Dog and Cat. Can They Live Together Happily?

Dog and cat living in harmony?

They have moved in together, he with his black cat Jet and she with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Gracie.

dog and cat don't get onJet used to sleep on the man’s bed and share his life. Gracie slept on the lady’s and shared her life.

Unfortunately Gracie is much too interested in the cat and if Jet moves will chase him given the chance. It’s just possible she’s a little scared of him also.

The rest of the time, when Jet is not about, Gracie is peaceful lapdog. She is sweet and friendly.

The cat is now restricted to the utility room unless Gracie is out of the house. Unfortunately the little dog is able to get in the cat flap and Jet understandably feels unsafe in what should be his sanctuary. He sleeps up on side.

Gracie scratches at the side trying to get to him. She gets very aroused and she pants.

Jet is scared.

They had started trying to introduce the dog and cat six months ago when they lived apart, by taking Gracie to Jet’s house. The couple had tried everything they could think of. They told her off. They restrained her and they tied her lead to something so she couldn’t chase the cat while he was lying on a chair nearby.

Nothing they tried worked.

They may well have inadvertently increased anxiety and reactivity.

They will gate in the utility room doorway.

And they will prevent Gracie from going through the cat flap.

The dog and cat should be able to see one another with Jet remaining safe as his confidence grows and while Gracie is helped to feel differently about the cat. She can be taught what she should do rather than what she should not do.

The utility room can then be a proper sanctuary for Jet while they work hard on integrating the two animals jointly into their new lives.

Gracie is deaf.

In order to make progress with her reactivity to Jet, it’s necessary to be able to get Gracie’s attention. At the moment it is impossible to call her away or even to get her to look away.

She can’t hear a click and she can’t hear a whistle blown loudly. She relies upon picking up on smallest movements.

They will use a light. A single flash of a torch or a laser light. They need to be careful with this. It’s too easy for a dog to become obsessed with light chasing if a light is moved about.

They will start by flashing the light onto the floor about nine inches in front of her nose, just once, and immediately drop food. They can flash the light on the floor before putting her food bowl down and before giving her treats. The light means food. They will do this until, when they withhold it, she looks around at them to see where the food is.

It’s then not a big step to teach her that when the light appears in front of her nose she should look around at them.

Jet will be given time to relax and feel safe in the utility room, confident that Gracie can’t get in there.

Then the work will start, with the gate between them and it will involve food – special food. Confidence-building and calming work will be done with both animals at the same time.

Later, when Gracie looks at the cat, she will be flashed and fed.

The flash can be used like a clicker to tell her ‘Good’.

Dog and cat should learn to associate each other only with good stuff – no anxiety and no scolding.

I have worked out a step-by-step plan. It can simply start with small bits of chicken sprinkled about, in each room and well away from the gate. They should not be tempted to jump ahead even if things are going well, but go through all the stages.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, given time and patience, both dogs won’t be sleeping curled up together on the couple’s bed at night one day.

Eating Rubbish

Red and White King Charles Spaniel who likes eating rubbishLittle Chutney, an adorable six-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, at twelve weeks of age became very ill. What was probably kennel cough quickly developed into pneumonia and he ended up in veterinary hospital and was on various drugs for a couple of months. He nearly died. Normal puppyhood was suspended.

He is now catching up.

Understandably his owners are inclined to mollycoddle him and panic, particularly when he picks something up like a twig or a piece of paper. They had initially wrongly believed his illness had been due to inhaling something, and their understandable reaction to his running off with a twig for example – chasing him, enticing him, bribing him then maybe forcing the item off him – is now actually making his ‘scavenging’ for things like twigs, leaves and bits of paper and eating rubbish a lot worse.

The chase that ensues will be stimulating and maybe even a little scary and he is responding with the beginnings of resource guarding behaviour.

I’ve not myself come across a dog that has suffered though swallowing a small piece of paper or tissue though there may be isolated cases, unless the dog has a serious pica disorder. Usually if a tiny twig is swallowed it’s chewed up first and passes through – though certainly could harm if swallowed whole. If chewing twigs, paper and non-poisonous leaves regularly killed puppies, there would be a lot of dead puppies.

