DogTraining101
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Dog Behaviour

How should I introduce my new dog or puppy to the family cat?

Introducing a new canine member to the family is a special and exciting time but can be a little overwhelming for all concerned. However, this can be managed with planning, so that everyone feels safe and there is minimal stress. It is important that you manage the introduction to your family carefully and that your new dog or puppy and cat are always supervised until you are sure everyone is comfortable and safe.

It is important to be well-researched before the introduction of any new pet to your house, even if you already have other pets. we recommend you take the time to find a detailed book on the breed/crossbreed you are acquiring well before bringing them home, so that you are well prepared for their arrival.

Choosing the right dog

Some dogs will integrate into a family with existing pets better than others. Older dogs are likely to be less energetic than young puppies; if you already have old pets you may wish to adopt a calm cat-friendly adult dog. Consider adopting your dog or puppy from a shelter as he or she will have been temperament tested and the staff will be able to give you an idea of how the dog/puppy may respond to other animals. This will help you to find a dog or puppy who will be more likely to get on with your cat.

Preparing

Once you have decided on a dog or puppy you will have to think about how best to introduce them to your existing pets to ensure that everything goes smoothly. This may be a stressful time for all the animals and it is important that you are patient and prepared for the introduction to take place over at least a week but perhaps a few weeks. The same process should be followed if you have more than one cat.

Before you bring your new dog or puppy home you should spend some time preparing your house and your existing pets for their arrival. In particular, it is important to ensure that there are plenty of high resting places where your cat can easily and safely retreat away from the dog or puppy if they want to. In addition, if your cat normally has their food, water, litter tray etc. in an area where the dog will now be, it is good to plan ahead and move these away to an area only the cat has access to and get the cat used to the change before the dog or puppy arrives. This helps reduce stress and avoid problems with your cat being too afraid to eat/drink or use the litter tray once the dog arrives.

When you first bring your new dog or puppy home

On the day you bring your dog home, secure your cat in their favourite room with their bed and bedding, water, food and litter. Allow your dog to explore the house and then secure them in a room of their own with comfy bedding, water and a treat. While your dog settles down allow your cat to explore the house and become familiar with your dog’s scent. Repeat this over the next few days, allowing each animal their turn to have access to the whole house without ever confronting one another. In the meantime, work on basic training with your dog or puppy so that you have some control over them when it comes to introducing the dog/puppy to your cat.

Introducing your new dog or puppy to your cat

Ideally your dog or puppy should be crate trained; there are many benefits to this but, particularly in this situation, it will make the introductions easier and safer. The crate (or your dog’s normal area if not a crate) should be situated away from your cat’s normal feeding/drinking/toileting/sleeping areas and your cat’s access to their enclosure or the outdoors (e.g. their cat flap), if possible.

When you are ready to introduce your dog and cat, do so when your dog is at their calmest. You may wish to take them for a long walk beforehand. For the first introduction, use a room in which your cat is easily able to escape to a safe place if they want to (for example, a room with some familiar and well used high elevated platforms such as a multi-tiered cat scratching post tower near the area so the cat can escape from the situation and gain vertical height as cats often like to be above the scene looking down and can feel safer that way).

If your dog or puppy is in a crate you can give them a distracting toy and then bring your cat into the room. Never force any interactions but just give your cat a lot of attention and positive experiences such as grooming, playing, and treats while they are in the same room as your dog/puppy. Just let the cat get used to the dog being there and vice versa.

Once your cat and dog seem relaxed in the room together, you can move onto having your dog or puppy on a leash out of the crate. If you are unable to use a crate for the introductions then start with this step. Keep your dog next to you on a secure leash while the cat is in the room and give them both praise and treats to reward calm behaviour. It is helpful to have another person with you during this time if possible so each animal can be praised and rewarded at the same time. If your dog becomes highly excitable at any time during the introduction remove them from the room. Do this several times a day, keeping the meetings short so that stress is kept to a minimum.

You should allow the cat to choose whether they approach the dog/puppy or not. They may hiss or growl but if no interaction is forced they are unlikely to advance and if they do you can protect your dog or puppy from any aggressive advance. Just make sure you have an inanimate safe object (like a large cushion) to place between you and the dog and puppy and the cat for the worst case scenario!

Be patient, it will probably take a few weeks of having your dog or puppy on the leash with the cat around before everyone is sufficiently comfortable to try with the dog/puppy off-leash. These interactions should still be closely supervised. In the initial stages there may be some hissing and tail swishing – but this should settle down after a few days. Keep a close eye on both animals and never punish either of them for aggressive behaviour as this will be a negative experience associated with the presence of the other animal and counter-productive.

When you are ready to let your dog off the leash ensure that your cat has an easy escape route – again, choose a room with elevated platforms like a multi-tiered scratching post tower, high window sills or shelves. Never leave your pets unsupervised and take things very slowly, allowing your pets to become used to one another gradually at their own pace.

