get the dog used to the smell of the cats.

Muzzle training for dogs is great, tend to calm them down and allows the owner full control. Many think muzzles are cruel, but it's a nice tool to have for unsure situations. Say the dog acts out at the vet, it's trained for a muzzle, put it on for the safety of the dog and the people.

Once your dog is calm, have the dog sit on the floor, or lay down with the muzzle on. Bring a cat over, sit calmly on the couch and pet the cat. Let the dog get used to the smell and the sight of the cat. Don't force anything, you own the cat - the dog doesn't.
 

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So, from the dogs point of view, there's a strange smell in the house and the dog has a visual. What I would do is take 2 towels, one towel per cat, rub them all over from arse to appetite - then introduce the dog to the towels for a start. Put the towels near where the dog sleeps. The first thing is to try to get the dog used to the smell of the cats.

Muzzle training for dogs is great, tend to calm them down and allows the owner full control. Many think muzzles are cruel, but it's a nice tool to have for unsure situations. Say the dog acts out at the vet, it's trained for a muzzle, put it on for the safety of the dog and the people.

Once your dog is calm, have the dog sit on the floor, or lay down with the muzzle on. Bring a cat over, sit calmly on the couch and pet the cat. Let the dog get used to the smell and the sight of the cat. Don't force anything, you own the cat - the dog doesn't.
Good stuff.
The 'smells exchange' should be a two way street. The cats may be terrified (mine where with my current 'good with cats' dog) just to have a new critter in the house, so even if the dog is perfect with cats, the cats will need some adjustment time.
With the muzzle, just a warning, Akita's are big; there is a term called 'muzzle punch' which can be taken literally. A muzzled akita can still do damage to a cornered cat, so it's an extra level of safety to help keep the humans calm during the intro's, not a fix.
And sometimes time does the trick. Not all dogs are crazy determined cat chasers.
Play safe and have fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Start of day 2...

The Good - dog is generally well-behaved and proving to be gentle with the smaller kids (4 and 6). House trained for sure, likes walks.

The Neutral - clearly headstrong during walks, needs constant reminder of who's "in control". I knew this going in.

The Bad - the cats... Obviously not looking for things to improve in less than 48 hrs. :)

When on the leash, Dog-Cat interaction is controllable. Dog fixates on the cat and cannot simply relax and ignore. If I were let go the leash, the dog would chase the cat. Off the leash, 2 times now, the dog has tree'd 2 of the 3 cats. First time was in an open living room area and the cat got away as the dog was brought under control. Second time, cat was in the kitchen with nowhere to go. Dog was caught as she was trying to mount the counter...

Both chase scenarios happened when I was otherwise engaged with a family member. Cats are now sequestered in a safe room, prior to this they were not. Basically, both times the dog heard or smelled the cat, acquired them visually and then launched. There was no hesitation, just the instinct to chase. This jives with everything that I've read about Akitas and their very high prey drive. I cannot say we weren't warned, rather I perhaps didn't take the warning as seriously as I should have.

Currently, like I said, cats are sequestered while the dog has the overall run of the joint. Cats are allowed out when the dog is on a walk or running in the backyard.

So what should I do? I like the towel idea. I'll do that tonight when we crate her before bed. I've also read where you use a clicker and treats and to get the dig to sit. Then you start moving around randomly and quickly, like a prey animal - click, if the dog sits, it gets a treat... Does this make any sense at all?

/thank you for everyone's input - I don't want to give up on the dog too soon.

//the cats still take precedence - their mental health and safety are the most important thing to me.
 

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Well, maybe to compound the smell issue, toss in a dirty tshirt that you've worn all day and put the cat smelling towels on either side of the crate.

If the dog is already targeting you, looking to you for direction - that's a good thing, capitalize on it. You need to take ownership of the cats, the house, the furniture etc.

Patience and time my friend. It's only day 2.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, maybe to compound the smell issue, toss in a dirty tshirt that you've worn all day and put the cat smelling towels on either side of the crate.

If the dog is already targeting you, looking to you for direction - that's a good thing, capitalize on it. You need to take ownership of the cats, the house, the furniture etc.

Patience and time my friend. It's only day 2.
Yes - we do crate at night and I can't imagine how any of this would work with out it. I think the towels from both me and the cats is a great idea.

