t can take time for dogs and cats who have never met to acclimate to each other, but many dogs and cats can coexist peacefully and happily together, and great friendships can develop between them. Some dogs are very gentle with kitties and actually prefer the company of cats to that of other dogs. Some dogs need training to be around kitties. Other dogs need strict management.
Unfortunately, when people introduce dogs to cats, the usual scenario is that the dog chases the cat, and the cat ends up hiding in the basement or closet or under the bed. This is unnecessary and not fair to either animal — especially your kitty. Your cat should not be relegated to the basement or bedroom. Below are some helpful guidelines and suggestions to follow to introduce a dog and cat to each other.
If you have a dog who is shy, fearful, or timid and a kitty who is territorial, confident, or aggressive, reverse some of these suggestions. Interrupt and prevent your kitty from being aggressive to your dog, and reward your dog for showing calm, confident behavior around your cat. Reward your cat for being friendly to your dog or for ignoring him. Cats love kindness and positive reinforcement and are very amenable to behavior modification too.
* Designate a room or location in the house that is entirely your cat’s territory. Teach your dog that he is not allowed in this area.
Your dog should not have access to litter boxes or to your cat’s food. In addition, your cat should not have to pass or dodge your dog to get to food and water bowls or litter pans.
* Make sure your kitty has extra territory and places to go to feel safe and to get away from your dog. Invest in a few good cat trees or cat condos. These add vertical territory for your cat and will make your kitty feel safer around your dog.
* Be sure to give your kitty plenty of attention
* If you frequently wear a perfume, cologne, or lotion, rub it on your skin. When it dries, pet your animals. This way you can create a “communal” odor. Scent is very important to animals. If your dog and kitty smell similar to you and to each other, they may bond more quickly.
* Let your dog and cat get used to each other’s smells through a closed door. Reward your dog for showing calm behavior. Treat and feed your kitty when your dog is nearby. When your dog is calm and mild-mannered around your cat, your cat will be relaxed around your dog.
* Exercise your dog before introducing him to your cat. If your dog has just run a few miles or played ball in the park for an hour, he will be calmer, less energetic, and more relaxed around your cat. Do not introduce your dog to your cat if your dog has not had any exercise.
* Feed your cat and dog at the same time so they can see each other. If your cat is afraid of your dog, feed them in separate rooms. This establishes a positive association between them and gives them a reason to like each other.
* Always place your kitty on higher surfaces than your dog. This protects your cat and makes him feel more confident. If your kitty is less likely to run, your dog will be less likely to chase.
* Introduce your cat to your dog when your dog is tired, resting, or sleeping. While your dog is sleeping or resting, feed your cat treats on the cat condo or sofa, or pet and brush your kitty on your lap. Do not bring your cat over to your dog or force or push an interaction.
* Reward your dog for ignoring your cat, and if possible, for lying down and relaxing. This is a good time to provide your dog with a chew toy, treat ball, or other food-dispensing toy. If your dog cannot relax, teach your dog to back away, or temporarily remove your dog from the room. Then allow your dog back into the room and reward him for being calm, friendly and relaxed, and for ignoring your cat.
* Teach your dog polite manners. Train your dog using positive reinforcement when your cat is in the room. This will teach your dog how to behave and to listen to you when your cat is present.
* Use a front-clip body harness or head halter when introducing your dog to your cat, and make sure to have your dog on a leash. This will give you more control. It will prevent your dog from chasing your cat and will allow you to reward him for behaving gently around your kitty. Keep the leash relaxed and practice good leash skills. Reward your dog any time he looks away from your cat.
* Give your dog and cat reasons to like each other. Feed them extra-good food and treats when they see each other. Prevent any negative interactions or altercations from occurring, and manage the environment so that your dog can be rewarded for showing friendly, nonthreatening behaviors.
* Play with your dog quietly when your kitty is in the room. If your dog does not chase or pursue your cat, he should be given a fantastic reward.
* Prevent your dog from chasing your cat by immediately interrupting your dog and redirecting him to a more appropriate behavior, such as coming to you, chewing on a toy, or lying down.
* If your dog barks at your cat, remove him from the room. Bring him back in and reward him for being calm, friendly, and gentle, or for ignoring your cat.
* When you are not there to supervise, your dog and cat should be separated until you know they will behave well with each other.
* If your dog still cannot be trusted around your cat after you have followed the above suggestions, seek the help of a qualified humane dog trainer or animal behaviorist. Your dog may need to be fully managed or supervised around your kitty, or completely separated from your cat.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. ©2011. www.newworldlibrary.com.
This article was excerpted with permission from the book:
Training Your Dog the Humane Way: Simple Teaching Tips for Resolving Problem Behaviors and Raising a Happy Dog
by Alana Stevenson.
With Training Your Dog the Humane Way, animal behaviorist and dog trainer Alana Stevenson provides dog owners with a simple, accessible guide to the most effective positive dog training techniques available. Alana presents easy-to-follow methods and advice for teaching dogs polite manners and resolving ongoing behavior issues. She provides solutions for such problems as housesoiling, play-biting, separation anxiety, fear of strangers, aggression, lunging while on leash, car sickness, and more. Readers will learn the most effective way to teach their dogs — through kindness and benevolent leadership.
Alana Stevenson is a professional dog and cat behaviorist, humane dog trainer, and animal massage therapist based in the Boston area. She is a professional member of the Animal Behavior Society, Association of Animal Behavior Professionals, Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and the International Association of Animal Massage and Bodywork. Her articles on humane training and behavior modification have appeared in American Dog, NOVA, Dog Magazine, and the UK-based K9 Magazine. Alana helps people resolve behavioral problems in their dogs and cats humanely — without using aversive techniques, or pinch, choke, or shock collars. Her website is www.alanastevenson.com.