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Canine Behavior Associates
Academy of Dog Behavior
at Humane Society Silicon Valley

Level I - Starts on February 5, 2017
If you are interested in learning more about dog behavior or becoming a professional in the dog world, check out the Academy. This 40 hour class is convenient for working people, avoids the commute (Sunday afternoons at Humane Society Silicon Valley), and you'll meet a bunch of great people.  The next class starts February 5, 2017  and runs through April 23rd For more info, please click here:   Academy of Dog Behavior
This course has been approved for 21 CPDT CEU's.  
Advanced Modules for Academy Grads at
Humane Society Silicon Valley
Working with Fearful or Anxious Dogs in Shelters and Homes will be held from 1 to 5 pm on Sundays, May 7, 14, and 21.  
This course has been approved for 12 CPDT CEU's.  
Cats, Dogs and Avoiding Conflict
Even though we wish they were, dogs and cats are not natural buddies.   They are very different, and evolved to fill different niches.    Sometimes we want to pair them up – we think they’re lonely and need companionship.   That can go very well, or it can be a total disaster, as some people who have acquired a dog and tried to integrate it into a cat's home can find out!
Dogs are a social species, naturally cooperative with other dogs in their group, and with a tendency to create a peaceful hierarchy.  Cats can live next to another cat, they can even like and play with another cat, but they rarely cooperate with each other for a common goal, and if there’s a hierarchy, it’s more like a dictatorship than a republic.
This isn’t to say one is better than the other; they are who they are and we love them.   However, many people seem to think that they’re more similar than they really are, with just different bathroom habits.    When we expect more than they can give, we can get ourselves – and them – into trouble.  
Just a little biology… since cats are solitary hunters, they have to teach their kittens everything they need to know in just a few weeks.   Left to themselves, kittens would stay with their mom for about 12 weeks, learning all the tricks to the hunting trade, then go off on their own.   They would meet up with other cats for mating purposes, but that’s about it.  

Colonies, like those formed for feral cats, are not really natural, although they work most of the time.  Food is provided, so the cats congregate around it, and sometimes the young ones play with each other. 

If a person keeps two kittens from a litter, those two will often form a bond, sleeping and hanging out with each other.   However, it doesn’t mean the cat will enjoy the introduction of another cat.  A cat raised with dogs can also form lasting bonds, but again, that bond doesn’t generally extend to strange dogs.  The best you often get is a dog savvy cat, who doesn’t run when chased. 
If you’ve ever tried to introduce a new cat to your home, you might have run into a few difficulties – like litter box problems, spraying and nasty fights.    The rule of thumb for cat introductions is take it s-l-o-w.  Not a few days slow, a few weeks or months slow.  Sometimes a whole  year slow! 
The same is often true for dog/cat introductions.  Many a trusting owner has tried to replace a departed dog with another one, only to find that the cat has no intention of opening its heart to a substitute.   Instead, they often develop (you guessed it) litter box problems, spraying…or they just leave home, and find somewhere more welcoming. 
How to Help
Say you’re introducing a dog to your cat’s home.   By the way, it is your cat’s home – it’s his territory, not yours in his mind – and it is sacred.   There are several ways to ease the transition, making it as painless as possible.
The Cat
  • Set up a territory within the territory for the cat.  This could be a room where the dog will not be able to go.
    • Even before the introduction of the dog, your cat should hang out in the room as often as possible.   To make it comfy, it will need a sunny spot for relaxing and a private spot for the litter box.
    • Alternatively, you could set up a vertical territory – a series of high paths, made of furniture or cat boards, so that the cat doesn’t have to set foot on the floor.  This presupposes that your cat likes altitude.  Some are hiders, and prefer to be under beds – vertical territories probably won’t work for them. 
  • When the dog is introduced to the house, the cat should be in his territory, and should stay there for several days.  The dog will get used to the smell of the cat, and vice versa.  You can help that along by rubbing each animal with a towel, and then taking the towel into the other one’s territory. 
  • When curiosity seems to be overriding caution, you can introduce the two with some limited proximity.  When feeding, you can put the bowls of food on either side of the separating door, encouraging them to check each other out.   Direct eye contact should probably be avoided for a while, since it often triggers the chase instinct.  So does movement, which is why it’s usually a good idea to let the animals get to know each other via smell and sound before sight. 
  • If everything is going well, we can take the next step.  If it isn’t, then this first phase might continue for a long time!
The Dog
  • Boundaries are pretty important for the dog.  For instance, you might consider not allowing energetic play in the house, so that she will have a tendency to be less excited inside.   An excited dog is less likely to make good decisions than a quiet one. 
  • Your dog should get used to a crate or a tether, so that she sometimes has a limited range of motion.   This isn’t a punishment; it’s restraint, which is good for a dog to learn anyway.  So, while on a tether, she could get a Kong or bully stick to pass the time.  
    • Tethers are far better than putting your dog on a held leash.  A leashed dog will pull at the leash, and our arms have a tendency to move with the pull, thus giving the dog a sense that if she pulls hard enough, something will happen.  When you tether a dog, she quickly learns that pulling gets her nowhere, so she’ll give up.
  • Inside obedience is also really handy!  Sit/stay and Watch are particularly good exercises for cat/dog intro’s, since they teach impulse control, and we do want the dog to control her impulses!
The Introduction
In most cases, the cat is the weaker animal in an intro, so he’s the one who should be in control of the environment.   The dog should be on a tether when the cat is brought in.  Many cats do not like to be held in situations like this – it makes them too vulnerable.  If that’s the case, he should have a high spot from which to survey the new animal for as long as he wants. 
With the cat on his perch and the dog on her tether, you can concentrate on the dog.  If she stares at the cat, try to get her attention.  If she keeps doing that, then think about using a Calming Cap or other eye cover as a temporary measure.   Or change from a tether to a crate.   If you cannot stop her from staring, calmly take the cat back to his room, and try again later.  If the dog barks and keeps barking, your session is going to be very short.  And we may have to think about Plan B and beyond....
Plan B, C, D
  • Sometimes dogs are afraid of cats.  If that’s the case, then you can do some counter conditioning – associating good things (like hot dogs) with scary things (like cats).  If fear is the issue, this will work over time.  Each session should be short (up to ten minutes) and there should be a lot of them (one to two a day)
  • More often than not, the dog wants to chase the cat, sometimes in fun, other times very seriously indeed.   In those cases, obedience is key.  The dog must learn to control herself in the presence of a cat, and to pay attention to you.  This can be frustrating and time consuming for you, the dog and the cat!
  • Punishment is often tried when the dog is trying to get to the cat – squirt bottles, shake cans, yelling and more.  The problem is that if punishment doesn’t work right away, it probably isn’t going to.  It’s also going to interfere with your relationship with both animals (if you yell at the dog, the cat will react as well), and – even if it does work – it will tend to only work when you are in the room!
There are times when a particular cat and a particular dog just cannot handle life together.  In these situations, we have a few choices.   We can divide the house, giving each of the animals their own personal territories.   We can set up revolving territories, where each of the animals has access to rooms at a different time of the day.   Or we can admit that this marriage was not successful, and the two need to be divorced to be happy.    Unfortunately, this happens – it is not anyone’s fault.  However, it can be someone’s fault if they allow one animal to be terrorized by another.
If you or someone you know would like a consultation, or to see a topic covered in this newsletter, or if you have expressive dog photo's you might like us to use, please email
Trish King
Tricia Breen

Art by Robin King
Copyright © 2017 Canine Behavior Associates, All rights reserved.

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