Dog Training and Cats?

I received a call last month from a client with a new dog that was terrorizing her cats.  It was at the point where the dog was going to have to go if he couldn’t learn to live with the cats.  She asked me if dog training could fix her dog’s behavior? 

It reminded me of when my wife and I got married and she brought 2 greyhounds and a cat named Petie into the marriage.  First time my dog Boo laid eyes on Petie, all he saw was the blue plate special!  He lunged through the air, mouth wide open and stomach growling.  How embarrasing was that?  Here I am, the dog trainer and my dog’s behavior is deplorable 🙂

My wife looked at me and sweetly said, “Fix It!”  So I did, and here’s how.  Each day, as many times as possible, the behavior modification process was put into place.  We would take Petie, an awesome Persin/Tabby mix who knows no fear, and place him in a wire dog crate in the den.  I had Boo on a leash and I had a clicker and some food treats to use during the dog training session.  Boo and I were about 5 feet from the crate.  Each time Boo exhibited inappropriate dog behavior by pulling or lunging toward the crate he was firmly told NO, leah tug, required to sit.  As he sat and exhibited good dog behavior, which at that early stage was simply not lunging at Petie, I clicked and treated. 

We kept doing this dog behavior modification training each day.  Each day Boo and I got a little closer to the crate and each time Boo was required to give me a sit, down, appropriate dog behavior.  Also, during this time I made him maintain that good dog behavior longer and longer before he was treated. 

It took about 2 weeks, but Boo learned that his inappropriate dog behavior got a stern NO, while his good dog behavior, sitting quietly and not bothering the cat, got him a GOOD BOY! and a treat.  Now as many of you know, I am adamant about weaning off food treats (see my blog post on To Treat or Not to Treat, that is the Question).  By the end of the two weeks, a simple Good Boy was the reward for Boo.

Now in all fairness, part of the equation of this dog behavior modification exercise, is the fact that Petie is not the type of cat who darts through the house and is skittish.  Nope, in fact, when Petie comes in the house, he uses the dog door, strolls through the den while all the dogs are on their beds and just like in Stuart LIttle, simply says “Tell It to the Butt!”  Petie rules, Petie IS ALPHA!

Today, on any given morning, you can find Petie curled up next to Boo on Boo’s dog bed.  It took work, persistence in working on the dog behavior modification and good obedience training, but all is well in the Burwell animal kingdom.