Tips For Your Dogs At The Dog Park
Guest Blog by Dr. Joanne Righetti
Many people are astounded when I tell them my cats and dog get along really well together. Although they are quite different species, cats and dogs are capable of forming close relationships, or at least of living in relative peace and harmony within the same household.
Start at the beginning
The key to species friendship is to introduce them carefully, very carefully. This is preferable right back at the beginning of their lives. Even if you don’t live with other species of animals, it is always worthwhile introducing your young animal. So get your puppy out to meet cats or invite a friend with a cat-friendly canine over to meet your new kitten.
Pleased to meet you
Introductions should be carefully supervised. Just putting a dog and cat together in a room and expecting them to get along is not a careful introduction. The dog will chase the cat and the cat will use their weapons!If you have only just brought home your new pet, keep them separate in a room of their own, for the first day or so. They need to get to know you and your home prior to meeting other animals. Bring a blanket that smells of your existing pet in for the new arrival to smell and similarly, take something that smells of the new arrival out for your existing pets to investigate.
Chili and Leo Righetti
Start introductions with your dog on a leash and your cat in a cat carry case. Later, the cat can be let out to explore the room and to watch the dog from a distance, preferably up high, as cats feel safer at a height. Keep your dog on the lead. Eventually you can let the dog off but they should not be permitted to chase or torment the cat.
Within a few introductions, the two species should have got to know one another’s movements, sounds and smells. Living together is usually a breeze from then on.
What if it’s all gone wrong? Your dog has chased your cat and now your cat wants to pack their bags and leave home! Or your dog is so terrified of the cat that they refuse to even make eye contact! It’s time for relationship repair.
Act as if you are at the very beginning of the relationship and introduce your cat and dog under controlled circumstances, as described above. This is easiest if you have one adult person per animal and, if you have a multi-cat or multi-dog household, only introduce one cat and one dog at a time.
Here’s a look at particular scenarios…
Cat dislikes dog
The cat should be either in a cat case to begin with or have the ability to get up on to high shelves or tables. From these safe vantage points, your cat can get used to your dog’s scent, sounds and movements, without feeling threatened. When your cat is observing your dog and remaining calm, you can reward them with food, treats or your praise and pats.
Do not allow your dog to jump up at or chase your cat. Your dog’s movements must be controlled around your cat until the cat is completely comfortable in the dog’s presence.
Dog dislikes cat
It is important that you are able to command your dog to sit, so if this is difficult, practice in other situations. Your dog should be giving you their full attention. When they are performing a Sit or a Drop command, it is more difficult for them to become excitable and chase your cat. Reward your dog’s calm behaviour.
Your cat should not be permitted to annoy your dog but instead should be encouraged to ignore your dog or to observe from high.
If your dog has injured your cat or you know they really dislike cats, in general, you will benefit from enlisting the help of a professional behaviourist. Never leave animals alone together if one may be hurt.
You may still feel unsure about introducing a new pet species into your household. It may help to know that, even if your cat or dog is likely to chase or run away from neighbourhood pets, they are much more likely to regard animals living in your household as family. They just need some positive settings for the friendship to develop.
Encouraging a positive relationship
Your cat and dog may tolerate one another well but you’d like them to become friendlier. Well, best friends may be an unrealistic expectation but you can encourage harmony or even friendly tolerance or physical closeness by tapping into their favourite things in life.
If your dog loves treats, give them a treat, their favourite kind, when the cat is close by. If your cat loves a warm lap, have your dog sitting nearby when your cat is cuddling up close.
Other tips for calm environments
Have lavender around your home
Use Feliway and/or Adaptil (pheromone treatments)
Use rescue remedy in the drinking water
Have gentle music playing in the background
Ask your vet about medication, if your pet is particularly anxious
Dr Joanne Righetti is an animal behaviourist, helping people understand their pets and solving any pet problems. You can find more pet info at www.petproblemsolved.com.au and connect with Dr Jo on twitter, facebook and pinterest.
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