Pup just wants to play with the cat like she’s another dog.
Florence is a 6 months old Cocker Spaniel. Like a puppy should be, she’s playful.
However Florence wants most of all to play with the cat.
Her desperation to play with the cat every time she sees her is the only issue they have with Florence. The lady is doing some great training with her and the dog is very sociable both at home and when out.
Florence just wants to play with the cat!
As soon as she sees the cat, she either chases her if she runs or if the very easy-going cat doesn’t run, Florence jumps on her. The cat may roll over, scratch and bite.
She lies on her back as if to say ‘please stop’ but Florence seems to take this as an invitation to play.
As they restrain her, she’s so desperate to get to play with the cat her feet slip and scrabble as she tries to get a grip on the shiny floor.
What they want is for cat and dog to live together safely and in harmony. To achieve this, there are various other small general changes to Florence’s life they can make with this goal in mind.
Scolding, physical grabbing and commands only work to control a dog in the current moment. These things don’t teach Florence a new habit – that of resisting her urge to play with the cat.
It’s very likely she doesn’t actually know what is required of her.
Rehearsing with other dogs
Florence is very playful with other dogs, as you would imagine. They think she wants the cat to behave like another dog.
The lady does the walking. She can now teach Florence some ‘other animal’ manners! When she sees another dog, even a dog she knows and regularly plays with, she will learn not to rush straight over and leap on it.
She will learn to arc away and look to the lady for instructions first.
In order to work on Florence’s self-control around the cat, the less generally wound up she is, the better. They have a son who, like many teenagers, winds the dog up with excited handling or play and then disappears back to his bedroom.
If the cat were to appear immediately after this, Florence would be at her most uncontrollable and wild.
They have great management in place. Florence is confined to one area of the house and the cat can go everywhere else.
The problem comes when the cat needs to go out. She has to pass through Florence’s area. Fortunately, although she doesn’t want to play, the placid cat doesn’t seem unduly fazed by Florence.
A typical scenario is the lady will be working at home on her computer with Florence for company. They will both hear the cat coming down the stairs. As the cat jumps the gate into the room, an excited is already excited and ready for her.
The lady then grabs the dog and holds her back. She is now frantic to play with the cat or at least to chase her. At the same time, the lady needs to open another door to let the cat through and out. Chaos!
We have a plan!
Firstly, they will try to avoid Florence become unnecessarily aroused in general. If she’s hyped up her brain won’t work.
Secondly, they will teach her two things with a clicker. The first is to Touch an open hand, a very positive way to call her away from the cat before she gets too aroused.
They can also use a clicker to mark every behaviour around the cat that they like. This behaviour will be any calm moment or ‘other’ behaviour like sitting down in the presence of the cat – or even just hearing the cat on the stairs.
(I find teaching people how to use a clicker in an online consultation is surprisingly effective, particularly as they can keep the recording and re-watch it as many times as they like).
Florence will, given time and consistency, learn self-control when she sees the cat. This instead of scrabbling to break free from restraint, her single goal to leap onto the cat.
Upbeat and positive
Lastly, the lady will attach a light lead to Florence’s harness and leave it on all the time for now. Florence will trail the lead.
This will remove all need for any commotion or grabbing the dog or scolding. When anything starts, the lady will simply immediately take the lead. Using an upbeat and encouraging voice, she will walk Florence away from the cat.
As she do so, she can also try throwing Florence a ‘play with the cat substitute’ of a toy – or a game of tug may work as an alternative for play with the cat. Some experimenting is needed.
Just like with our little exercise when meeting other dogs, as soon as the cat enters the room the lady will pick up the lead and walk Florence away from the cat.
Possibly, just possibly, with the lead attached to her harness Florence will realise she can’t play with the cat anyway and they will be able to let the cat out together.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ and is always written with permission of the client. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help