Dogs and Cats, Training Eternal Enemies to Co-exist

Dogs and Cats. Eternal enemies, right? Through proper dog obedience training you can teach your animals to live together.

The first mistake that most pet owners make when introducing their pet dogs and cats is to allow them to make their own introductions. This is a mistake! As I stated above, these two species are eternal enemies. You can’t just set one down near the other and expect great results. (Ok, I know that can happen and does happen, but my job here is to teach you about dog training. My version of training calls for prevention with dogs and cats rather than creating a problem and then being forced to fix it. As Mom used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.) There is a good deal of prevention that should be used before allowing your dogs and cats to co-exist.

Whether you are introducing a new cat to a home with a dog or vice versa I want you to start out the same way. Start out by using your trusty dog crate. Put your dog in the crate and allow the cat to be in the same room. There are several possible outcomes to this action :

1. Your dog shows complete indifference. This is ideal. If your dog behaves like this you will have a quick transition.

2. Your dog shows fear. This is not ideal but it will make the transition easier than some other outcomes.

3. Your dog shows nervousness and anxiety. He whines, he paces in the crate, paws at the door of the crate, etc. This behavior tells you that he wants out. There is something about that cat that is exciting and he wants to know what it is.

4. Your dog shows overt aggression. He barks, claws at the door of the crate, and he knows exactly what he wants to do with that cat. This is going to be the toughest dog to train, but it can be done.

For the first few days don’t let your dogs and cats near each other. Keep the dog in the crate. This doesn’t mean you need to keep him in the crate 24/7. When you want him out of the crate just make sure that your cat is shut off in another bedroom to avoid contact. What you hope to accomplish with this action is to train your dog to be indifferent to the cat. You want your dog to view the cat as ‘background noise’. The cat is inconsequential, the cat doesn’t matter, there is nothing interesting or exciting about the cat. In other words, your dog is safely tucked away in the crate and casually observes the cat move around the house. For categories 1 and 2 this will be simple. It will take no more than a day or two for your dog to think of your cat as just another ‘thing’ in the house. Categories 3 and 4 will take more training and time.

For categories 3 and 4 you need to attach a negative association to showing cat aggression. To do this, get a spray bottle. Fill the bottle with either plain water, water mixed with lemon juice, or for very stubborn dogs, water with vinegar. At this point, your dog is still tucked away safely in the crate. The next part of training will be conducted while you are sitting near the crate, ready for action. The instant your dog shows aggression (barks at the cat, claws at the door, whines in frustration, etc.) toward the cat spray him in the face with your spray bottle. Every time he shows aggression spray him with the bottle. When he isn’t showing aggression give him soft praise, “Good boy”.

Make sure that your dog never gets a chance to show aggression toward the cat without having a bad experience. This means that you must always be ready with the spray bottle or make sure the cat isn’t near the dog. If you aren’t vigilant and your dog has the chance to show aggression with no adverse consequence, you are training him to show cat aggression.

If you are consistent with this exercise you will soon notice that your dog will show less and less aggression while in the crate, it just isn’t worth the squirt in the face for him. You are on your way to getting your dogs and cats to co-exist.

When your feel comfortable that your dog is indifferent to the cat move on to the next step. As I said, for categories 1 and 2 this is probably one or two days after beginning the crate training. For categories 3 and 4 get your dog to the point where he is indifferent and maintains that attitude for several days if not a week.

The next step is to get your dog out of the crate and get those dogs and cats together at last! You are going to move slowly, though. Put your dog training collar and leash on your dog and make sure that he is always wearing it around the house. Keep your dog near you and allow your cat to be in the room. If your dog makes any move whatsoever to chase the cat, bark at the cat, or perform any of the stereotypical behaviors that dogs and cats do, give him a very strong correction with the leash. You want this leash correction to be a very memorable one so it must be very strong. You want to form a very negative association toward cat aggression.

Be consistent with this training. If you do this properly you will notice that your dog has less and less of a desire to chase after or bark at the cat. As you notice your dog changing his behavior give him more and more freedom by allowing him to be closer to the cat and further away from you. Eventually you will phase out the use of the dog training collar and leash.

Even if your dog isn’t showing aggressive tendencies, never let him chase after the cat in the house, even playfully.

Even some of the hardest to train dogs will respond to the above method. There exist, however, certain dogs that have such strong prey drive that only drastic measures will cure them of their desire to chase and kill cats. For these dogs I employ an electric dog training collar.

Read the instruction manual on proper fitting for your electric dog training collar. With a stubborn dog that needs an electric collar the method is simple. With the collar on his neck and turned on to a high level of stimulus you are going to correct your dog every time he even looks at the cat. As your dog even sneaks a glance at your cat press the button to deliver the correction. Don’t say ‘no’, don’t react in any way, just correct him for looking at the cat. Do this as many times as it takes. Let’s examine this from your dog’s point of view. He wants to get to the cat, wants to chase, wants to kill. But the very act of looking at the cat causes him pain. You don’t tell him anything so he doesn’t associate the correction with you. He soon will learn to believe that the cat is ‘evil’ and he had better not even look at it because it the act of looking causes pain.

As with all training, you must be very consistent. Your dog must never have a successful chance to even chase or want to chase the cat. Be consistent, though, and soon your dogs and cats will be able to co-exist.

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