- Introduce your puppy to one room in your house, that is safe and cost. Spend some calm, quiet time with them in this room so that they can adjust to your home and all the new smells. Keep your cat out of this room for the first few days. When you are ready (maybe after an hour or so), give your dog a tour of your house, so she can explore the places and smells of the other rooms in your house. Make sure that the your cat is either locked in a room or outside. Take your puppy on a lead and walk her around each room, giving her time to sniff and investigate.
- Then put your puppy back in her room. Bring your cat back in your home and let him investigate the new smell of the puppy has left around the house. Allow him time to explore these new smells and maybe leave some of the puppies toys or bedding nearby for your cat to investigate.
- THE FIRST INTRODUCTION. Make sure you introduce your animals in a controlled way by either putting the puppy in a crate or behind a baby gate and letting your cat investigate at his leisure. Do this for just a few minutes twice a day until the cat ceases to show fear or aggression. Try distracting the puppy with attention and affection and reward her for not reacting when the cat is around. You can also do the same for the cat, reward him for not reacting to the puppy, or if his does snarl etc, distract him with a very tasty treat and give him attention.
- Once a few encounters have passed peacefully, try again with your puppy on a lead. This is best done after a nice long walk with your puppy so she is tired and relaxed. Choose a room with an easy escape for your cat should he become frightened. Whilst holding the lead, keep your puppy occupied with commands, rewards and affection. Let your cat approach in his own time. Begin with short encounters and if things go uneventfully, increase the time little by little. If possible, have a family member sit away from the dog to give the cat affection and encouragement.
- Once your puppy and cat consistently interact without aggression or fear you can introduce them without a lead. Choose a room with a means for the cat to escape or get out of the reach of the puppy and always monitor the pets interactions attentively. Begin with short encounters and gradually build up remembering to give each pet attention, affection and rewards for calmness.
- Allow unmonitored interaction. Only once your animals are totally accustomed to one another should you ever leave them alone together. Always give each animal a means to find privacy. This could be a cat-door, doggie-door, high shelves or small recess.
- The more exercise the puppy gets before an encounter, the less likely he will be to attempt to 'play' with your cat.
- There is no harm in progressing slowly. Be patient.
- Having your puppy respond to simple commands will improve your chances of a safe introduction – use the sit, stay, leave and watch commands regularly.
- Always proceed cautiously when allowing your pets closer contact.
- You will be more likely to succeed if you can control your puppies attention, even when it is excited.
- Ensure you hold the puppy in your hands encase your cat gets angry.
A little more detail if you have time to read on….
Ok, so as we’ve said, when you bring your new dog home do not let him have full access to the house. Confine her to one or two rooms using baby gates and follow the steps above once your cat is secure, so that your dog can explore the rest of your house on a lead. Afterwards, when your dog in tucked away in her room, let your cat investigate this newcomer at his own pace. He may well sneak a peek through the baby gate and then run off. Eventually your cat may become brave enough to go up to the baby gate for a closer look. When he does, praise him and give him a treat. Keep your dog confined until the cat is comfortably moving about the house and approaching the baby gate to investigate.
After the interactions through the crate or behind the baby gate, you will move onto the controlled meetings… put your dog on lead and walk her into the room where the cat is sitting. Walk her around the room on a loose lead (a tight lead will transmit your anxiety about the situation to the dog). Do not allow the dog to act inappropriately toward the cat (barking, lunging, chasing). A mild correction (“no”) and a request to “sit” should suffice, with a treat as a reward. Note that, if the correction is too severe the dog may associate getting into trouble with the cat. Reward calm behaviour from the dog using praise and food treats. In addition, give an extra special treat to your cat (tuna works well) when the dog is in the room to help make a positive association in her mind about the presence of the dog.
Expect a certain amount of hissing, swatting, and growling from your cat. Do not punish her for this or she will associate the dog with the punishment. Be patient, let her get used to the idea of this new dog sharing her home. Praise (and/or distract) her with lots of treats and affection so that she associates this new puppy with positive experiences.
Repeat these controlled meetings until both animals remain calm and relaxed with each other. Don’t let the dog have free run of the house unless you are present until you are sure they are fine together. This could take weeks to months. Don’t expect too much too soon.
Written by Nadine Kayser.
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