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…
Erik N. says
Hershey came to me afraid of two things: large men, and anything like a stick in someone’s hand. The large man thing she had to get over pretty quickly because she was now living with one, and I think because of meeting lots of people at the dog park.
The stick thing was so bad she bolted from the room when we were visiting a friend who’s grandmother picked up her cane to get up, and was very uncomfortable when a little boy was waving his Harry Potter wand around. She would panic whenever I got out the broom which made me feel terrible (and clean even less) as well as want find the SOB who did that to her and return the favor…
Since I couldn’t do that, I worked long term like you are with Lucas, to try to eradicate that fear that was instilled in her. This was the start of her Broom Bravery Training. I started with short sessions of thrown treats and copious praise for just staying in the room when I had the broom in my hand. Then we got to where she would take treats out of my hand. Eventually, she would take treats off the broom itself! I haven’t done any BBT for a while and probably should start again. She’s not super thrilled when I bust out the broom, but she stays in the room and even touches it when I offer it to her! I’d like to get her to the point where she just sleeps on the couch while I sweep up. Don’t know if it will ever happen but that’s when I’ll know that whoever gave her that fear in the first place has finally been defeated.
Wow, Erik. Hershey sure is lucky to have you. It takes an incredible amount of patience and fortitude to tackle a fear like that. What an amazing thing you’ve done to increase her happiness! Good luck with BBT! Keep us posted on your progress, please!
Jan K says
You are doing SO GREAT, and I am so happy for you that you are starting to see results! I admire the persistence and patience both you and John have to work with all the animals until they can peacefully co-exist. Five months is a long time, and it occurs to me that some people might have given up by now. It just proves that you are wonderful animal people to be doing everything you can…especially when you have some setbacks and then have to re-adjust the plan. The photo on Facebook was awesome!!
That is so kind of you to say, Jan! We’re getting very close to peaceful coexistence, which makes it all worthwhile! We started with Lucas and Newt together downstairs today, and it went WAY better than I could have imagined. I think all the work upstairs set us up for success. My new goal is to have everyone together by the time my parents come to visit at the end of December!
Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes says
Glad to hear how well things are going. Patience is key.
And sorry that the advice that Emmett and Cooper might be good examples didn’t work for you. It’s hard to know what will work until you try it. Luckily, you’re a good observer who was able to judge it wasn’t working and adjust your plans.
Can’t wait to see Newt cam pictures of Lucas sleeping near her. 🙂
We thought that was the best idea! It made perfect sense… to us, anyway. Lucas clearly didn’t get that memo. In fact, we started working with Lucas and Newt downstairs today, and it went swimmingly. The only thing keeping us from being fully integrated is his reactions to Cooper and Newt wrestling. I’m brainstorming some ideas for this one…
Patience is definitely the key. Although I named us the Peaceabull Assembly, that was 85% wishful thinking in the beginning. After about a year and a half, Ray was forging ahead with a various stages of a relationship with our kitties and then Julius entered the picture. We have one cat who tolerates both dogs, one cat who hates Ray and tolerates Julius and one cat who hates Julius but tolerates Ray. Gah.
Woah. You have your hands full!! Do they leave each other alone? Or are they antagonistic? I’m just hoping we can get to the point where they can leave each other alone!
Everyone can roam at will when we are home but Julius is crated when we are gone and Ray stays in the kitchen. The cats are free to roam and that includes Ray’s space. For the most part, the dogs don’t chase, but the cats show their displeasure. Miko hisses at Julius and Boo kitty will walk through a room, hiss at Ray, walk away then come back to hiss in his face…just in case he didn’t get the message the first time. Ray just sits there and takes it.
Aww! Sweet, Ray! 🙂