Canine Behavior/dogsvscats

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Question
My daughter may have to move in with me with her 2 indoor cats. I have 2 Doxies that are so/so with cats-as long as they don't growl or run! Her cats are not used to being around dogs at all. What is the best way to introduce the 4 without causing mayham, lose of hair, and lose of our minds?

Answer
Thank you for your question. The best way for initial introductions is to set up the house so that the cats can live 24/7 without ever having to come into direct contact with the dogs. Food, water, litter boxes should all be in the part of the house where the cats will be kept. This may be a single bedroom, or a bedroom and hallway or one half of the house - depending on the design of the house.

Using a baby gate so they can see each other and sniff each other, but can't access each other is ideal.

Using 1 dish towel for each animal, you should wipe down each dog and use those towels as place mats for the cats' food and water dishes. Likewise, wipe each cat down and use those towels as place mats for the dogs' food and water bowls. Refresh (wipe down again) every day for a week. This allows the animals to smell the scent of the other critters and to associate it with good things - food.

Allow the cats to decide when they feel safe enough to enter the space with the dogs. You may do some practices where you put the dogs on leashes (on harnesses, rather than collars around their neck) and open the baby gate. Make sure the dogs can't chase the cats and that the cats have clear access to their escape route and safety. Praise and quietly reward the dogs for being calm.

One thing that most cat behavior professionals suggest is that you make sure the cats have easy access to high locations that are out of reach of the dogs and that the cats can make their way across the room and out to safety (dog free zone) without ever having to touch foot to floor so that if the dogs do chase them up a cat tree, they can then get across the room and to an exit without having to go back down to the dog's space.

The most important part of this process is to not force the cats into the space with the dogs, but rather to allow the cats to decide when they feel safe enough and curious enough to spend time in the same space.

Without observing them, I can't give you a time frame. I've known some dog/cat combos that were fine with each other within a week and others that took nearly a year before they were comfortable in the same space, and still others that never got comfortable.

In those latter cases, often the owners had the cat space set up and maintained, and then at some point every day, the dogs were confined to a bedroom or outside if the weather was good or into crates (with something interesting like frozen food-stuffed Kongs to occupy the dogs) and then let the cats have free run of the house for a couple hours. That can also allow the cats to put their scent in various places around the house by rubbing on furniture or lounging around, giving the dogs something to smell when they return to the space. it also allows the cats to smell the dogs all over the house.

I actually encourage that swap-time from the beginning so that they can check out each other's smell in places other than just at the food bowls. It can help them get to know each other without actually having to be in the same space.

Now, if you find them hanging out at the baby gate and relaxing together or playing gently through the slats of the gate, etc, then you might try some supervised interactions with the dogs on leash so they can't chase the cats to their safety zone.

Time and patience and making sure they all have ample opportunity to smell each other and watch each other from safety of the barrier and allowing the cats to dictate when they're ready for interaction is by far the safest and most effective way to help them learn to cohabitate.

Remember, for the dogs, seeing a cat at the vet's office and being "OK" with them there is not at all the same thing as having cats live in their home 24/7 with no break. They may act very differently in this circumstance than they have in brief encounters in other situations - which may be great or it may be not so good. We can't know until we begin to introduce them to each other.

Good luck. Feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance, or to update me on how it's going.

Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behavior Specialist
http://NutzAboutMutz.com

Canine Behavior

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Jody Epstein, CPDT- KA, APDT

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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 5 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. If you have potty training questions please first read my trio of blogs at http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com/ 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.

Experience

I have been professionally modifying behavior and training obedience for 7 years. I have owned dogs my entire life. I have just changed the name of my business. It is no longer Good Dog! Dog Training. The new name is Nutz About Mutz!. If you see previous questions with the Good Dog! website information, that is my response.

Organizations
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
http://NutzAboutMutz.com ; http://CashewsCorner.wordpress.com ; Multiple articles in the local pet magazine Pet Press (found across Southern California)

Education/Credentials
I have a graduate education in animal behavior and learning. (While I completed my coursework and did the requisite research, I did not defend a dissertation. I am qualified, but not certified and so technically not a doctor. This is commonly referred to as Ph.D.-ABD which means All But Dissertation.) My educational focus was with non-human primates, but my personal interest is with domestic dogs and their relationships with humans and other animals. I continue to educate myself to canine-specific behavior through extensive reading, online interactive workshops, vidoes and attending canine behavior conferences.

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