Yes - I am the Alpha and I take that very seriously. Everything I've read about Akitas (perhaps hunting dogs in general) leads me to believe that I have to take control now, or all of her prior training will go out the window.

Currently Mononoke (we're trying to change her name) is tethered to me and the cat room door is open. I am curious if she'll spring while connected to me. I'm thinking that I need to enroll in a few obedience classes as well. Might be remedial for her, but certainly new and good for me.
 

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Too much too soon (not a criticism, it's good news). Of course your hoping it'll all work out on it's own.
It's only day 2--slow down.
Here's a link discussing 2 week shut-down--it's a guideline, not a rule book, but will help you slow down.
In the meantime:
Don't give the dog any more opportunity to chase the cats, zero, or even stare at in that 'mmmmm....looks like a nice juicy hamburger' sort of way. It is a very self-reinforcing behaviour, like bungee-jumping to a thrill seeker...also will instill permanent fear in the cats, and fearful behaviours encourage the worst behaviour in dogs.

You'll find more articles by googling 'introducing dog to cat'--common problem for cat lovers who also own dogs.

There's no magic bullet; if your dog has serious prey-drive and experience to go with it, you're in for a lot of work and may need to get creative about it or seek professional help (trainer, private trainer).

The clicker training as described will not work if the dog is fixated on the cat. The dog needs to be fixated on you (and that's what the clicker training would be helping work toward) but you would need to start your lessons away from the cat in a low distraction location.

PS, 7 months ago, I was the one who needed to be told SLOW DOWN with a new rescue. Different problem entirely, but it gave me a whole new perspective on the settling in period.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Okay - did some rearranging and the new dog is now sequestered in her crate in the master bedroom. All of her paraphernalia is in there, nothing cat-related remains.

Cats now have the run of the house and can enter the master if they choose. From this point forward, the dog will either be on the leash, tether, or in her crate.

We'll see how it goes...
 

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You can do the smell thing right away. That part is a-okay.
Just avoid situations that will lead to upset you, upset cat or upset dog.
That sentence is the short version of 'two week shut-down', wish I'd said it that way sooner. Bolding it now. Hope that helps.
It's all about taking it easy for each and every critter (and that includes the humans too--you).
Cheers. Have some nice quality time with the cats, and some nice quality time with your lovely dog too.
 

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Just a heads up, since you used the term "alpha"- there are some breeds that do need strong leadership from their owners, but that doesn't mean actually imposing leadership onto them. More it means having a good understanding of dog training, setting rules, and training what behavior is OK and what isn't.

Some people- mainly what I'd consider "dominance theory trainers"- seem to be under the impression that dogs live in a linear heirarchy, are always striving to be at the top of that heirarchy, and impose that heirarchy onto one another through displays of force.

All are flawed beliefs.

Some breeds are more independent and naturally care less about the rules you impose on the environment. Some breeds want nothing more than to please their master and will trip over themselves to do what you want. Some breeds will trip over themselves for food, toys, or play. Some breeds fit into the picture that dominance theory trainers paint of dog behavior in that, when a dog is independent and cares little about what the owner wants from him, he seems to be trying to "take charge" of a house. Akitas are a breed that this kind of thing happens often in.

It is important to note that when there are hierarchical relationships between dogs, and the relationship is a healthy one and both dogs are well adjusted, those relationships are mostly enforced by appeasement displays of the "lower ranking" animal. When they are reinforced by the higher ranking animal using force, they are rarely actually healthy relationships and usually are being reinforced that way because they are a relationship constantly in flux. Most of the time, between two dogs, only middle ranking members of a pack unsure of their true place are likely to start a lot of fights/display shows of force against other dogs. The ones that are actually "in charge" are the most peaceful. The lower ranking and middle ranking animals are the ones that cause fights.

With an Akita, trying any of the force submission techniques dominance trainers use, including physical corrections like foot/hand jabs and leash corrections are a lot more likely than many other breeds to end with you getting hurt by the dog, especially things like "alpha rolls". Akitas have a higher self defense drive than a lot of other dog breeds, and they will very often direct aggression at their handler when you put pressure on them. Just one thing to think about in training.

If/when you look for training classes, I would highly recommend finding a trainer who uses primarily positive reinforcement, if not only positive reinforcement. This is because Akitas also tend to have a naturally low level of engagement in training, and using corrections in the early stages of training is the #1 best way to lower engagement. They are a breed that really seems to do best when most if not all of the behaviors they're being taught are being reinforced heavily, frequently, and proofed without the use of pressure/compulsion.

