Are you thinking of introducing a dog or cat into your current canine or feline family? Here are five steps to stop them from fighting like cats and dogs.
By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Cynologist
By taking a few simple precautions when introducing a dog or cat into your current family, your pets will disprove the saying of “fighting like cats and dogs”!
There are several ways of introducing your dog to your cat. Just know that changing patterns takes about three months. Please don’t get discouraged. It will take time. During this process, you need to keep everything under control and your pets safe.
The day you bring home your pet
On the day you bring home a pet, the ASPCA recommends putting the new pet in a crate or another room. Consider keeping your pets separated by using a sturdy baby gate or a crate. The purpose of these barriers is to allow your cat to sniff out the dog on its own terms. Let your dog sniff the cat through the bars and get over its initial excitement. Your cat most likely will hiss and run away, which is perfectly normal. Know he is well protected.
Pet your cat or dog
Stroke your dog and your cat separately, but without washing your hands. This helps to exchange their scents. Your pets will take on this smell profile, and it will become a normal smell in the house.
Use a crate
Put your cat in a crate at night in the room where your dog sleeps and let them get used to each other over the next week. Consider using dog or cat beds to make your pet feel more comfortable.
Later introduce your cat and dog by having your cat running free and your dog on a leash. Keep your dog as calm as possible while on the leash. Using a command such as SIT can help. During this exercise, you should give the cat a safe position in the room. This allows your cat to get comfortable with your dog and approach it if it wants. Understand this may take quite some time and requires patience and rewards for your dog if it behaves well. You may need to work hard to keep things calm and be aware that a sudden dash from the cat will induce a chase. Praise your dog for relaxed interactions, make it sit quietly, and, if necessary, use food treats to reward it for good behavior. Again, associate the cat’s presence with a reward for a calm demeanor.
Leave escape areas
When you progress to access without the lead, make sure there are places where the cat can escape to – high ledges or furniture will make it feel safe. Never leave your dog and your cat together unattended until you think they are safe together.
Keep in mind that it might take time for your pets to accept others completely. When they do, you may even see them playing or cuddling each other. Then you know all your time and efforts were worth it.
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