How to Introduce a Dog to a Cat: Learn from a Pro Dog Trainer | Pupford

May 16th, 2023

Filed under Pet Parenting

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Ahh, the exciting but slightly terrifying experience of introducing a dog to a cat! 🐶 🤝 🐱

You may have heard from us before (as well as so many positive reinforcement dog trainers!) about how important it is to set your dog up for success, in all things! Whether that means teaching your dog how to meet strangers, introducing your dog to kids, sounds, dogs, and other animals! There is so much to do to create positive experiences for our dogs (and pets!)

Certified trainer Jocelyn Wells tells the story of how she successfully introduced her sometimes reactive dog to her new cat. Hint: it takes time, but it’s so worth it!

Related Reading: How to Introduce a New Puppy to Your Dog

But before we get into the story, we want to start off with an intro and some of the great tips that Jocelyn shared which helped her when bringing her new cat into their household.

🐶 Need more training guidance? Be sure to sign up for the 100% free online video class, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶

ABOUT JOCELYN

Jocelyn has been training and consulting with dogs for over 10 years. She has her CTC and CPDT. She spent the majority of her career working with the rehab of rescue dogs, often in very dire or difficult situations. Since 2018, she’s been running her own dog training company called Muttineer which is based out of Los Angeles.

Jocelyn's Website: http://www.muttineer.com/

Jocelyn's YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFt4sAiMx5WdFfU6V2tFnXg

Jocelyn's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/muttineerla/

TIPS FOR SAFELY INTRODUCING YOUR NEW DOG AND CAT

Before we dive into the main techniques and Jocelyn's experience, we want to give some general tips and considerations when adding a new cat or dog to your household!

Here are 8 tips for safely introducing your dog and cat:

  1. Go slow!
  2. Start by letting your new dog/cat get accustomed to their new environment (and you!) before introducing new animals to them
  3. You may want to send your other animal to a dog sitter, friend, or family member to begin with
  4. When starting the introduction, keep them separated, like with a baby gate.
  5. Take it a day at a time, or hour by hour when necessary. Remember to read your dog and cat’s body language, and move at their own pace
  6. Try to keep the interactions as positive as possible, don’t push your animals too far or stress them out too much
  7. If an animal seems stressed out, take them out of that situation, and try again later
  8. Give your animals high-value rewards during interactions, to help them associate good things with these interactions. Remember you want to keep them positive! (Cooked chicken and Pupford Reward Treats are both great options!)

Now, for the techniques. ⬇️

a dog and a cat who are friends after being properly introduced to each other | Pupford

HOW TO INTRODUCE A DOG AND A CAT

As discussed, it's important to take this process slowly. If you force either animal into a situation that causes too much stress or fear, you may end up with a dog-cat fight... And even more work moving forward!

So, here's an overview of how to introduce your dog to a cat:

  1. First, start with them separated, as mentioned above
  2. The first few sessions are about a high rate of reinforcement- rapid treating- to keep both pets focused more on the food than they are on each other
  3. Each session should only be a few minutes and repeated about four times a day
  4. After doing this for multiple days you can move on to slowing down the rate of the treat flow. Doing so can help them disengage from you and engage with each other
  5. You can now try removing the gate and seeing how they interact with each other (while being supervised of course!)
  6. If they are doing good, great, if you can sense uneasiness from one or the other, take a step back. Leash your dog and watch all interactions (the leash will help to control the situation).
  7. Keep on doing these interactions multiple times a day
  8. Once your pets seem comfortable enough with each other and a spark of friendship forming, you can let them interact more freely without hovering over them!