I don't have enough knowledge/experience about introducing cats and dogs to say anything else, except to be very weary of prey drive. Prey drive is the one thing that you can't really ever train out completely. Focus on teaching the dog alternative behaviors to chasing the cat, if you can, and don't let yourself get lulled into thinking it's completely safe to leave them together.
 

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No one trainer or person "debunked" the theory of dominance hierarchies in dogs. I like to think of it less that it's been "debunked" and more that once, it was the leading theory in the behavioral biology understand on dogs, and we have since grew out of it as dog behaviors has been studied more intensively.

The model itself grew out of very, very early scientific inquiry into dog behavior in the 40-60's, when the popular scientific understanding was that dogs could be best understood by looking into wolf behavior. Prior to that, there was little to no inquiry into the biological behavior of dogs- how they thought, how they learned, how they behaved with humans and with each other. It was considered a waste of time to think about those things in the scientific community. One of the very first scientific studies done looking into canine behavior was in the 40's on Wolf Park captive wolf packs- this is the study from which this idea of dog/canine behavior stems from. Since the study in the 1940's, other studies have introduced new information and leading scientific minds (including the scientist who did the original study in the 40's, and many well known dog trainers) have come to the general consensus that:
- dogs are not best understood through wolf behavior because dogs are not wolves (remember: the dominant/submissive/pack leader whatever model of dog behavior is based largely on studies done on wolves)
- Why? Because many thousand years of divergent evolution separate dogs from wolves (it seems plausible that early proto-dog populations and wolves diverged sometime before the advent of agriculture, at least 14 thousand years ago, and possibly began to diverge as early as 20,000 years ago. The earliest fossil records of animals that can confidently be described as "dogs" based off of skull/skeletal markers are around 14,000 years old. Genetic evidence places the divergence more like 20-100,000 years ago. Geneticists will usually argue that date, while archeologists will usually argue the date suggested by the fossil record. The scientific community at large has mostly agreed on 14-20,000 years ago as the approximate date of divergence.)
- furthermore, the grey wolves of today are not the grey wolves dogs "evolved from" (which is a simplistic explanation of evolution but adequate for this explanation)- the conditions that determine the best fit animals/behavior (and thus the best fit genes) have changed drastically in that time (including a global take over by our species) and make it likely that the grey wolves of today are not representative of the behavior of grey wolves prior to the beginning of the divergence between wolves and dogs, or the wolves whose genes dogs "share". Some genes remain static between dogs and wolves today, but those are genes inherited by a common ancestor prior to their divergence- not genes dogs have inherited directly from the grey wolves of today
- the way to understand dogs is to do studies on dogs, not to do studies on wolves

When the model of dominance theory was first proposed, it was ground breaking stuff, and it fit very well into the training methods used in the day, which included a whole lot of punishment and physical manipulation and not a whole lot of reward other than praise/petting. If you look at early stuff being put out by people who are now ground breaking in the positive reinforcement world, such as Ian Dunbar, you'll see them using what people who idolize them today would think of as pretty knarly punishment based techniques. The entire understanding of the best ways to train dogs has changed drastically since the advent of dominance theory. Dominance theory training has not done a whole lot to absorb these changes, which have all occurred because of increased scientific inquiry and understanding of dogs behavior.

My bone to pick with dominance theory- and the issue most of its critics have with it- is not that what they call "dominant" and "submissive" temperaments do not exist in dogs or should not factor into the kind of owner/training a dog or breed or type is best suited to or do not on some level determine how a dog interacts with its world. Anyone who has spent any time around dogs knows that this kind of thing exists. I've seen the scientific community refer to it as a "shy/confident" temperament spectrum sometimes, which I prefer. I really like the term "domineering" or "assertive" to describe a confident animal (what dominance theory trainers call "dominant") and "soft" to descrive what they'd call "submissive". It is more the way that dominance theory trainers view that temperament spectrum that I take issue with- because dominance theory trainers are viewing that temperament spectrum through a lens colored by assumptions about dog behavior that are based on extrapolations of (somewhat flawed) studies done on wolf behavior, they are assuming that temperament spectrum is the absolute most important factor in dog behavior and the most important thing to determine their training and how easy they will be to train. I have already explained why I- and many scientific minds/ trainers- find wolf behavior to be a faulty lens through which to understand dogs, and also explained why those extrapolations of wolf behavior are faulty (namely: that is now how wolves actually behave in the wild).