Ensure your cat receives a lot of individual attention from you during the period of time over which you are introducing the dog/puppy. Do not leave your animals alone together until you are absolutely certain that they tolerate each other, the dog/puppy has been trained not to chase the cat and they are all safe. If you are not sure, continue to supervise directly when you are at home or physically separate them when you are not at home. The cat should ALWAYS have somewhere safe to which they can retreat (an area the dog cannot get to, such as elevated platforms), even when you do feel comfortable about leaving the two unsupervised together.

Please note, that if the cat has no experience of dogs introducing a dog can be a distressing experience and many cats (if they are allowed unrestricted access outside and have the opportunity to) may leave home for a period of time. This is obviously very concerning, so it is important to do everything you can to ensure that the introductions are done are carefully and slowly as possible and that the cat always has places in the house where they can be safe and secure away from the dog.

Keep in mind that your pets may never be best friends. Hopefully, however, they will at least tolerate one another and learn to live happily in the same house. In situations where cats do not like the pet dog in the long-term, they may still be able to co-exist in relative peace by seeking out their own space and spending most of their time apart. Pets often have the ability to find a balance and share their territory. Having access to different rooms so that they can choose to be alone can be a big help to making both animals feel secure and happy. Feeding the cat and dog separately is also important and ensuring that your cat has a private area to go to the toilet and a safe sleeping spot may assist.

If your attempts at introduction are not going well, or either animals seems stressed or agitated, you can use our chat function or get us out to help.

Dogs are highly social animals that prefer to live in groups. Many dogs can become anxious when separated from their owner or owners. Anxiety is characterised by signs of distress when affected animals are separated from an owner or family group to which the animal is attached. Behavioural responses can include toileting in the house, destructiveness, excessive barking, digging or pacing and attempting to escape, among other distress signs.

The goal of management and treatment is to teach the pet dog how to be calm and relaxed when the owner is absent. It involves changes in pet-owner interactions, changes in leaving and returning routines, decreasing the anxiety associated with owner departure, teaching the pet how to be left alone and other environmental changes and management.

Management tips

Changes in pet-owner interactions

The goal here is to facilitate the dog becoming more independent and less anxious. It involves ignoring attention-seeking behaviour and rewarding the dog for being calm and relaxed.

Changes in leaving and return routines

In an attempt to decrease the level of anxiety that these dogs exhibit prior to owner departure, owners should try to ignore the dog 15-30 minutes prior to leaving. Upon return, they should try to greet the dog softly, calmly and quietly, and attend to the dog only when the dog is calm and quiet.

Decreasing the anxiety associated with departure

This involves changing how the dog perceive pre-departure cues (e.g. picking up car keys) and re-teaching the dog that the ‘routine’ no longer predicts departure. This helps to prevent anxiety escalation and is accomplished through habituation, counter-conditioning and desensitisation which are explained below.

Habituation is a decrease in response as a consequence of repeated exposure to a stimulus. The goal is to disassociate the pre-departure cues from the actual departure. Examples include picking up keys, putting on shoes, packing a briefcase, etc. Using the picking up keys as an example, through habituation, the owner picks up the keys, the dog alerts, becomes anxious and comes to the owner; the owner ignores the dog and goes about their routine; the owner does not leave the house. Consequently, the dog learns that the keys mean nothing. This is done with all of the pre-departure cues so that they no longer predict departure, which no longer leads to an anxious response, and become less important to the dog and easier to ignore.

Counterconditioning means to re-teach the pet to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that they previously feared or disliked. It changes an animal’s anxious reaction to something to a relaxed reaction instead. It’s done by associating the sight or presence of a feared or disliked person, animal, place, object or situation with something good, that the dog likes. Over time, the dog learns that whatever they are anxious about actually predicts good things for them.

For dogs with anxiety when separated from their owner, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like tasty food. To develop this kind of association, every time the owner leaves the house, they can offer their dog a kong type of toy stuffed with food that will take them at least 20 to 30 minutes to consume. Remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods inside when he’s by himself. You can feed your dog all of his daily meals in special toys. For example, you can give your dog his breakfast and some tasty treats in a kong type of toy every morning before going to work. Note that this approach helps in mild cases of anxiety because highly anxious dogs often won’t eat when their owners aren’t home.

Desensitisation means to make less sensitive. Its goal is to eliminate or reduce the exaggerated, emotion-based reaction that an animal has to a specific thing – like other animals, certain people, noises or situations/places. It involves a very gradual process of exposing an animal to a much less intense version of the thing or event he fears, in such a way that his fear isn’t triggered. Gradually the intensity of the stimulus is increased, ideally without eliciting the anxious response. In the example of the departing owner, the owner gradually increases the time away.

