WestieWestie Daisy, at ten months old, is not much more than a puppy.

She is friendly without being demanding, surprisingly relaxed for a little terrier, and very good on walks – not pulling on lead and coming back when she is called.

EXCEPT when she is on ‘Cat Alert’!

Her family has a cat and somehow when they brought Daisy home at about twelve weeks old they got off on the wrong foot. They were understandalby concerned that if she chased the cat, the cat might leave home, so there was a lot of anxiety focussed onto Daisy around the cat. The cat never had an opportunity to ‘bop’ her while she was tiny.

Now Daisy is obsessed. At the start of walks, she is ready to pull out of the front door because the cat could be lurking somewhere – and she will even run out down the street and into other gardens after it.

At the back door she is ready to tear out into the garden, barking at first hint of the cat, then she barks and agitates at a corner where it goes through the fence which is causing trouble with a neighbour.

Indoors the cat is upstairs and Daisy is downstairs until Daisy goes into her crate at night. All the time she has to know where the cat is, and during the day her favourite spot is on the bottom stair by the gate, on cat watch.

It would be nice for them to live in harmony together, and Daisy is obviously very stressed by the cat.  When she does get near to it, she shakes. Because I didn’t actually see this as the cat was nowhere to be seen, I can’t decide whether this is fear or arousal or a mix of both, but either way the strategies to use are the same.

We have a plan! Daisy must get no more opportunities to practise the emotion of fixating and chasing the cat out the front – by being kept well away from the door unless controlled on lead. At the start of walks they may need to go in and out of the house many times, turning around and removing her from the situation each time she starts panting, barking or pulling. They need to take control of the situation for her. Up till now the cat has been associated with negative things – anxiety, scolding, ‘no’ and the neck discomfort of being pulled back on lead. Now, I have shown them how, in tiny stages, to get Daisy to associate the cat with pleasant things, starting with rewarding her for giving her attention to them when asked and away from the cat, together with rewarding calm behaviour whilst looking at the cat. While the stairs are gated, this can be done in a controlled fashion with the cat on the stairs, and Daisy downstairs.

Soon they should be able to have them in the sitting room together, Daisy controlled on lead. The minute she shows any stress, she will be removed from the situation. No force will be used – just patience. they will get there all in good time.

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