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Problems with peace between my cat and dog

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
My wife and I were married just over 3 years ago. I brought a 100 pound black lab into the picture (Buddy) and she had a tuxedo cat (Oreo). I adopted Buddy from a Lab Rescue about 3 years before the marriage and my wife adopted Oreo about 2 years before the marriage. Both animals are alpha males, and we are living in what was my wife's home. The cat and dog act as though they want to kill each other, so we've been afraid to introduce them beyond a couple of very brief attempts from a distance. The cat is living in the master bedroom, and the dog is inside the house when we're home.

I had trained the dog with a professional, and I have to admit that I need to revisit some of that, as I let things get lax. I am now starting to work with the dog on basic obedience training. Lately the dog is spending more time at the bedroom door, and aggressively rushes the door, trying to nose under it or open it. The pattern is pretty disturbing, the dog used to have the complete run of my house before the marriage, and now can't go into the bedroom at night. The cat used to have the complete run of his house, but now is almost permanently in the bedroom. I feel horrible about this arrangement, but I'm really afraid that one or both of the animals will be seriously hurt if I just let them roam the house together. I've had friends suggest that I just put them together and let them sort it out, but I've seen both animals act very aggressive at the site of the other.

It seems to me that the key is to get the dog under complete control with obedience training, but I'm not sure how to begin permanently introducing them, or if I should even try. Any help would be appreciated.
post #2 of 8
Oh gosh, what a horrible situation to be in. I`m glad you are sensible enough not to take peoples advice on just putting them in a room together and letting them fight it out! There can surely only be one winner in that senario.

I don`t have any advice as I don`t know a lot about dogs. You could try posting in the Behaviour forum so more people see and may be able to help.

Good luck!
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I'll probably do that. I need all of the help I can get! The scary thing is, I don't know which one would win!

Doug
post #4 of 8
First off...let me say that I haven't had to deal with an "inside" dog and cat... That said, I want to say cudos to you for trying to work this out the right way.

I have a ~90lb lab/boxer/chow mix and three cats...The cats are inside and the lab (being my family's dog) stays outside. We have a screened in porch on which the cats like to sit and I will ocassionally bring the dog onto (when I'm there).

I have actively tried to "socialize" my cats with our familiy's dog on the porch, since I'd like to eventually have an inside dog along with the cats.

My dog knows all of the basic obedience commands, but like you, I had slacked off somewhat which resulted in lots of tugging on the leash and very "excitable" behavior.
To correct this, I have begun following the NILIF program with my dog (nothing in life is free...basically, make the dog "work" for any food, rewards, attention, etc. and never let him go through doorways, etc. before you, etc. an internet source should find you plenty of info on it) and it, along with regular walks and going through the obedience commands frequently has helped in terms of control.

Whenever I want the dog to interact with the cats (on the porch) I have him on the leash...and at first, I'd only do this after he had gone on a long walk with me...so he wasn't super hyper.... I use a british style slip lead (like a kennel lead, but with a leather stopper to keep the collar portion high on the neck) so that I can "correct" him if needed. I will usually use treats as well. Dog looks at cat, I say "leave it". When he does and looks at me, reward, if he continues to look at the cat or goes for it, correction. He has caught on pretty fast to this, but I still don't trust him off leash. It does help that he isn't usually actively agressive towards the cats (like you are describing with your dog).

What do you do when your dog attempts to get at the cat through the door? If he knows "leave it" that would be a good place to practice the command, on leash at first, then reward when he "leaves" the cat behind the door...will help step up to "leaving" the cat in the same room with him.

A couple more things you might want to consider:
1. If you have a wire dog crate, maybe confine the dog to it and allow the cat out so he can check out the dog if he wants.

2. If the idea of the dog actually biting the cat is concerning to you, you might want to get a muzzle for the dog...the wire basket variety, not the nylon kind...this will still allow your dog to pant, bark, drink water, etc. but he won't be able to actually get ahold of the cat. If you go this route though, accustom your dog to the muzzle first (without the cat around...and make it a "good" thing with rewards, etc.) so that he will behave naturally while wearing it. (I have been researching and am thinking about getting a greyound as my first inside dog..this is what they reccommend when introducing even a "cat safe" grey to cats).

3. You might want to think about only allowing your dog inside on-leash for a while and have the leash "attached" to you so that he basically follows you around all the time...annoying, yes, but this will give you a quick "handle" should something go wrong (it is also usually reccommended with NILIF programs and helps establish your leadership with the dog). I'd definately do this if your dog seems to be okay with leaving the cat while you're actively training him, but you're unsure about how he'll be when you're just sitting watching tv, etc.

