How to safely introduce a dog and a cat

It is often difficult to know how a dog will react to a cat until you see them together. This topic is important if you already have a cat and might be considering bringing a dog into the family. 

Even though I don’t have a cat for daily practice, 2 of my 3 dogs are totally fine with the small number of cats they have come into contact with.

Trooper, however, doesn’t seem too thrilled when he sees a cat on the street. If I ever needed him to live with a cat, I would work on the following exercises. 

To successfully and safely introduce a dog and a cat you should practice similar strategies that you would as if you were introducing two dogs, in which one or both were uncomfortable.

  1. Manage your dog’s behavior on leash so he is NEVER allowed to chase the cat
  2. Slowly and systematically introduce him so the event does not result in your dog getting anxious or chasing the cat

It could take a LONG TIME to get to a point where you feel comfortable allowing your dog near your cat. It depends on your dog’s prey drive, how good your timing is, and how much time you spend on the exercises.

The main rule of thumb with cats is that they should always have an escape route. Your dog should never be allowed to corner your cat or one or both could get seriously injured, and you are negating one of the rules -- never allow your dog to chase the cat.

Try this:

  1. I strongly recommend using clickers for this
  2. Have your dog on leash
  3. Keep him far enough away from the cat so he is relatively calm
  4. AS SOON as he sees the cat, click and treat (if you are not using a clicker, say, "Yes")
  5. If your does not take the treat, use something better and/or move farther away
  6. Keep repeating this until your dog is calm at this distance and then move a bit closer
  7. If your cat moves at any point, click and treat AS SOON as your dog sees him move
  8. Try and end the session before your dog gets anxious
  9. If he gets anxious, move him farther away

Over time, the strategy is for your dog to not feel like chasing the cat, because he was in the situation many, many times and never actually chased the cat. You are doing something called desensitization and counter conditioning. You are lowering the intensity of your dog's normal reaction and countering it, or replacing it, with a different behavior.

I have many clients that have dogs and cats and they actually play together. Many times the cat will playfully taunt the dog and then jump out of reach each time. Your chances for success are really good if you introduce a young puppy to an older cat and start the exercises from the first greeting.
Why did your dog do that? I don't know.
Should I get a second dog?
 

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