Chutney’s owners will need to relax if he’s to change because the longer he rehearses the ‘scavenge/chase/retrieve the item’ cycle the more entrenched it becomes. Management is the first thing. Already they are taking him outside to toilet on lead. They could introduce him to a tiny basket muzzle for the garden – he can drink and pant but not pick things up. They probably have already checked their garden for any poisonous plants or leaves.

Indoors they should no longer give him free run. For now he should be in the same room as themselves or shut in his crate where he is perfectly happy, with something to do. Anything obviously worrying should be lifted (as it is already).Chutney2

The next and most difficult thing for this lovely couple is to make an assessment as to whether the object could really harm Chutney and if not to ignore it. If it’s a tissue, so be it. He may well intensify his efforts when he no longer gets the predicted result so they could try walking out on him and shutting the door briefly rather than reacting.

Because he is still a puppy and at last feeling well enough to make up for lost time, they should give him plenty of things that he can chew and not just commercial items. He can have milk cartons, toilet roll tubes and plastic water bottles with kibble in, for instance. If they are not left down they will have some novelty value.

The last challenge is how to get things off him that may be dangerous. The more he knows they want the item, the more valuable it becomes to him and the more likely he is to swallow it to make sure that they don’t get it! Scattering food on the floor works well – it may need to be strong-smelling – so that he drops the item to get the food giving time to lift the item with no fuss.

Running off with things needs to be replaced with exchanging them. I do this from the start with my own dogs. When puppy has a toy in his mouth I say Give and feed him in return. I will admire the toy and then give it back to him. My dogs love giving me things! The secret, when taking something away, is to offer the dog something of higher value to him until ‘Give’ is firmly established.

If one of my dogs has something that I want in his or her mouth, they will always drop the item into my hand when I ask for it and I always, without fail, say thank you with a piece of kibble I have in my pocket (though I understand not everybody is like me, carrying dog food around all the time!).

They can set him up with a game that has several items in order of value to him, then offer the lowest and exchange for the next one up and so on, allowing him to keep the last, most valuable one – probably a food item. Tug of war is a great game for playing Take’ and ‘Give’. ‘Leave it’ is useful too when you happen to see the dog about to pick something up.

The other challenge with Chutney is that he may ignore them when they call him.

Eventually and with some hard work on his recall and ‘Give’, when Chutney has something inappropriate in his mouth they will be able to call him to them. He will come straight away and give it up willingly, being rewarded for doing so.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chutney. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good.  One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Terrified Outside Their Home

Two cavalier king charles spaniels

Ben and Evan

The two five-year-old Cavs had been left in a garden in London and not taken outside for a long time, if at all. They were picked up in an unkempt condition and with very long nails.

Amazingly, they are very friendly with all people and dogs so long as it’s in their own home and garden where they feel safe, but once a lead goes on them and they know they are going out of the gate, they become different dogs. Excitement doesn’t necessarily mean happiness, which is something dog owners don’t always realise. The two are walked down the road together, squealing and yapping, and to quote the lady, all hell breaks loose if they see another dog.

Their new humans, wanting to do all they can for the little dogs, have cast about to find ways to solve the problem. The first thing people often try is dog training and they have been going to classes but find that ‘training’ doesn’t help at all. At their wits’ end, they have tried anti-bark collars to make them quiet. Nothing works.

Nothing is working because they have not been addressing the cause, the root, of the problem. Terror. They are just trying to eradicate the symptom – the noise. Like many people, they simply hadn’t correctly interpreted from the dogs’ body language and stress signals just how scared they were feeling.

Although happy little dogs in the house, because they are so terrified outside the daily build-up of stress generated by walks is spilling over into other habits, things they do in order to relieve their stress such as licking and sucking themselves until they are raw.

