“Black Friday? A day dedicated to me, yes?”
“Black Friday? A day dedicated to me, yes?”
We’ve been training the dogs to get along with the cat for nearly five months. If you’re just joining or you’re looking for a cat-meets-dog training plan, here’s what’s happened so far:
When I last updated, Lucas still couldn’t be around Newt without being on leash with a high-value reward at the ready. Since then, I’m pleased – ecstatic, really! – to report that Lucas has made tremendous strides. Right now, in fact, Emmett and an off-leash Lucas are laying under the table while Newt dozes in her cozy crate less than 10 feet away.
The only reason we’ve been successful to this point is because we’ve gone so slowly while consistently raising the bar. (If you want to know how we got to where we are, check those other posts really quickly because I’m going to pick up at the last point: Lucas on leash with squeeze cheese.)
We’ve been working in the
hideously ugly room above the garage. It’s a neutral space for everyone. After MANY repetitions – several short, 30-second to two-minute training sessions every day – of Lucas on leash with the cheese, we moved to an off-leash scenario where we guaranteed that Newt wouldn’t move. We covered a plate with her favorite slimy food and set it on a table. While she licked away, Lucas wandered the room, getting praise and treats.
One important note here: While these steps are a great starting point, you have to adjust to your dog. Many people recommended having Lucas watch Emmett’s and Cooper’s interactions with Newt. We jumped on board because that seemed logical. That set us back HUGELY, which we never would’ve guessed, because Lucas seemed to feel that his “brothers” were in danger and reacted way more forcefully. So, again, adjust as needed for your dog’s specific personality.
From there, we kept Lucas off leash with the can of squeeze cheese, but we allowed Newt a little more freedom. We put the plate on the floor, moved it to a side table, and allowed her to wander. We have been using two verbal corrections. The first is an “eh-eh” distraction when he starts toward her. The second is “leave it,” which we had well trained prior to cat training.
After many, many, many, many repetitions of that scenario, we added Cooper to the mix. Repeat a jillion times. Then we added Emmett – without Cooper first – then all together. Repeat a jillion more times.
For the past week or so, we’ve been doing short sessions with just Lucas and Newt, then longer sessions with everybody. We turn on the TV – we’re not big TV people in general, but this is turning us into show watchers, like OMG do you watch The Voice?! – and we all sit calmly for an extended period of time. We keep treats on hand for distraction and reward. Friday night, it was a MIRACLE, and everyone fell asleep!
Which brings us to Saturday… Newt was wearing her collar cam all day. In the afternoon, John and I decided to bring our projects up to the neutral room with the whole herd. We sat all afternoon and into the evening with everyone. For a large part, it was completely calm.
On occasion, Coop tried to entice Newt to play, and Lucas started to panic, so we stopped the play.
So here are our two next steps:
Also, we have one unexpected snag: Cooper thinks Newt is his to defend. When Lucas approaches her, Coop gripes at him. One more thing to add to the “to work on” list…
It feels like it’s taking forever, but when I think back to where we started, I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come. They may never be besties, but that’s fine with me. We’re on our way to a peaceful coexistence!
*Sorry there are no pics to go with this. When we’re training, we’re too focused on the task at hand to snap photos. As things improve, pics will follow! In the meantime, check out the pics from Newt’s collar cam to see some in action…
I’ve done a little internet searching for this situation, but… you guys are the most knowledgeable, tapped-in animal folks around, so I was hoping to toss this out for a little expert input.
We have this pond.
Well, it’s not really a pond. It’s this big plasticy-type material that our landlord had as a decorative element in the garden on the side of the house. (Note: The dogs do NOT have access to this area. This is a key point, as you’ll see.)
Before I get to my question, here is some background info:
We don’t fill the pond. There’s no filter. The water doesn’t get recycled or “moved” in any way. It’s filled solely by the daily thunderstorms.
Currently, it has a ton of tadpoles in it, and there’s a whole population of herps that sings from its banks every night.
During the day, it’s a hotspot for all the stray cats in the neighborhood, particularly the little gray fella who might live under our house. It’s frequented by birds and squirrels, too.
Other than the obvious problem (mosquitoes!!!) the water isn’t clean. It’s filmy and grimy. According to our vet, the parish (Louisiana’s term for county) we live in has the highest incidence of heartworm in the country, so this is a real concern for me.
So I’m wondering: What would you do?