When I say things like "dominance theory has been debunked" on this forum, I don't mean that an animal's personality and where it sits on the shy/outgoing (or "submissive"/"dominant/assertive") spectrum of behavior doesn't factor into the kind of ownership, management, or "leadership" (which are all fairly intertwined words, IMO) that it needs to thrive/live safely in human society. I also balk at using the words dominance theory trainers use because "dominant"/"submissive" have very specific scientific meanings, and they relate to individual situations and resources, not universal relationships. Obviously they have come to have a colloquial meaning that is different from that, but that doesn't change the fact they already meant something specific and different, so I avoid using them in those situations.

Overall, in both wolves and dogs, there is not a whole lot of evidence that suggests that animals have to fight for social status or that the struggle for social status is the single most important factor in determining dog-dog and dog-human relationships. There is also strong support for the social status of an animal to be mostly reinforced by the lower ranking animal offering spontaneous appeasement displays.

(cont. in next post)http://www.clickersolutions.com/articles/2001/dominance.htm
 

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Dominance theory trainers tend to paint everything in the picture of humans needing to be the "leader" or "alpha", dogs needing to be "submissive" to the human, and place a lot of stress on the human needing to correct the dog when it does something wrong. They also paint almost everything in terms of the dog wanting to dominate the human, or take the leadership role from the human- from reactivity towards strangers or other dogs, to food aggression/resource guarding, to pulling on a leash. Dogs do these things for a variety of reasons, and mostly it is motivated by things other than wanting to control the other animal/person. When it is from that kind of a place, it usually stems from either herding drive or prey drive, IME/O, or a mix up of herding and prey in the breeds that have strong herding roots but now are bred primarily for protective instinct/guarding (I always use the working shepherd breeds as an example). For the most part, though, like I said- behavioral problems are coming from a different emotional place (fear, anxiety, frustration) similar to the places human misbehavior comes from, and usually the behavior is shaped by unintended past reinforcement. For example, with fear aggression- a dog likely shows threat/aggressive displays because in the past that behavior has made the threat go away (the human removes the dog from the situation). That doesn't mean not removing the dog from the situation will make it be non-aggressive though. Forcing it to confront its fear will have varying levels of utility depending on how fearful that dog is and if there are other emotions at play in causing that response. If its intense fear, it may escalate and cause real harm. If it's not that afraid and its just a heavily reinforced behavior, it might stop when it realizes its not working, be confused for a little, and then realize nothing bad has happened to it and stop the behavior all together.

Stillwell is a big name trainer who publicizes herself very well and has been outspoken against dominance theory (likely to counteract the damage done to public perception of dog behavior by Milan and the Dog Whisperer channel). I don't think she has done a whole lot of personal inquiry into dog behavior in the form of scientific studies, though. I am not sure on that, however, so don't hold me to it. By scientific studies, I should point out I mean published, peer reviewed studies in well respected scientific/veterinary journals.

As a summary: its not that dominance/hierarchical relationships don't exist between dogs, but rather that does not appear to be the single most important motivation in dog's social lives or dog's misbehavior in homes. Thinking that it does is basing an understanding of dog behavior on an early understanding of wolf behavior, which isn't even the modern understanding of healthy wolf behavior. Neither does there appear to be much support for the idea that dogs have linear social hierarchies of high rank-lower rank-mid rank-lowest rank. Usually social hierarchy is more a web, with mostly trios or pairs having direct relationships and those relationships usually being independent of each other.

A few good explanations of why dominance theory is faulty and why "dominance" is a bad word to use to describe what they want to describe:
Why Won't Dominance Die? | Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
https://drsophiayin.com/philosophy/dominance/
Debunking dominance in dogs | Australian Veterinary Association
https://apdt.com/pet-owners/choosing-a-trainer/dominance/

I really like this explanation of how what is usually called "dominance" actually works in dogs: Demystifying Dominance in Dogs - Snowdog Guru
as well as this one: ClickerSolutions Training Articles -- The History and Misconceptions of Dominance Theory
 

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Yes, David Mech was the involved in the research that led to the advent of dominance theory in dog training and- as science led us away from the assumptions that made dominance theory a plausible explanation of dog behavior- has gone on to dispute his early research/findings that still nag understandings of canine behavior today.

