Saturday, November 21, 2015

Unlikely Friendship: Dog and Cat Walk Together

Dog and cat walk together.
Unlikely friendships are often experienced among pets and animals as well as humans.

My dog Valentino is experiencing just that with the stray cats in our neighborhood. But of course, this is another learning experience for me as well.

As Valentino and I take our daily walks, we come across many stray and feral cats in the neighborhood. Each sighting of a cat is an opportunity for me to teach my dog not to react aggressively toward the stray. This has not been the easiest of dog training tasks for me and Valentino, as he is a coonhound with a strong prey instinct and sees cats as prey. To make our walks less frustrating for us both, I work diligently with my dog for him to become less reactive to approaching felines.

On recent walks, one stray cat has made this task a bit easier for my dog and me. For some odd reason, this particular cat wants to walk along with us! As you can see (click the image for a larger view) Valentino lags behind me on his lead, turning to see if his unlikely friend is still following us. My dog no longer has an aggressive reaction to this cat--no bark, no wish to chase or to bite and the cat exhibits no fright.

While I would like to think this budding friendship of cat and dog walking together is the result of our training, I must give most of the credit to the critters. It is my thought that this cat has grown accustomed to seeing this dog in its territory and the dog no longer barks at the cat or pulls me into chase mode when it crosses our path so the cat sees no reason to run and hide from the dog. I get the feeling it is now a matter of trust between the two of them.

My dog Valentino and this stray cat may become like Milo and Otis with many more neighborhood adventures to share. Who knows what the future holds in store for these newfound friends.

Our Cat Reactive Dog Training Tips

  1. Keep the dog on a leash while walking.
  2. When approaching a cat, command the dog to "Wait" at the first sign of aggressive reactivity. (This command works for me, but you can use whatever command works best for you and your dog.)
  3. Lavish praise on the dog immediately upon subdued focus on the cat.
  4. Tell the dog "It's OK" and continue walking the dog in a direction away from the stray.

While I am not an expert dog trainer, this system has worked wonders for me and Valentino. He rarely attempts to pull me into chase-the-cat mode now and even his barking at the strays is a rare reaction to their presence as we take our neighborhood walks.

Dog Pawsitive Tidbits: No matter our differences, treating others with trust and respect may help us form unlikely friendships.

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