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Introducing a New Dog to a Resident Cat

First impressions are important.  That’s true for pets as well as people.  If you’re thinking of adding a dog to your cat household you’ll want to consider the age, health, and disposition of your resident cat.

The introduction between your new dog (adult or puppy) and resident cat will set the tone for their relationship.  This blog runs through the preparation, expectations, and steps of introducing a new dog to a resident cat.

Why this is Important

You might be tempted to bring home Rover and let the pets work things out themselves.  According to the Humane Society and other resources doing this can be dangerous for both the Rover and Fluffy.

Cats and dogs place different value on physical space and social hierarchy – it will take Rover and Fluffy some time to learn how to treat one another.  You can help them build a friendship by supervising their first meetings.  The first meeting is particularly important if neither Fluffy nor Rover have lived with other cats and/or dogs before.

Before you bring Rover home to Fluffy you might want to check out this article: http://www.hawaiianhumane.org/sites/default/files/introduce_dog_to_cat.pdf

Preparation

Your resident cat already has food and water bowls, a bed, litter box, and toys.  Before you bring home Rover move Fluffy’s food and water bowls to a place where Rover won’t be able to access them – perhaps somewhere off the floor.  Also, you’ll need to do the same for Fluffy’s litter box.  Cats are very territorial and dogs like to eat cat poop.

Designate a space for Rover – a room where you can put Rover’s bed, food and water bowl, and toys.  That way you prevent Fluffy and Rover from interacting when you aren’t able to supervise them.

Once you’ve brought Rover home keep him separated from Fluffy until he has mastered some basic commands.  You may want to train Rover yourself or you can take Rover to obedience classes.  You may also want to train Fluffy to come when she’s called using treats as reinforcement for good behaviour.  For more on this check out: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/cat-behavior/introducing-your-cat-new-dog

In addition, you’ll need:

  • A leash for Rover – prevent Rover from attacking Fluffy
  • A leash and harness for Fluffy (optional) – prevent Fluffy from attacking Rover
  • Treats for both Fluffy and Rover – reward positive behaviour
  • A baby gate/cat door – allow Fluffy to escape from Rover and prevent Rover from getting to Fluffy’s litter box, can also be used to for scent exchange
  • Cat nail clipper – keeping Fluffy’s claws short will minimize the chances of Rover getting injured

What to expect

It will depend on both Fluffy’s and Rover’s age and disposition but it will likely take 2-4 weeks for them to become comfortable with one another.

Both dogs and cats have something called prey drive – an instinct to chase.  Rover may view Fluffy as prey and try to give chase.  To prepare for this keep Rover on a leash during their meeting and make sure both Fluffy and Rover have an escape route.

Fluffy might bop (clawless) Rover on the nose or the head – (here’s a video of a “bop” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CApL5jTM6BU), this is harmless and a sign of play.  However, Fluffy might become defensive and take a swipe at Rover with her claws out.  That is why you’ll want to keep Fluffy’s claws trimmed short.

Steps

Scent Exchange:

Face-to-Face Meetings

  • Make sure Fluffy has an escape route just in case Rover gets too rambunctious.
  • Keep Rover on a leash – don’t restrain Rover unless the pets get into a scuffle.
  • Use positive reinforcement for good behaviour – for more on this check out: http://www.dpvhs.org/training/tipsheets/dog.to.cat.php
  • You may want to have another person with you during the first meeting just in case things get out of hand.
  • Have your pets meet in a main room in your home – somewhere that they are both allowed to spend time in.  Start with each pet on opposite sides of the room and allow the pets to approach each other at their own pace.

Continue to have Rover and Fluffy meet like this over the next few weeks.  Short, frequent meetings are better and more effective than long, infrequent meetings.  If your pets don’t seem to be getting along you may want to ask for some help from your vet.

Be patient and keep your own emotions in check.  Be calm and don’t over react even if things go wrong.  You want Fluffy and Rover to associate each other with good and positive feelings and outcomes.  Reinforce good, calm behaviour with treats and discourage poor, rambunctious behaviour by refocusing your pets’ attention on you.

For other tips from Partnership for Animal Welfare volunteers check out: http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Cat.php

Introducing a Puppy to a Resident, Senior Dog

Christmas is around the corner.  Are you thinking of bringing home a new puppy as a Christmas gift but you already have a senior dog?  There are some things to consider before you decide to bring home the energetic, fur ball.  The introduction between the new comer and the senior, resident dog will set the tone of their relationship – it’s important to get it right!  This blog runs through the preparation, steps, and tips to introduce a puppy to a resident, senior dog.

Before you bring home a new puppy you might want to check out this article by dog trainer Jolanta Benal: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/how-to-introduce-a-puppy-to-your-older-dog

Why is this important?   Think of the puppy as a young child.  Getting a new puppy is like bringing home a new baby – your resident dog may be confused about a fluff ball that he now has to share with. Dogs, like people, have their own social code.  Like children, puppies need to learn the code.  Dogs can end up hurt if their first introduction is not handled properly.  A poor introduction can also lead to behavioural problems for both the puppy and the senior dog.

