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Introducing Dogs and Cats

Now for the actual intro: Put your dog on a leash. Don’t attempt to do an introduction if your dog isn’t leash-trained. You need that extra measure of control. Place the cat in a room with a baby gate to prevent the dog from gaining access should he slip out of your grasp. Sit outside the room with your dog and reward him with treats and praise when he focuses on you and not on the cat. You can have toys for him as well. Clicker training is great tool to use in this situation so you can click and treat the dog for a relaxed body posture or for turning his attention to you. If the dog gets tense and starts staring at the cat, divert his attention. When he breaks the stare, click and reward.

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If the dog is not comfortable, move farther away from the cat’s safe room. As the dog gets more comfortable you can then move a few inches closer.

Stay at a distance that’s comfortable for the animal who is most stressed out. If the cat is too afraid to be in sight of the dog, then it’s time to move farther away. Find the distance that puts the cat at ease and less on high-alert.

Work up to having the cat roam around the room while the dog is on leash. Continue to reward the dog for relaxed behavior. This also sends cues to the cat that the dog isn’t a threat. This allows them both to feel comfortable enough to inch closer and engage in some sniffing behavior.

Walk the dog back and forth in front of the safe room and reward him when he focuses on you and follows your cues. If he lunges at the baby gate, growls, barks or stops walking to stare at the cat, walk him away from the gate and then back again. He’ll learn calm behavior allows him to stay closer to the baby gate but rambunctious behavior causes him to have to leave the area. Don’t yell at your dog or jerk on the leash during this process – simply walk him away from the area and allow him to try again. If he gets reactive then walk away again. He’ll eventually get the idea that calm behavior is the best option.

Keep Training Sessions Short

Don’t try to do a marathon introduction in one or two days. It’s better to do several short training sessions each day to minimize stress. Try to end on a positive note each time so the animals will be more inclined to advance in progress during the next session.

Making Progress

During the introduction sessions (and it’ll take multiple training sessions), if at any time the dog tries to aggressively go after the cat, or the cat appears totally panicked or dangerously aggressive, then this is not a safe match. If you feel uncertain as to whether the situation might improve, contact a professional trainer or certified behavior expert to work with you.

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