Should we find a way to “clean” the water (I don’t know… iodine tabs or something) so that all the cats in the neighborhood aren’t contracting some disease from the gross water? Or would that somehow kill the frog population that clearly relies on the little pond? Should we just leave it alone and let nature take its course?
I feel an obligation to be a good steward for all the strays in the neighborhood, so I really don’t know what to do… And I’ve found mixed opinions in my Google searching.
These are the kinds of animal welfare questions that keep me up at night… Sigh.
Any and all advice MUCH appreciated!
Have I mentioned that we’re renting a haunted mansion?
We found one landlord with one house willing to rent to 3 dogs and a cat. The house is humongous, but it’s in terrible shape. It creaks. It leaks, so drips echo across the wood floors. Many of the windows aren’t sealed, so when it storms, the wind blusters through the gaps. Animals live under the floorboards. (I hope it’s this guy.)
I could go on. But all this is to say, this house is creepy!
We’re lucky, though, that it’s divided into three parts. The main floor has kitchen, dining, work, and living spaces, along with the master bedroom and bathroom. At some point in the house’s history, someone tacked on a garage and laundry room, which they attached to the side of the house that held the staircase going from the first to second floor. This resulted in a set of stairs going up into a gigantic room (it spans the garage/laundry/mudroom). From the big room, a second set of stairs leads to the upstairs, which has 3 more bedrooms, a bathroom, and storage.
Ok, so now you have the lay of the land, here’s what we have going on:
The dogs have full run of downstairs.
Newt has the run of the big room and one of the upstairs bedrooms (her habitat is in that room… more on that in another post).
We have a gate on the stairs leading to the big room, which has a door that we leave closed.
Then, there’s another gate on the stairs leading upstairs. This one has a cat door.
Then, there’s another gate in the door to Newt’s room, also with a cat door.
All this because Lucas still sorta wants to eat her.
I will say we’ve made progress, but it’s also still very much a work in progress.
While I track our training, I’m going to share with you guys what I learn about cats along the way. So, I’ve added another little “channel” to OMD!
I’m calling it: Holy Cat!
Anything specific to Newt will be filed here, but I’ll keep updating on the dog training portion of the cat training situation.
(Status update on that: Lucas can be off leash in the big room with Newt. As long as Newt is up high and perfectly still. Movement is totally what sets him off. We’re clearly battling a pretty strong prey drive here. All tips appreciated!)
I was waiting for a new battery for my video camera, and now that that’s arrived (yay!) I’m going to try setting it up on a tripod to capture one of our “cat training” sessions with Lucas. If all goes according to plan, keep an eye out for that in the next few weeks.
Hope you guys are having a good week! Thanks for sticking around through all the ups and downs of the past 18 months!!! Adding “Holy Cat!” should be the last big change… at least for a while! 🙂
Greetings from the bayou! A few months ago, Maggie did a post about a stray cat that I found. I had come back from happy hour and was sitting on balcony enjoying the night. I don’t live in the nicest part of Houma, LA (go ahead and look it up, chances are you’ve never heard of it). I don’t mean to say that I live in a dump; it’s just an older part of town without the fancy shopping centers and typical chain restaurants. More importantly, people don’t tend to value their pets the way I do. I see stray dogs and cats all over the place, and there are about four or five resident stray cats around the apartment complex.
That night sitting on my balcony, I hear a cat. I see a little black cat that definitely wasn’t one of the regular strays. When she saw me, she flopped onto her back. Figuring it was someone’s lost pet, I went outside and she came right over to me. This sort of freaked me out because I am NOT typically a fan of cats. Anyway, I brought her inside, went and got her some food and a litter box, and started putting up ads and posters around the neighborhood hoping someone would claim her. A few weeks went by with no one claiming her.
Despite the horrible suggestions given to me from others (I’ll save that for later), I got her checked out by the vet, I signed her up for the low-cost spay and vaccination program, and decided I would hang on to her until I could find a good home for her. A few more weeks went by and still no one called to claim a lost cat. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted her, and she settled right on in. So, now I have a cat. Her name is Newt. I’m not so scared of her anymore. She hasn’t tried to claw my eyeballs out. I haven’t seen her plotting my demise, and she’s pretty much content to lay around and be my buddy. It definitely took a while for me to get used to her and for the two of us to get into a good routine, but I guess I finally did find her a good home.
Note from Maggie: Neither one of us ever had a cat, so this experience has been all new! I’m glad she’s settled in to life with John… The trick will be introducing her to the boys when John’s done in LA! I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there!