4. Does your dog know how to jump over baby gates, etc? Although I didn't know this...many people use baby gates to give their cats a safe room and keep the dog out...apparently most dogs don't know they can jump them, so will just stay on the other side...might be worth a try to leave the bedroom door open, but with a babygate so the cat can get there but not the dog.

In the end, I think you are totally right about control of the dog being the first issue...If the cat knows that you control the dog and that he can't get him, then he will come out more. Also, the cat needs to feel safe in the parts of the house where the dog might be...you can give him places higher up (like a cat tree) where the dog can't reach him to make him feel safer.

Hope this helps,
Art
post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by artgecko View Post
First off...let me say that I haven't had to deal with an "inside" dog and cat... That said, I want to say cudos to you for trying to work this out the right way.

I have a ~90lb lab/boxer/chow mix and three cats...The cats are inside and the lab (being my family's dog) stays outside. We have a screened in porch on which the cats like to sit and I will ocassionally bring the dog onto (when I'm there).

I have actively tried to "socialize" my cats with our familiy's dog on the porch, since I'd like to eventually have an inside dog along with the cats.

My dog knows all of the basic obedience commands, but like you, I had slacked off somewhat which resulted in lots of tugging on the leash and very "excitable" behavior.
To correct this, I have begun following the NILIF program with my dog (nothing in life is free...basically, make the dog "work" for any food, rewards, attention, etc. and never let him go through doorways, etc. before you, etc. an internet source should find you plenty of info on it) and it, along with regular walks and going through the obedience commands frequently has helped in terms of control.

Whenever I want the dog to interact with the cats (on the porch) I have him on the leash...and at first, I'd only do this after he had gone on a long walk with me...so he wasn't super hyper.... I use a british style slip lead (like a kennel lead, but with a leather stopper to keep the collar portion high on the neck) so that I can "correct" him if needed. I will usually use treats as well. Dog looks at cat, I say "leave it". When he does and looks at me, reward, if he continues to look at the cat or goes for it, correction. He has caught on pretty fast to this, but I still don't trust him off leash. It does help that he isn't usually actively agressive towards the cats (like you are describing with your dog).

What do you do when your dog attempts to get at the cat through the door? If he knows "leave it" that would be a good place to practice the command, on leash at first, then reward when he "leaves" the cat behind the door...will help step up to "leaving" the cat in the same room with him.

A couple more things you might want to consider:
1. If you have a wire dog crate, maybe confine the dog to it and allow the cat out so he can check out the dog if he wants.

2. If the idea of the dog actually biting the cat is concerning to you, you might want to get a muzzle for the dog...the wire basket variety, not the nylon kind...this will still allow your dog to pant, bark, drink water, etc. but he won't be able to actually get ahold of the cat. If you go this route though, accustom your dog to the muzzle first (without the cat around...and make it a "good" thing with rewards, etc.) so that he will behave naturally while wearing it. (I have been researching and am thinking about getting a greyound as my first inside dog..this is what they reccommend when introducing even a "cat safe" grey to cats).

3. You might want to think about only allowing your dog inside on-leash for a while and have the leash "attached" to you so that he basically follows you around all the time...annoying, yes, but this will give you a quick "handle" should something go wrong (it is also usually reccommended with NILIF programs and helps establish your leadership with the dog). I'd definately do this if your dog seems to be okay with leaving the cat while you're actively training him, but you're unsure about how he'll be when you're just sitting watching tv, etc.

4. Does your dog know how to jump over baby gates, etc? Although I didn't know this...many people use baby gates to give their cats a safe room and keep the dog out...apparently most dogs don't know they can jump them, so will just stay on the other side...might be worth a try to leave the bedroom door open, but with a babygate so the cat can get there but not the dog.

In the end, I think you are totally right about control of the dog being the first issue...If the cat knows that you control the dog and that he can't get him, then he will come out more. Also, the cat needs to feel safe in the parts of the house where the dog might be...you can give him places higher up (like a cat tree) where the dog can't reach him to make him feel safer.

Hope this helps,
Art
Thanks for the advice, Art. I like the muzzle idea, and I'm also going to look into NILIF a bit more. I've picked up bits and pieces of that from friends, but hadn't heard of it identified as NILIF. I guess if you don't get the whole set of information, it's just like anything else you pick up in peices.

