Bringing a new puppy into your home is an exciting event, but if you have cats there are a few steps you will need to take to ensure peace and goodwill between your animals. While many cats and dogs will get along fine, with little or no conflict, there are some inherent differences between these species that can lead to friction. It is normal for puppies to get very excited the first time they see a cat. This increased energy level is unsettling to most cats, and they tend to react by running away. Depending on the intensity of the puppy’s prey drive, the instinct to chase the running cat can be quite strong. The thrill of the chase is very exciting for the puppy, who gets a great deal of satisfaction from chasing the fleeing. Once the puppy learns that chasing cats is fun, it can be difficult to stop the behavior.
Having been chased by the dog, the cat’s fear is now confirmed and he will approach the dog with increased caution and mistrust, causing him to appear even more prey-like, further reinforcing the dog’s drive to chase. This can quickly turn into a vicious and ever worsening cycle. At best this behavior is an annoyance, but it can easily escalate into a dangerous situation. It is not surprising that many dogs can easily kill a cat. Even generally placid dogs can be driven into an excited frenzy that may lead to a cat’s death. It is important to realize that cats can do serious damage to dogs as well. A well-aimed swat across the face can cause serious eye damage, and may even result in permanent blindness.
It can be tempting to allow your cat to meet your new puppy right away, but exercising some patience at the start can save you a great deal of trouble in the long run. For the first week or so, you should keep your cat and dog completely separate, allowing them only to smell each other from opposite sides of a door. Familiarization to the new scents will help to minimize the rush of excitement that can occur when your pets finally meet each other.
When it is time for a face-to-face meeting, start by giving your puppy some exercise to drain excess energy. Keep him on a leash and bring him and the cat into the same room. If possible, have a helper work with you at this point. Using high value treats, reward the puppy whenever he is calm around the cat and reward the cat whenever he takes a look at the dog. Keep this session quite brief; you want to keep things as calm as possible and end on a good note. Continue to have meetings just like this several times each day, slowly increasing the length of time.
As the interactions improve and both animals are reliably calm you can make the meetings less formal. Keep your puppy on a leash tethered to your waist while the cat roams free. This allows you to focus on other tasks, while ensuring that you can continue to monitor interactions as they occur. It may take quite a while before your pets are able to interact freely without your supervision. Wait until your dog and cat have displayed consistently good behavior for at least a month. Be extremely cautious about leaving them alone in the house together – it is often best to avoid this completely.
In some cases, when prey drive is quite high, or initial introductions were not done properly, corrections may be needed to prevent dogs from behaving dangerously towards cats. In these cases a vibrating dog collar can be very effective at correcting problem behavior. These collars work by producing a vibration against the skin of the dog’s neck. They do not cause pain, but create a sudden stimulus that interrupts the dog’s thought process and redirects his attention. In addition to the vibration, they also make a beeping sound, which precedes the vibration and can also be used alone. Most dogs quickly associate the beep with the impending vibration, and soon will respond to the beep alone.
There are several significant benefits to using a vibrating dog collar. The first is that you can effectively communicate with and correct your dog from a distance. The second is that you can disassociate yourself from the correction so the dog learns that chasing or rough housing the cat is not acceptable even when you are not right there watching. The third is that the vibrating dog collar can create a strong association between behaviors and consequences, which will have long lasting effects on curbing bad behavior.
If you are uncertain about correct usage of a vibrating dog collar, contact a trusted professional for help. As with any training method, poor timing and incorrect application can lead to confusion and further bad behavior. However, when used correctly, vibrating dog collars provide a humane and effective means of teaching your dog to behave properly around your cat. As your dog’s behavior improves, your cat will slowly learn to trust him more and more. With patience and consistency you can correct hostility between your dog and cat and allow a more amicable relationship to develop.