Barks at catsHarley is a two-year-old German Shepherd who lives with an adult family and four cats.

People coming to the house – and their cats

Before I came I knew that they wanted Harley to be better with people coming to the house and not to go mental when she saw their cats. They find they can’t ask people round.

I was expecting the  young German Shepherd, as often happens, to bark at me so much that we couldn’t talk! What a nice surprise to find her shy rather than territorial or aggressive.

How I set things up for my own arrival shows them the best way to handle friends coming to their house. I texted them at the door so they could get her into the kitchen. When I was sitting down, the young man brought her in on lead. None of us took any notice of her, not even family members. No fussing and no commands.

Harley didn’t bark! She seemed fairly relaxed. I asked the lad to remove the lead, which he did and all was okay.

She only barked after I had left the room and came back in again – proof that it’s less stressful for her if the person is already in, and sitting, before the dog joins them.

Harley is a sensitive and careful dog. Then need to treat her sensitively also – no rough play or too much excitement. Walks should be calmer and welcomes should be toned down. She will then be in a better place for their all-important ‘cat work’.

There are various changes to implement which, when added together, should help her state of mind. One is her diet. Another is her relationship with food in general because, without food, they will be unable to work on those two main issues – visitors to the house and cats. If she has free access to food, how can it have value for working with?


Teaching Harley with a clicker will give them a tool for working with the cats. It’s also a very good way to work her brain. They will forget about telling her what they don’t want her to do (chase the cats) – but concentrate, with a clicker, on showing her what they do want instead.

Bit by bit she will learn self-control with the cats, one at a time and under controlled circumstances. They will help the cats too – who are understandably reactive and scared of Harley.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs it can do more harm than good. Click here for help