As for the dog jumping over the kiddie gate, that's where the dog is just plain funny. He's a really smart dog and I love him to death, but when he's behind something he could easily jump over, It's more like he's dumb as a box of hammers (don't get me wrong, I love him, but...). If I but an empty paper shopping bag in the middle of a hallway, it's as good as a wall to him. He can look over it, he could easily go through it, but it's basically a wall. It's funny because he gets so flustered, but can't figure out how to get around it. If I leave a bathroom or bedroom door partially open, then get inside and call him, he doesn't understand that he could just push the door open. Even things that only go as high as his chest level serve as a pretty good way to keep him out of an area in the house that I don't want him in. While that comes in really handy sometimes, I'll spring for the $50 kiddie gate just to be safe when the cat gets involved.

Thanks again for your help. I think the solution is definitely to start simple, keep it consistent and don't give up this time. If I don't have the attitude that this is possible, then it will never get fixed.

Doug
post #6 of 8
the behavior standpoint was well covered ..

Have you tried DAP and Feliway diffusers in the house ???

How were they introduced at first ??

has the dog been vet checked to see if something health wise may be off??
post #7 of 8
I'm writing this from the position that a 100 pound dog will win in a battle over a cat. I live with 3 large dogs and 10 cats right now and have had up to 5 dogs (included high prey drive greyhounds) in the past.

I recommend techniques written by Jan Fennell in her book, The Dog Listener (don't confuse this with the Dog Whisperer). They are very complimentary to NILIF concepts. She describes how to use a dog's natural behavioral instincts to control your dog. She's studied behavior in wolf packs and applied her learnings to dogs. I've expanded some of her techniques to apply to their interaction with cats.

One of her recommendations is to always eat something before you feed your dog. In the wild, the alpha always controls the food and eats first. If you take a nibble of food before you feed your dog, it starts to recognize that you are alpha. Applying this to cats, I nibble first, then feed the cats, then feed the dogs. The dogs have to stay in a down position in the same room while the cats eat in front of them. It gives the cats more respect in my dogs eyes. When I adopted Lola from the shelter earlier this year, she was fairly cat aggressive until I first taught her down/stay, then applied it to the feeding routine.

The other thing I demand is that the dogs respect the cats. They are allowed on the sofa, but if a cat is already there, they are not allowed up or they will disturb them. When I am home, the dogs have to ask to get on the furniture. They are not allowed to touch the cat toys, and they know the difference between a "kitty toy" and a "doggie toy".

Start with the NILIF and Dog Listener techniques, then build from there. There are good threads in the behavior section on how to introduce cats, and some of those can be used to help your cat adjust to the dog.
post #8 of 8
no problem

...Even if the "no jumping" thing is a pain...I'd consider that a blessing, at least in this case When I next get a dog, at least if it's a puppy, I'll definately follow the advice of not teaching him/her that they can jump over a gate...some people even reccommend not taking puppies out of "play pens" via picking them up, only open the gate and let them through so they don't ever get the concept of "jumping over" the gate as a possibility. The gate should be a great step towards helping the kitty feel safe...also, if you put his litter box in that room, you'll kill two birds with one stone, as that will keep the dog from being able to "snack" from the box.

Definately start with NILIF and increasing his training time...Also, how often do you exercise him (walk him)? With a large dog, especially a younger one, you really need to go on daily walks of about 1mile (30 minutes or so)...That should help him use up some of that excess energy so he won't have it to direct at the cat.

NILIF is so often reccommended because it isn't a "confrontational" way of telling your dog who's boss...basically, it doesn't involve physical actions and is not likely to cause a violent reaction from the dog. It's worked great for me and I'd definately suggest starting doing everything in the system...then you can slack off later, but only after the dog has been minding his manners and not challenging you for quite a while.

As to the muzzle, I don't think leaving it on the dog while you're away would be a good idea ( I got the idea from your post that he stays in the backyard when you're not home, is this correct?). Just use it with him on leash and with him in the house with you (even off leash).

After you graduate from him behaving with him "attached" to you via leash in the house, you might want to keep a leash on him, but let him "drag" it so that you can correct him or hold him back if needed.

Just take it slow and be patient...going slow will never hurt the introduction process.

Good luck!
Art

p.s. If these techniques don't work or you feel that your cat is still in serious danger or you aren't getting anywhere, you should probably look for a good behaviorist in your area that has experience with large dogs and dog/cat interactions.
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