One of my greatest professional, personal, and academic interests is how what is colloquially known as "dominance" plays a role in dog behavior. Another is the true risk of fallout of using all four quadrants (aversives and reinforcement) in dog training, how much stress aversives actually cause to dogs, and how much stress specific aversives- such as e-collars and prong collars actually cause, and how breed/type/individual temperament/softness effects how that differs between dogs. At this point, I am planning to go into training professionally in the next year (once I figure out the liability aspect of it and get the money to do what I need to start working under the name I want, by working other jobs). I'm finishing my Bachelor's degree currently at the only accredited university that focuses entirely on dog behavior. I am strongly considering trying to pursue graduate level work in dog behavior. The main reason I'm where I am not instead of a program that focuses more an animal behavior science as a whole (like UC Davis, or Hampshire College) is because the school I'm going to (called Bergin University) focuses on preparing students for careers as dog trainers and has a strong association to their Service Dog Training Program, and includes a board and train aspect for the program bred dogs there- since I want to offer Service Dog training options when I go into business for myself, I chose to go to this more specialized program instead of one that may do a better job of preparing me for masters/graduate level stuff.

I spend a great deal of my free time looking into this kind of stuff on my own, and the things I post to this forum about dominance theory training especially are not meant to be a "I know better than that person" or "look how much I know" claim, nor am I trying to present it as absolute fact. I don't mean to present it as absolute fact, rather to present the information I have gleaned from a great many scientific sources on the way dogs behave.

Also, if you're looking for more information on how dogs DO behave and don't mind reading dense scientific text, the book "The Social Behavior Of The Dog" is a GREAT read and looks at things like how breed, type, and original function plays a role in behavior (and focuses on working lines in breeds where there's a split between show/working, I believe), as well as how intelligence can be understood across breeds (in ability to learn as well as independent problem solving), and how social relationships fuel dog behavior.
 

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Yes, David Mech was the involved in the research that led to the advent of dominance theory in dog training and- as science led us away from the assumptions that made dominance theory a plausible explanation of dog behavior- has gone on to dispute his early research/findings that still nag understandings of canine behavior today.

One of my greatest professional, personal, and academic interests is how what is colloquially known as "dominance" plays a role in dog behavior. Another is the true risk of fallout of using all four quadrants (aversives and reinforcement) in dog training, how much stress aversives actually cause to dogs, and how much stress specific aversives- such as e-collars and prong collars actually cause, and how breed/type/individual temperament/softness effects how that differs between dogs. At this point, I am planning to go into training professionally in the next year (once I figure out the liability aspect of it and get the money to do what I need to start working under the name I want, by working other jobs). I'm finishing my Bachelor's degree currently at the only accredited university that focuses entirely on dog behavior. I am strongly considering trying to pursue graduate level work in dog behavior. The main reason I'm where I am not instead of a program that focuses more an animal behavior science as a whole (like UC Davis, or Hampshire College) is because the school I'm going to (called Bergin University) focuses on preparing students for careers as dog trainers and has a strong association to their Service Dog Training Program, and includes a board and train aspect for the program bred dogs there- since I want to offer Service Dog training options when I go into business for myself, I chose to go to this more specialized program instead of one that may do a better job of preparing me for masters/graduate level stuff.

I spend a great deal of my free time looking into this kind of stuff on my own, and the things I post to this forum about dominance theory training especially are not meant to be a "I know better than that person" or "look how much I know" claim, nor am I trying to present it as absolute fact. I don't mean to present it as absolute fact, rather to present the information I have gleaned from a great many scientific sources on the way dogs behave.

Also, if you're looking for more information on how dogs DO behave and don't mind reading dense scientific text, the book "The Social Behavior Of The Dog" is a GREAT read and looks at things like how breed, type, and original function plays a role in behavior (and focuses on working lines in breeds where there's a split between show/working, I believe), as well as how intelligence can be understood across breeds (in ability to learn as well as independent problem solving), and how social relationships fuel dog behavior.
Moonstream - when you research many of these behaviorists or trainers that go against the dominance theory - it's not hard to find links back to David Mech's work with wolves as proof. Mech has been cherry picked to death. David Mech didn't debunk anything - he chose the wrong word - "Alpha" and he admits it.

Explain Dingo's? Lots of research into african wild dogs....
 
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