Now, let’s get to Jocelyn's firsthand experience! 👇

🐶 Need more training guidance? Be sure to sign up for the 100% free online video class, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶

TWYLA (CAT) AND EDGAR (DOG): A FRIENDSHIP STORY ❤️

Certified Trainer Jocelyn Walls with her dog and cat | Pupford

As a professional dog trainer, I’ve helped countless clients with cat-dog introductions, I know the protocols and the behavior science behind it. I know how to read body language, I know how to use management and I know how to create a training plan. But there’s something about taking all the theory and experience and putting it to the test with your own animals that makes it a little more special, that makes the milestones feel bigger and the breakthroughs that much sweeter!

Our modern LA family consists of my partner, myself and Edgar, our shared-from-a-previous-relationship little, scruffy terrier blend. We welcomed Twyla, a feisty, playful 4-month-old rescue kitten into our family Thanksgiving weekend of 2020. When Twyla first came home we made sure to arrange for Edgar to stay at his other home to give her time to settle in. As the days passed it was clear she was becoming more and more comfortable with us and her new environment. We gave it three weeks before trying the initial intro.

THE INITIAL INTERACTION BETWEEN DOG & CAT

Since Edgar is sensitive, tends to be reactive and (did I mention?) is a terrier, I anticipated a bumpy entry into their relationship. There are a few schools of thought when it comes to cat-dog intros and I chose the very conservative approach.

Twyla was set up in the office with a baby gate at the door. I let Edgar sniff around the house before bringing him over to the “kitty tv” viewing area. Edgar had a full range of emotions once he saw Twyla. He was whining, grumbling, growling, barking, charging, fixated…all the things I didn’t want to see.

I sat with him and spoke to him in my sing-songy soothing voice, letting him know that everyone is good, and we are all friends, and that he’s a good boy. After a few minutes, he was able to catch his breath, slow his heart rate and the barking had slowed to a periodic grumble. Twyla perched in her hammock calm but skeptical. I was glad I had chosen to use the baby gate so she felt protected.

Later that night I made the error of moving her into the laundry room where her litter box was. The much smaller space with the baby gate ended up making her feel cornered. Edgar got riled up and charged the gate which stressed out Twyla and had her cowering in her hidey box.

I moved her back into the office where she had felt safe before but it was over for her. She plastered herself in the back of the closet and didn’t want to come out. There was a late-night call to Edgar’s other home for a pick-up. Twyla recovered once she knew he was gone.

🐶 Need more training guidance? Be sure to sign up for the 100% free online video class, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶

SETBACK IN THE RELATIONSHIP? IT HAPPENS! HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN DO

We decided to wait a few more weeks until the holiday break to try it again. We were off from work and it seemed it was going to take two sets of hands to do this correctly. We took it a day at a time, sometimes hour by hour, making sure not to push either animal too far or let them get too stressed.

Each day, Edgar would come over and the house would be divided by the baby gate. The cooked chicken would come out and we’d do set-ups. One of us on either side of the baby gate was armed with a ziplock bag full of chicken.

The first few sessions were about a high rate of reinforcement- rapid treating- to keep both pets focused on the food more than they were focused on each other. Each session was only a few minutes and repeated at least four times each day. Edgar went to his other house in the evenings so Twyla could have a full run of her domain.

As the days went on and we had more baby gate sessions under our belt, when we brought them over to the “viewing area” we slowed the rate of chicken flow. Doing so helped them disengage from us and engage with each other. Twyla was much more curious while Edgar was still a little growly and edgy but had calmed significantly.

The plan progressed to removing the baby gate so they could move more naturally. We quickly aborted this setup. Twyla was keen on invading Edgar’s space past the point where he was comfortable. Edgar went on a leash and onto the couch where we could more easily body block Twyla from any unwelcomed advances. I wanted to make sure Edgar knew we had his back and that we wouldn’t let the kitty come too close before he was ready.

NEXT STEPS IN THE INTRODUCTION

Each day we saw them become more and more comfortable around each other. Twyla began rolling on her back and flirting with Edgar from the floor beside the couch. Edgar’s growls were few and far between and the edge melted into calmer, more tolerant body language. A few times Twyla bounced up towards Edgar from beneath where he was sitting. He barely flinched and showed incredible self-restraint. I was beginning to feel ready to let them interact on the floor.

