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Canine Behavior/introducing a kitten to an older dog


Hi I just realm need some advice on how to properly introduce my adult dog to a kitten and to see if what they are doing ATM is normal etc i'll give you some info about my dog and what been happening so far

My dog is a female 5year old malamute she always been around others dogs and puppies and has been fine unless on a lead out walking, she used to live with me at my other sister house and she had a cat that we had tp keep separate as the cat would attack the dog and vice versa while living at ny sisters my friend brought a kitten round and and all she did was lick the kitten etc, so I have moved into my own place and have been given a kitten and have been introducing them in 15minute intervals holding the kitten on my knee and my dog by the collar and all my dog does is constantly lick, nudge and nibble my kitten is this a good signetc?,

Your dog isn't growling, showing teeth, snarling or trying to actually bite the kitten (at least you didn't mention anything like that in your description) and so that is a good sign. Sniffing, licking, nudging and playful mouthing is all a good sign. However, you have a malamute and a kitten. The size discrepancy is enormous. They must be supervised at all times because your Mal could easily damage the kitten without meaning to simply due to his size.

I would adjust the interactions a bit though. Right now you're holding the kitten in your lap and you're holding your dog by the collar - this means they're being forced into extremely close proximity with no opportunity to escape each other and get more distance if they need to calm down a bit. Also, by holding the collar, you're putting tension on your dog which can increase his level of arousal, so if kittie decides to playfully swat at your Mal's nose, this could trigger the Mal to respond in a less than friendly manner.

I'd suggest having the Mal on a leash (on a harness, not on his collar) and either tether him to sturdy furniture or a post in the house if there is one, or have someone else hold his leash and then you can have the kitten. You can bring kittie close so they can sniff each other, then separate them by a few feet. Have these interactions at about half-to-3/4 of the length of the leash so that the Mal can move both toward and AWAY from the kitten without having to strain against the leash and without feeling trapped against a wall with nowhere to escape if he needs to. Allow the kitten to move around so your Mal can get used to the cat moving and not just sitting still. Pay attention. If the Mal is laying down (self handicapping to make himself less threatening), if his body is relaxed and wiggly, if he play bows, etc. then you're on the right track. On the other hand, if he's staring hard (not squinty), ears pricked and held forward intensely, if his hackles are up and his tail is high (above his neutral position) and still, if he's standing with his weight forward or any of the other various cues of a dog on the hunt, then you need to pick up kittie and separate them.

You should also set them up on opposite sides of a screen door or opposite sides of a baby gate that's high enough neither can jump over, so they can come to each other to sniff freely, but also move away from the door whenever they feel a need for more space.

Take it slow. And keep in mind that you may end up with a beautiful inter-species friendship that lasts a life time. Or you may also end up either having to re-home the kitten or setting your home up so that they can live separate lives if they are unable to get along. Without observing it directly, I can't really say one way or the other which way this will go. While you didn't describe anything with the kitten that sends up a red flag, you did describe a past experience with a cat that is a red flag, so you'll have to take this day-by-day and only increase their direct access to each other under heavy supervision and only when you feel absolutely certain about what that encounter will look like.

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance.

Jody, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, MS, CPDT-KA


IF YOU BELIEVE YOUR DOG IS ILL OR INJURED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT THE FORUM TO ADDRESS URGENT MEDICAL ISSUES. I AM NOT A LICENSED VET AND HAVE NO DIAGNOSTIC SKILLS. ***I have been answering questions on All Experts for over 8 years now. I enjoy being able to offer assistance in this forum. I do need to be clear, though. If you’re looking for free advice about a specific behavior question, you MUST submit your question to me via All Experts. If you bypass All Experts and write to me directly through my website, I will ask you to submit via All Experts. On the flip side, if you’re local to Los Angeles and you wish to speak to me privately about an in person consultation, please go through my website. I appreciate your assistance in keeping my volunteer work on the volunteer site.*** I can answer questions about the following canine behavior issues: obedience, timid/fearful & fear-based aggression, nuisance behaviors, families that are expanding with either new human or new animal members and many other issues. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at If you still have questions after reading the blogs you can post your specific questions here. PLEASE be as specific as possible when asking a question. Give me a detailed example of the situation - dog's behavior, body language, circumstances surrounding the issue, what the consequences are (another dog's response, your response), etc. I can only provide insight if I can get a picture of the whole scenario. If I ask for further details, please provide them. In person I would normally observe for at least 90 minutes to assess the situation and the dynamics before offering tools and suggestions to modify it. In writing it is ever so much more difficult. Thank you for your participation in the process.


I have been a professional obedience trainer for 9 years, and specializing in behavior modification for 8 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I own my own dog training and behavior modification business called Nutz About Mutz.

I am a Certified Profession Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), #2133301 ; I am a member in good standing with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), #77763 ; I am an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen evaluator (CGC), #71253

Publications ; ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

I have a masters degree (MS) in Animals and Public Policy, with a minor in Animal Behavior, from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. I also have 3 years of graduate education in Animal Behavior and Learning from UM-Missoula and UL-Lafayette. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences, workshops and seminars. Beginning in March, 2017, I will be the Behavior & Training Manager at Second Chance Center for Animals in Flagstaff, AZ.

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