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:
- We started with a thorough plan, which suited Emmett and Cooper perfectly. But not Lucas.
- Then, we tweaked the plan to deal with his specific reactions.
- In part three, Lucas was still on leash with a high-value reward (squeeze cheese).
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:
- Allow Lucas to watch Newt and Coop play (perhaps from behind a gate?) and reward like crazy
- Move the whole three-ring-circus downstairs, starting with just Lucas and Newt, then gradually adding the other two
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…