Friday, September 3, 2010

Dogs & Cats

Question: I have full grown cats and what can I do to keep Pinto from chasing the cats? He only does it at certain times. Can you give me any suggestions?

Answer: When small animals move fast, a dog is going to chase it. It's a fact of life. You can eventually get the cats use to being chased, but you're never going to totally cure the dog of chasing something that is moving. Eventually, both the cats and the dog will understand that this can be a fun game. One of my daughter's dogs when she was growing up, use to race along the the length of our house while the cats raced along any high surface they could find. I caught them at this game one day when I decided to go in the backdoor instead of the front door. I saw Sammy the dog, "chasing" the cats through the living room window.

Having said that, here is how you can keep the chasing to a minimum.

Behaviors to teach the dog: Teach the dog "leave it" with the ultimate response to you saying "leave it" meaning "walk away". Teach him to "wait" (hold on just a sec and then we'll do it) and to "stay" (don't move until I say "OK").

Control the Environment
You have an opportunity with a new dog to convince him that you are the ultimate authority on everything - including cats. You do this by controlling the dog's environment from the moment you bring him home. First, set up a tie-down - attach a short, unbreakable leash to an immovable object. A wall is best, but an extremely heavy piece of furniture is okay.

Acclimate the dog to this area. Give him treats, bones or chewies there, and make a nice safe spot for him. Once he's happy with his tie-down, bring the cat in when the dog is NOT there (his scent will be). Let the cat explore and examine the area where the dog has been. Provide a perch, out of the dog's reach, where the cat can comfortably watch the dog's area. Give him some treats, catnip or other toy in that area. You may even want to feed him there for a period of days or weeks. It's best if you can acclimate both animals separately for at least a couple of days.

When both cat and dog appear to be comfortable with their spots, tie the dog down, and give her something delicious to chew on. Then, bring the cat in and place him on his perch. It's not usually wise to hold him because he may feel trapped and try to escape, injuring himself and you and exciting the dog in the process. Leave the door open this first time, so the cat can leave if he wishes to. (He probably will.)

An important component of Counter Conditioning is making the association of something pleasant with something unpleasant. Thus, you might withhold attention from both parties until they're in the same room with each other, then give both of them lots of attention. Or, feed them when they can see each other, making sure the cat is very safe and the dog.

When not doing this exercise, keep Pinto on a leash attached to your belt (or get a hands free leash). Say "leave it" whenever Pinto sees one of the cats and then walk away from the cat.

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