One at a time we put a comfortable harness on each little dog (with the short leads on thin collars, when they do lunge at anything that scares them it will be hurting their little necks). We first took Lenny outside into the garden so I could show the lady how to walk him on a loose, longer lead giving him the feeling of more freedom. Being less ‘trapped’ should eventually allow him to feel less unsafe..

Before even leaving the garden Lenny was panting and agitated, frequently shaking himself and scratching as a displacement activity to help himself cope. He did calm down sufficiently to follow the lady around on the loose lead and for us to open the gate and walk him out into the garage area.

We got to the opening and then he saw a cat. He exploded. It sounded like he was being murdered. It was perfectly clear to me that even just past the garage we had pushed too far too fast, but now I had seen and heard for myself just what happened and we had established the ‘threshold’ at which we should have stopped – the area behind which the real work would now need to start.

Little Evan was even worse. As soon as the lead went on in the garden he was nervous wreck. He screamed. He bit at the lead. To try to stop these things they tug back at the lead and scold him but he’s so agitated he really can’t help himself. I showed them how to stand still and calm and to reinforce not screaming and not biting the lead. He quietened down a bit and walked around the garden a few times, but we never even got out of the gate.

Evan ended up by sitting down, refusing to move and shaking, so we took the lead off and went in.

The poor little dog is in this state before a walk even starts, so no wonder he is hyper-vigilant and reactive once out. A dog with this level of stress is incapable of learning anything – it does things to the brain. See this.

The cornerstone to their success will be to give their little dogs choice and a way out – an escape. If the dog doesn’t want to move, then the walk should be abandoned.

The lady’s day starts with about half an hour of mayhem as she walks the dogs together before going to work. It’s a nightmare for her too, but she does it as a caring dog owner believing that she’s doing her best for them. She hadn’t seen that where they are concerned this sort of walk is doing more harm than good. A walk should leave a dog happy, relaxed and satisfied, not a nervous wreck needing frantic activity afterwards in order to unwind.

Plenty of happy, short five-minutes sessions is what these little dogs need for now. With lots of repetition and keeping well within the threshold where they feel safe, they can slowly  become acclimatised to the outside world at their own pace. It will be great when they at last feel sufficiently safe to start sniffing as dogs should do. They should always feel they have an escape route. So far they have in effect been ‘flooded’ – with the best of intentions forced into a situation they can’t cope with.

We can’t undo five years in five weeks or probably even five months. It will take time.

Our little experiment with each dog showed the people just how slowly they will have to take things and in what tiny increments, but it’s encouraging, too, because at last they have a plan to work on that makes sense and is kind.

It will all now need some really careful planning. They will have a routine for getting the dogs out one at a time with as little stress as possible. Although walks are an ordeal, neither dog wants to be left behind. I feel they should always go out in the same order so they learn just what to expect and the second one out always knows his turn will come.

There is one big positive. This is that they Lenny and Evan are fine when other dogs have come to their house, proving they are not scared of dogs per se but only when they are feeling unsafe in the scary outside world and trapped on the end of a lead.

Feedback nearly three weeks later: I feel that the boys have made sooooo much progress already, I know its a slow progress and I have all the patience in the world….but to date, I am very happy. We have been able to move to full round the block walks with both of them quiet and they are indications that they are enjoying it too. They are starting to sniff a lot. Alfie sniffs more than bert, bert is watches me.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these two. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Non-Stop Barking Down the Road

Cavalier King Charles stretching

Sunny

Little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Sunny’s barking is a big problem for his family. He barks in the night, he barks at TV, he barks at anything he hears, he goes mental when the post comes through the door, he barks at birds in the garden and he barks on walks from the moment they leave the house and all around the village.

His companion, a little girl Cav called Sky, is quieter (a ‘little angel’).

Barking can affect people’s lives big time. Night time barking means they get sleepless nights, barking on lead means walks are stressful and embarrassing and barking at the TV means their evenings are frustrating and punctuated by shouting at the dog.

Shouting at barking dogs just doesn’t work more than perhaps temporarily. Shouting does nothing long-term and merely adds stress to an already stressed situation.

