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.

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).

Frustrated Puppy

Cavalier puppy and his big toy dogWhat do normal puppies do?

They toilet indoors, they have manic sessions tearing around the place, they may fly at you and nip, they chew the carpet, they bite you with their sharp little teeth, they get over-excited and they may even get cross when they are told off.

What usually happens? “No, No, No, No, STOP”.

“How otherwise can I teach my dog NOT to do these things,” people ask?

It’s not that I don’t take it seriously, but I say that the unwanted behaviours are unimportant.

“You teachAfter manic sessions of tearing around the place, Cavalier King Charles puppy sleeps him to do other things instead”. If you just keep telling him off, you create a frustrated puppy that either gets worse and worse or becomes fearful.

Here is adorable eleven-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Hassle. Hassle (self-named like my Cocker Spaniel Pickle!) plays nicely until he gets over-excited and then he flies at them. Too much hand play and touching simply encourages him to go for hands. He may bite, nip feet and grab socks; he tugs at the lady’s hair. When they try to stop him firmly, Hassle gets cross. They feel he’s becoming aggressive.

The problem with all ‘don’t’ and no ‘do’ is that a dog can become bewildered and frustrated.

Puppy does one thing and the humans react in a way which causes puppy to try harder. Human reaction escalates all the problems until they have a battle of wills on their hands.

It can be so hard but they need a new mindset, one of: “Do do do do YES”.

They will keep half of his food back to ‘mark’ quiet moments. When he gets over-excited they can scatter some in his large crate and, shut in there, he can then be busy ‘hunting’ which will calm him down. He can learn how to take food gently from hands. They can show him what he can chew and make sure there are plenty of options. They will remove temptation.

One big problem is that Hassle toilets all over the place, day and night. They live in an upstairs flat with no garden so he is expected to go on puppy pads. At the moment he ignores them.

Hassle has too much space. From the start the puppy’s environment should start small and gradually increase in size as he becomes trained. His environment needs to be controlled so that initially, unless he is closely watched, he has two just choices for toileting – in his bed or on pads.  It’s very unlikely he would go in his bed so he will be choosing to go on pads. Gradually, one sheet at a time, they can be lifted until there is just one left – and that will become his necessary indoor toilet place until he realises that walks are for toileting.

Of course – Hassle loves destroying puppy pads, so what should they do? Scold? No (it only makes him worse). They should ‘mark’ the moment he stops with a piece of food and offer him something he can chew!

So far he has learnt that he’s let of his crate out as soon as he cries, so now he can learn how to be quiet before he is let out of his crate. How? By rewarding just a moment of quietness and then letting him out – and building up from there.

Until he can stay happily in his crate at night-time and when they aren’t watching him, they may have little success with the toilet training.

The quality we need above all others with a puppy, is patience.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hassle, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. 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 puppy parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Border Collie Cross Attacked a Puppy

Border Collie Blaze on the sofa with the two other dogsBlaze is a four-year-old Collie – maybe Collie X. He lives with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in a lovely family with two little girls and three cats. He is wonderful with both the little girls and the cats – and the other two dogs.

He has attacked other dogs several times when out on walks, but never causing damage. His owners are very careful, but a week ago he attacked a puppy. They had been walking with a friend and several other dogs and had also met two Labradors. It was near the end of the walk. Because of Blaze’s previous  history, whenever they saw a new dog, the lady would catch Blaze and put a muzzle on him. On this occasion she wasn’t quick enough.

They are very responsible dog owners and the lady is devastated for the injured puppy which is why they called me in.

Blaze would never show any aggression to a human. He is biddable and loving if somewhat demanding and lacking in manners. As we chatted, they began to realise that the dogs, Blaze in particular, get away with behaviours that would never be tolerated from their children – standing on the sofa, walking over them, pawing and nudging for constant attention.

Before they even set out on a walk there is huge excitement. The dogs charge out ahead and pull the lady down the road. Due to a certain lack of respect in other aspects of life, it’s unlikely that Blaze, when off lead, will feel there is any reason why he should come back straight away when called if there is something else he needs to do – like warn off an approaching dog.

At home Blaze is restless. He paces. He is demanding. He looks permanently anxious. He is most settled when nobody is about.

If the exact circumstances preceding these attacks could be remembered, I would bet that he had a build up of excitement and stimulation. He is permanently stressed to a certain extent, and it won’t take too much more to drive him over the edge. When he sees a dog his humans panic, they catch him, put a muzzle on and so on – which must be transferring even more stress onto Blaze.

He must never again have the opportunity to attack dogs while off lead. Full stop.

Hard work needs to be done on his recall and his relationship with his owners so that he feels that they are sufficiently important to come back to immediately when they call him. With work he should be able to leave the house calmly, to walk happily and comfortably down the road on a loose lead. They will be careful not to overdue the stimulation that can come from long bouts of play. Sometimes too much exercise can worse than not enough, and it is interesting that the final bad attack happened at the end of a long walk with lots of action, when one would have expected him to be tired and satisfied.

In a calm state of mind Blaze is unlikely to suddenly ‘go’. With a better balanced relationship with his owners, he will obey pronto when the call ‘come’.

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