Edgar wore a 10ft leash for the first few interactions on the floor. His feisty terrier side was coming out and he gave chase to Twyla before she confidently knew how to navigate play with him. The long-line was a backstop to make sure he didn’t chase her down or tip into prey drive.

Edgar was responsive to verbal prompts like “slow down”, ”NO” and “stop!”, cues which I very unscientifically, and unsystematically installed in preparation for this training plan. His responsiveness, however, gave me the green light to allow for more and more interaction between them without me practicing hover-mom.

From this point, I was starry-eyed watching their relationship develop. All management had been removed. I felt I had done the desensitization work that allowed them to learn enough about each other that they could take the reins from here.

They had learned that the other was:

1. A predictor of good things (chicken, or another reward)

2. Non-threatening by using strategic management and appropriate criteria setting

3. Familiar by seeing their humans interacting with each other and knowing that they both occupied the same space.

There was a lot of play-stalking from Twyla. Stalk and dive bomb attacks that ended just short so there was no contact. A lot of tolerance and indifference from Edgar to the point I began to get a little worried about his welfare.

I was worried he was shut down and feeling helpless because he was getting harassed by his new kitten sister. Looking back, and avoiding over-anthropomorphizing my dog, I think Edgar was allowing Twyla the space to feel comfortable and find her footing with him. Maybe he knew that giving in to chase would set her back.

Dogs self-handicap during play and social interactions and I like to believe that Edgar was doing this with Twyla for those first few management-free days.

THE TRANSFORMATION

Then one evening it happened. Twyla was rolling around on her back, flirting and curving and reaching out an outstretched paw towards Edgar. He gave in. He dragged his belly across the rug, wiggling with his tail wagging.

He opened his mouth and made some cheerful and playful huffs. She popped back to her right side, feet under her, just in case. A brief mouth wrestle between the two lit up the room for just a few moments. That was the beginning of what is now a beautiful friendship.

From new kitty to first play behaviors, it was a patient and long 2 months. Edgar hadn’t spent a full night with us until we saw the friendship spark. But now we’re back on our normal half week share schedule and Twyla is bummed when Edgar leaves on Sundays.

These two chase, tumble, share, mouth, wrestle, and take turns now. It’s more than I could have hoped for and has exceeded any of my expectations. This is one of the reasons why I love working with animals so much. They are incredibly adaptable and teachable. With love, patience and guidance we can open new worlds for them. Including friendships with mean, stinky kitties!


RECAP OF SAFELY INTRODUCING A DOG TO A CAT

a black cat being introduced to a brown and white dog | Pupford

Wow, that in-depth experience of introducing a dog to a new cat is hopefully very helpful for you! Remember, take it slow and be sure to use containments like leashes, crates, and baby gates in the initial stages.

Here's a quick recap of how Jocelyn went about introducing her dog to a cat:

  1. First, start with them separated, as mentioned above
  2. The first few sessions are about a high rate of reinforcement- rapid treating- to keep both pets focused more on the food than they are on each other
  3. Each session should only be a few minutes and repeated about four times a day
  4. After doing this for multiple days you can move on to slowing down the rate of the treat flow. Doing so can help them disengage from you and engage with each other
  5. You can now try removing the gate and seeing how they interact with each other (while being supervised of course!)
  6. If they are doing good, great, if you can sense uneasiness from one or the other, take a step back. Leash your dog and watch all interactions (the leash will help to control the situation).
  7. Keep on doing these interactions multiple times a day
  8. Once your pets seem comfortable enough with each other and a spark of friendship forming, you can let them interact more freely without hovering over them!

What was your experience like when your dog and cat first met? Tell us in the comments!

🐶 Need more training guidance? Be sure to sign up for the 100% free online video class, 30 Day Perfect Pup. Get started here! 🐶

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