Preparation

For the first home introduction you’ll want to remove your resident dog’s possessions – toys, bones, food bowl, and bed.  Even if your dog has never displayed possessive and/or aggressive behaviour make sure you pack away anything your dog might identify as his/her property.

For each dog you will need:

  • A leash
  • A bed
  • A feed bowl
  • Toys

You’ll also need training materials you like to use and treats.  As time goes on the dogs may learn to share their toys.

Before you bring the puppy home make sure the space your dogs will be spending time in is clean and uncluttered.

Steps

There should be a human to handle each dog.  The very first meeting should take place in a park – somewhere open that won’t make the dogs feel claustrophobic.  Let the dogs approach one another – don’t hold on to the leash too tightly.  Allow the dogs to investigate one another – if they start fighting intervene immediately.

If you notice that tensions are growing separate the dogs by distracting each one with a treat.  Try not to pull on their leash – it might trigger an attack.

After the dogs have greeted one another and are calm take them for a walk.

When you bring the dogs home let the resident dog off the leash first.  Then allow the puppy to explore the home while on his leash.  If the dogs seem to be getting on well the puppy can be let off the leash.

All interactions between the dogs should be supervised for the first few weeks – the dogs should not be left alone together.  Keep to routines as much as possible – this signals to the resident dog that nothing has changed and teaches the puppy how the household works.

For more on the initial meeting check out: http://asnpr.rescuegroups.org/info/display?PageID=1804

This PetMD article describes an alternative method: http://www.petmd.com/dog/training/evr_introducing_a_new_dog_to_a_resident_dog#.Uo1uuuLX2q0

Tips from Laurie Luck, Certified Trainer and Co-Founder of Smart Dog University

  • Supervision – minimizes opportunities for negative interactions between senior dog and puppy.  When you supervisor your puppy and senior dog you also have the opportunity to correct your puppies behaviour.  Your puppy will learn a lot about the social rules of the dog world.
  • Separated social time – allow your puppy and senior dog to have some down time.  You can use a create, a gate, and/or a pen to separate the puppy and the senior dog.  Sometimes you need a rest from other people and dogs can be the same way.  This is also makes it easy for you to give some one on one attention to each dog.
  • Escape – provide an escape route for both your puppy and your senior dog.  When one of the dogs becomes too much for the other they can separate themselves before the situation escalates.
  • Avoid punishment for communication – growling is how dogs communicate.  Your new puppy needs to learn about communication to and from other dogs.  If your senior dog growls at your puppy avoid punishment; it’s important for your puppy to learn what growling means.  Instead make sure you’re supervising the dogs so that the situation doesn’t escalate.
  • Reinforce positive behaviours – if you see a behaviour you like from either your puppy or your senior dog reinforce it.  Use treats or clicker training.  Make sure you raise the bar when the dogs have mastered a particular behaviour.

For tips check out: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/4037

Other concerns and issues

Just like not all people are fit to be parents not all dogs enjoy the company of a puppy.  Make sure you keep a watchful eye during the puppy/senior interaction.  If your puppy yips or squeals but your senior dog does not let up intervene immediately.

Do not put the dogs into small spaces together – this is asking for trouble.

During the introduction process food bowls should be placed in different areas of the house.

Do not allow the dogs to “fight it out”.  This can lead to issues in the future.

What to expect

Depending on how well your senior dog tolerates the puppy and how quickly your puppy learns, it will take roughly three weeks for your senior and puppy to begin getting along.

Do you have any tips or advice?

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Cat and Dog Households – Introducing your new cat to your resident dog

Cats and dogs have a reputation for not getting along.  But the truth is it’s a lot cats and dogs are best friends.  According to many sources a successful cat/dog households are dependent on the introduction between the pets.  If you’re considering getting a cat and you already have a dog you’ll want to do some research to make sure you’re prepared.

Overview

Here’s a quick article to give you an overview of the introduction process:

http://cats.about.com/od/amyshojai/a/introduce-cat-and-dog.htm

Rules

If you’re introducing a new cat into a dog household here are some rules to consider for their first meeting:

  • Supervision – make sure you watch your pets as they get to know one another
  • Make sure the cat has a place to hide – somewhere off the ground will make the cat feel secure and less likely to act out against the dog
  • Make sure the dog is restrained – dogs like to play by chasing, make sure that you can easily restrain your pup by a leash if he gets too excited
  • Consider baby gates – these can be used to separate your pets and make sure they have their own space

Other Factors

There are many other factors to consider before you introduce your new cat to your dog.  These include:

  • The age and temperament of both pets
  • Don’t force interaction
  • Know your pets’ pasts
  • Prep your dog for change and have a plan for your dog’s reaction
  • When to get help – if your new cat is not settling in after a few days or you notice a change in your dog’s behaviour contact your vet to get some advice
  • Reinforcement – use praise and treats to reinforce good behaviours

Resources

For more information about introducing a new cat to your resident dog check out these links:

Do you have a cat and a dog?  What did you do when you introduced them?  Let us know on our Facebook page J

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