By Sara Reusche, CBCC-KA CPDT-KSA CVT
Q: “We are considering adding a cat to our two-dog household. Our dogs are very mellow but how do we cat-test them? And how to best find a feline fit for the home?
A: “It is really hard to say how any particular dog will react to a cat in their home, or how a cat might react to living with two unfamiliar dogs,” says Megan Janning CPDT-KA of Paws Abilities Dog Training. “The best thing we can do is to … be prepared and introduce them carefully and slowly.”
That said, there are a few traits to look for that might indicate they’re more likely to get along. “Dogs [who] don’t react to quick movements of other animals and [who] are less likely to chase small animals outside can have a leg up towards living with a cat or other small animal safely,” says Janning. “Finding a cat [who] has experience living with a dog,” or “a particularly confident and social cat” can also set you up for success.
Don’t be discouraged though. “Even dogs that fashion themselves as mighty hunters outdoors [might be able to] live peacefully with a confident, dog-savvy indoor cat” as long as you take your time with introductions and keep an emphasis on safety.
“Introduce all three pets individually and slowly over the course of a couple weeks,” she says. While some pets may be okay with faster introductions, you risk nothing by taking things slowly, and risk a lifetime of fear or aggression towards one another by rushing the process. Consider setting up a separate room for Kitty at first, and prioritize your new feline’s comfort. “Provide your cat with plenty of escape routes and hiding places from the dogs using cat trees, shelving, and pet gates.”
Dogs can become predatory when cats run or make noise. “Be ready to manage all of [your pets’] interactions for as long as needed,” possibly their whole lives, “to prevent bullying or predation toward your new cat.”
Consider a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with experience introducing cats and dogs to help you choose a cat and introduce your new cat to your household. And as always, we encourage you to consider adoption when acquiring a new pet!
Q: “How do you reward a dog who isn’t interested in food or toys?”
A: Lindsay Kinney, CPDT-KA of Paws Abilities Dog Training, has all sorts of tricks up her sleeve for dogs who aren’t interested in conventional rewards.
“My dog Rosie has given me lots of practice utilizing life rewards,” she confesses. “She’d rather work for kisses than hot dogs any day of the week.”
That said, most dogs are interested in food at least some of the time. “The good news is that all dogs eat eventually … so they must be motivated by food sometimes.”
Look at when and what your dog does eat. Perhaps you’re just not offering the right stuff! “The trick is finding the right food. Some dogs prefer stinky foods like fish or tripe, some prefer crunchy treats (Rosie loves uncooked pasta noodles), and some like lickable treats like easy cheese or marshmallow fluff.”
For dogs who truly aren’t interested in food or toys, Kinney recommends thinking outside the box. “Life rewards are things your dog enjoys experiencing or doing. A few examples could be going outside, sniffing a tree, petting, running or freedom, greeting a new friend and chasing squirrels. To train with life rewards, you give your cue, let them know when they’ve done what you want (with a verbal ‘Yes!’ or a clicker), then give them access to their reward.”
Kinney believes that life rewards are underused in dog training. “While there’s nothing inherently wrong with letting your dog out into the backyard to tree a squirrel, it’s a wasted training opportunity. Asking for a sit-stay or eye contact before opening the door teaches your dog that listening to you is the gateway to chasing wildlife. That’s way better than most treats!
Sara Reusche CBCC-KA CPDT-KSA CVT, is owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training.