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.

Deaf Dog, Old Dog, New Tricks

Golden Labrador Sadie is thirteen years old and the only problems she now has are physical. She used to be anxious and jumpy around loud or sudden noises, but her loss of hearing has taken care of that.

Deaf dog’s quality of life to be the best possible.

The nearly deaf dog is adored by her lady owner who wants to give her what she considers to be the very best quality of life right to the end. She wants to enrich her life as much as she can bearing in mind Sadie’s physical restrictions. Sadie is friendly and interested despite various health problems and medication. She is massaged daily and also has two swims a day which are keeping her relatively mobile.

Deaf dogThe main issue is her deafness. Not being able to get her attention is getting in the way of communication between the lady and her dog.

The lady would also like Sadie to come to her when asked. It could keep her safe.

‘Eye contact’ and ‘coming when called’ were never particularly successful even when Sadie had full use of her ears! I put this down to lack of motivation.

So now the deaf dog can learn a new prompt that makes coming to the lady very motivating indeed. It is vital that any work should be rewarding and fun for both her and for her owner.

Sadie is never on lead. There is no need because she doesn’t go very far and she’s very slow. The old dog chooses where she wants to go and the lady follows which is absolutely fine. Occasionally she may go after a scent, probably where a cat has been, and then may panic because she thinks she is lost.

A little brain work could be good for Sadie – particularly now physical movement is no longer so easy. Sessions should be very short and should be terminated immediately Sadie shows any reluctance or tiredness.

The overriding thing is that Sadie should enjoy it.

She must choose to engage in the gentle training – we will call it ‘play session’ – and she must also have the choice to stop at any time.

It should be with full regard to Sadie’s physical comfort. She spends a lot of time lying down – more comfortable for her than sitting – and the groundwork can be done while she’s down. The other work will be done when she is already standing up and active. She won’t be encouraged to get up unless standing is something she has herself offered.

Sadie, at her advanced age, will be introduced to the idea of earning food. She is a Labrador so this shouldn’t be too hard, particularly if these ‘play’ sessions are before meals!

First the lady will work on getting eye contact from Sadie – using a very gentle remote-control vibration. This will be a very slow and gradual process starting with the deaf dog being introduced to the smell and look of the equipment – using constant food reinforcement. Next it will be just held against her so she can gently feel the buzz and paired with food until she is actively looking for food when she feels the vibration, leading eventually to giving eye contact.

I shan’t go into the process in detail here because this isn’t a ‘how to’ manual for other dogs. What will work best for Sadie may not be appropriate for another dog with perhaps a different temperament but here are some general instructions on how to introduce a vibrating collar. We are going to experiment with the gently vibrating box stitched against her body in a soft harness – somewhere less sensitive than her neck. We will see.

When the lady reliably gets Sadie’s attention and eye contact, what next?

It seems the useful thing is for Sadie to come when ‘called’. For this the lady will teach her to come and touch her nose on an outstretched hand. It will be nice and clear from a short distance.

Again, it will be a slow and gradual process using the clicker technique (a gentle finger-flick ‘yes’ on the dog instead of a click which she wouldn’t hear. A light flash may have been another way of telling her ‘yes’ but I have reasons not to use that).

Over time and only if it’s going well, the lady can put the two new skills together – the remote vibration for attention and the hand out to get her to come to her.

They can then progress outside into the garden. She can then try it when Sadie is walking ahead of her, off lead, as she always does.

With lots of rewards, keeping sessions short, only expecting Sadie to move when she’s up and active anyway, they will hopefully have created a new game appropriate to Sadie’s twilight life stage.

 

Elderly Dog Can Unlearn Old Tricks

An elderly dog, he still has plenty of life in him

An elderly dog, twelve year old StaffI went to a delightful elderly Staffie yesterday, twelve-year-old Barney. I was told that his jumping up was a big problem, particularly for the little grandchildren, and that his pulling on lead was so bad he’d not been walked for nearly two years and that he had now started to destroy the house when they were out.

Prepared, I left my equipment bag in the hallway, safely away from being raided, just bringing with me my notes, treats, pen and mobile. I need not have worried.

Barney was in the living room, sitting at the man’s feet. He hadn’t heard me! So – obviously he’s a bit deaf.

When he did notice me he came over, very friendly, but no jumping up. The elderly dog was more interested in sniffing a day in the life of my own dogs on my clothes.

As so often happens, he had been particularly good in the days since they had booked their appointment. It’s like he knew! I believe that owners, perhaps subconsciously, examine their own behaviour a bit more carefully in preparation for a visit and without having received any advice, the behaviour work is already beginning to take effect!

 

Jumping up and scaring the grandchildren will be easily addressed.

The two little children and the elderly dog get on beautifully once he has calmed down.

There is a history of family members coming in and making a huge fuss of Barney. One young man particularly fires him up with fuss and play. To quote the lady, ‘Barney doesn’t know when to stop’.

Of course he doesn’t. If this were a child he would be in tears by now or else in hysterics or having a tantrum. It will probably take him hours to properly calm down. I know I am a spoilsport but this has to stop if they want to achieve their goals.

If Barney jumps up on adults, family and visitors, then he will jump around the little children too.

Telling him to get down and pushing him whilst at other times playing or fussing him when his feet are on them, teaches him exactly what they don’t want. He will now learning that that feet on the floor works best.

This is the first ‘old trick’ that elderly dog Barney can unlearn. He has, in effect, been taught to jump up.

 

He’s not been out beyond the small garden for eighteen months.

an elderly dog, 12 year old Staff

Camera shy

Everything became harder for Barney when their other elderly dog, another Staff, died a couple of years ago.

He used to get uncontrollably excited even when the drawer containing lead and harness was opened. By the time he was launching himself out of the front door he was so aroused that he was beside himself. His pulling was so severe that the lady said it simply hurt her and with his lunging at any dog he saw, walks became a nightmare. They gave up.

They had taught him the ‘old trick’ of getting excited when going to the drawer by letting him know that a walk would follow. He may even have believed that his manic behaviour was causing the walk. Now they will open and shut the drawer countless times until it’s no big deal. The same process will be used for lifting the lead and harness and then putting them on.

Having not been out on a walk for eighteen months they can have a fresh start.

Barney walked beautifully on a loose lead around the house with me and then with the lady. He needs the right equipment so that he has nothing to pull against and he needs encouragement and praise.

In the past pulling has still resulted in forward-progress, so this is another old trick that can be learnt even by an elderly dog.

When Barney does eventually get to go out, in his new state of mind he will be able to cope a lot better with the appearance of another dog. No longer will the man force him forward, holding him tight – maybe even picking him up. They will increase distance and start to get him feeling good about dogs so long as they are not too close for comfort. Each dog is an individual and Barney has his own things that will help with this which I shan’t share here.

With help he can ‘unlearn’ reactivity to other dogs also. Knowing that he’s not expected to make friends or get too close to them if he doesn’t want to even if they have to go another route, the elderly dog can relax and they can all start to enjoy walks together.

They will change his diet away from Bakers Complete – known to have an adverse effect on the behaviour of dogs.

At home they will train him to the whistle in order to compensate for his reduced hearing. Eventually the elderly dog may even be able to go off lead – or at least on a very long line – and enjoy some freedom to sniff, relax and do doggy things.

The lovely family’s elderly dog will have a new lease of life!

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 Barney. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. 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)