Their new dog intimidates their cats. 

chases the catsThe young couple fetched the young Leonberger a week ago. Where he came from was questionable. He was a mess. Now, after baths and a session with a groomer, he is shorter-haired but stunning.

Jack’s past is a mystery to me. He’s friendly with people, he walks okay on lead and he travels well. It’s hard to believe that sometime further back in the one-year-old’s past someone’s not cherished him.

He’s not used to cats, however. He leaps about barking, wild with excitement and trying to get to them. The poor cats lived in harmony with their previous dog.

Now the young couple have a rota system for keeping dog and cats apart. They rotate between the bedroom and the living room – putting the dog in the bathroom while they change over.

Jumping and humping

I found Jack aroused and agitated whilst also being friendly. He leapt on me and humped me. He chewed objects I gave him but briefly. He drank and he panted.

He leaps about, humps and mouths because things are simply too much for him. He is agitated much of the time as he adjusts to the huge change in his life. Unwittingly and with the best intentions, they stir him up rather than settle him down.

In this state, how can he be calm with the cats?

Plunged into a new world

Christmas coming immediately after getting Jack wasn’t good timing. Before he had any time to adjust to his new home, he was immediately plunged into yet another new situation. Another house and lots more new people. He humped and he jumped. 

My advice now is for them to give him the next two or three weeks to gently adjust. Slow down. Unwind. Remove all pressure.

They should take him nowhere new that he’s not been already. They should allow him to walk on a long, loose and lightweight lead (not the heavy chain he came with) and forget about ‘lots of exercise’. Time spent sniffing and exploring is what he needs.

The cats

The two cats are another new and particularly exciting challenge for the bouncy young dog to adjust to. He needs time to gradually get accustomed to them in an atmosphere free of anxiety, scolding or stress.

A gate is the answer.

This way Jack and the cats can get used to each other’s existence in safety from either side of the gate.

They can teach him the behaviour they do want from him when he sees a cat, using food – but they can only do this if he’s calm before they start. At the same time, from the other side of the gate, they can help the cats associate Jack with treats and with feeling safe.

Imagine Jack is powered by clockwork. They are winding the key too tight (with things like squeaky toys, play-fighting and wild greetings).

They will now give him ways of unwinding himself – calming things involving chewing and sniffing. Exercise at the moment should be in moderation – time spent simply exploring and sniffing is a lot more valuable than distance covered.

Everything at the moment is a bit too much for Jack, so they will now take things slowly. Three ways to confuse a new dog.

Let’s see how the situation is between him and the cats when he has calmed down in general and when they have learned to accept each other from safe zones.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out here. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good sometimes. Every dog is different and every situation is different. Time working with me should set things in the right direction on a journey which may well be for life. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)