People understandably concentrate on finding ways to STOP their dogs barking. Like many, Sunny’s people had resorted to using a Citronella collar but it stopped working as the dog got used to it (for dangers of Citronella collars please see here).

We concentrated less on the barking itself but on doing something about the hyped up emotions that drive the barking. In Sunny’s case I feel it’s a mixture of excitement tinged with a bit of fear, and some of it has been unwittingly reinforced. He is being taught to bark. He barks as they go down the road – and they keep going down the road. He barks in the night, and eventually someone comes down. He barks at the TV, and he gets their attention away from the TV and onto himself.

Sky

Sky

The gentleman, with me beside him, walked him out of the door and around the road a couple of times. After a number of false starts while we worked out the most suitable method to use, we were marking and rewarding quiet on the door step, he stepped out, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded, each couple of steps we stopped, said ‘Yes’ and rewarded quiet until we got to the difficult corner where other dogs lived before turning back for home. Sunny was still quiet.

The gentleman was quite chuffed at how well he had managed. In effect, he wasn’t teaching Sunny not to bark; he was showing him how to be quiet.

We worked in similar fashion with the barking at TV. The daughter had a clicker and food. Each time Sunny glanced at TV and before he could bark, she clicked and rewarded him by dropping food – he had to look away from the TV to pick up the food. Obviously programmes will need to be carefully selected to start with.

Sunny

Sunny

They are now putting the dogs in a different room at night-time. The rule simply has to be ‘no coming down’ – not even the once – unless they want the barking to continue. This is a behaviour that has only started recently.

The dogs should be kept away from the front of the house because passing people and post coming through the door only encourage barking, and they should only be let out into the garden when someone is about to help Sunny out immediately he starts to bark at something.

The less barking Sunny does the less stressed he will be. A calmer dog will be less reactive and quieter – sort of chicken and egg. He will for the time being be earning much of his daily food quota for being quiet. As you can see, he is a real little cutie!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sunny. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Cav Acting Suddenly Out of Character

Rufus is a gentle and loving CavRufus is a gentle and loving little Cavalier King Charles Speniel, ten months old.

He also seems a happy little dog who has always got on well with other dogs.

A couple of days ago, seemingly out of the blue, he viciously went for an over-exuberant puppy that was all over him while Rufus’ lady owner stopped to talk to the puppy’s owner on their way to drop the kids off to school. There must have been stuff going on in the run up to this. Rufus will already have had a build up of stress and the puppy will have ignored his warnings and overstepped the mark somehow, making Rufus very angry. As the two ladies were talking, nobody was watching.

Rufus has a very good life, but there are just a few things that need changing so that he doesn’t get into this heightened state again. The little daughter is quite rough with him, and though he puts up with it even to the point of squealing, it has to stop. They are going to make him his own ‘safe-haven’ where children are banned and where he is put before thngs get out of hand.

He possibly gets a little too much fussing and what I would call ‘homage’ – and although he is a King Charles it’s not too good for him!

The other area that needs working on is everything around walks. One can imagine what sort of state Rufus may have been in when he had to put up with this puppy’s behaviour. To start with, he is extremely excited before even setting off. Once out, the two little girls are ahead, one on a scooter, and Rufus is yapping and barking as he pulls frantically trying to catch up with them. He has a thin collar on his little neck, so it must be very uncomfortable which must add to his stress. When he does see another dog he barks and pulls until he manages to drag his owner to it.  Up until the other day, when he gets to the dog it’s been just sniffing and playing

Imagine how different this little dog will feel when he sets off calmly, with no neck discomfort, and on a lead long enough to give him enough freedom that it’s like walking with no lead at all. With an owner who, from now on, shows him that if he barks to get to another dog they will in fact go the other way. He will then learn to approach quietly – all that noise is very likely to hype the other dog up. It will mean working on Rufus either without the little girls, or getting them to help by staying level or behind. Imagine how over-stimulated and stressed he must be, struggling to catch up with them.

The other very important thing if a dog suddenly acts so much out of character as this, is to get the vet to check nothing is going on physically. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have some well-known painful hereditory problems.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.