(An online consultation – Ripley and the cat)
Ripley is now five months old. Her mother was a Romanian street dog that was rescued just before her puppies were born.
Undoubtedly, after generations of self-preservation, there will be wariness in Ripley’s genes.
Ripley growls, barks and lunges
From the time the young couple adopted Ripley a couple of months ago, She has been very reactive to anything new. She is particularly scared of people, dogs and traffic outside the front of their house.
In order to help her with this, she would need to be exposed to scary things one at a time and at a ‘safe’ distance whilst good things happen (desensitise and counter-condition).
Their poor cat is hindering progress
Now here is the problem. Because their cat lives at the back of the house in the kitchen, they can’t take Ripley into the back garden to toilet.
So they are taking her to a small green out the front about five times a day. Five times a day she is fearfully reactive to all sorts of things.
I see the only way forward is finding a way to take her out to their back garden and past the cat.
Whenever Ripley hears the cat she growls, barks and may rush the baby gate between her living room and the kitchen where the cat comes and goes in from the garden.
Currently the cat’s food bowl is on the floor. She has to pass Ripley’s line of vision from the cat flap to her bowl.
Can we adjust the environment?
First we looked at the best way to arrange the environment. The food bowl can be lifted so the cat jumps onto the side when she comes in.
They can control her comings and goings by keeping the cat flap shut more.
Cat and Dog game
Next is desensitising and counter-conditioning Ripley to the cat, and the scared cat to Ripley.
I devised a ‘cat and dog’ game. One person would be the other side of the gate either holding Freddie the cat or keeping him still, and the other in the living room with Ripley.
Every time Ripley looks at the cat one person will say Yes and feed him. Every time the cat looks at Ripley, the other person will say Good and feed her.
They may find this works better with both animals in the kitchen and can experiment.
So now they have managed the environment a bit better and are working on both animals accepting one another.
Getting Ripley past the cat into the garden
Next they need a plan for getting Ripley into the garden and no longer out the front.
As they both work from home, they can make it a join effort. One will lift the cat or keep her still. The other will put Ripley on a long line, walk her through the kitchen and out into the garden.
They will carry on with their Yes and Good game as they do so.
If the cat is indoors and the cat flap shut, Ripley can then be let off the long line.
Ripley’s fear of the outside world
Now we can start to look at dealing with Ripley’s fear of the real world out the front so that eventually, when she’s ready, they can walk her without reacting scared and sounding aggressive at so many things.