Environmental changes

Provide things for your dog ‘to do’. Providing lots of physical and mental stimulation is a vital part of managing anxiety. Exercising your dog’s mind and body can greatly enrich their life, decrease anxiety and provide them with plenty of opportunities to engage in normal dog behaviours. Additionally, a physically and mentally tired dog doesn’t have much excess energy to expend when he’s left alone. To keep your dog busy and happy, try the following suggestions:

Exercise

  • Give your dog physical exercise every day. Try to exercise your dog before you have to leave (e g. long morning walk before you set off for work). If you have access to a safe and secure dog park – allow your dog to run around off-lead to expend energy. This should help him relax and rest while you’re gone.
  • Some owners also try to exercise their dog during the middle of the day (e.g. organise a reputable dog walker) as this can help to tire out dogs and reduce anxiety whilst waiting for their owner to return after a day’s work.
  • Take different routes and visit new places as often as possible so that your dog can experience novel smells and sights.

Food

  • Fill Kong type toys with food that will take your dog at least 20-30 minutes to eat while you’re away.
  • Hide your dogs food so they have to find it which can help to engage and preoccupy them.

Provide appropriate Chew items

  • Safe chew items designed for dogs to chew on can help to preoccupy dogs while they’re alone at home.

Play

  • Play fun, interactive games with your dog, such as fetch and tug-of-war (before you leave them alone). Fun interactive games with your dog such as fetch and tug-of-war (before you leave them alone).

Company

  • See if any friends or family can help to keep your dog company for some of the time while you’re not available.
  • Research reputable doggy day care services in your area.

In some cases, separation anxiety can be severe, for example where the dog may be a danger to itself (e.g. a dog that causes serious physical injury to itself) if the above is not working give us a call and we can help.

We allowed our dog to chew on an old pair of shoes as a puppy, because it was so cute. But now she’s a year old, and she chews on any shoes she finds — most recently, an expensive pair of dress shoes. We get mad when she does this, but we know it’s because we allowed it early on. Can we stop her shoe-chewing habit, or are we doomed to live with it forever?

The golden rule of raising a puppy is simple: Don’t allow behaviors in puppyhood that you wouldn’t want from a full-grown dog. Anything a puppy practices in her formative weeks and months is likely to be a habit by the time she’s an adult.

As you’ve learned, a behavior that’s cute in a puppy, like slipper chewing, can be less appealing — if not downright destructive — in adulthood. And when that puppy becomes an adult dog with a greater resolve, increased independence and a body that’s larger, stronger and faster, breaking bad habits can be far more challenging.

Stop Bad Behavior Before It Starts

Almost everyone who has raised a puppy can look back and identify things they would do differently if they had the chance. We do our best for our pets, but missteps happen no matter how well intentioned our aims. But an error in puppy training doesn’t mean you are doomed to a lifetime of shredded shoes. An established habit is harder to break, but with diligent management and training efforts, it’s usually quite possible.


One of the simplest strategies of puppy raising is to prevent unwanted behavior from the very beginning, before it starts. Preventive efforts include removing opportunities to engage in the undesirable behavior, providing proper outlets to channel energy away from those behaviors and removing any associated reward when unwanted behaviors do occur. Even though your dog isn’t a puppy anymore, this strategy will still work to help put a stop to her shoe chewing.

How to Change Your Dog’s Chewing Habits

You will need to start by removing the temptation to chew your shoes by making it impossible for your dog to get them. Keep shoes in closed closets, in latched bins or on a shelf that is too high for your dog to reach. Don’t leave shoes anywhere your dog can easily get to them, like under the coffee table or on the floor in your bedroom — and remind visitors and family members to do the same.

Instead, put appropriate chew toys out for your dog to play with. And when she chews on something acceptable, like a Kong or rope toy, praise and reward her.


If you find her chewing on a shoe, resist the urge to yell at her or punish her — scolding may be negative attention, but it’s still attention, and it reinforces the chewing. Instead, take the shoe away without comment or reaction and redirect her to her chew toys. The more you do this — praise her for chewing the right things and withhold attention when she chews something she shouldn’t — the more likely she is to gnaw on a toy and not your shoes.

Every time a dog engages in a behavior, especially a behavior that pays off with rewards like extra attention, the habit becomes more ingrained. An established habit is harder to break, but with time and patience, it can be done.

Have you ever wondered why your dog likes to bury his bones? Sometimes this behavior can be annoying, especially when his hiding places happen to be a flower garden or under your couch cushions. But there is likely a method to his “madness.”


Many species of animals exhibit caching — or burying — behavior in regards to food items. Certain species of birds and squirrels, for example, are renowned for their amazing memory and ability to retrieve hidden items. In these species, it is important for the bird or squirrel to bury his food in the warmer months of the year so he can dig up his supplies in leaner, winter months when food is scarce.

Some dogs also exhibit this same behavior — burying favored treats where they are likely to find them again. This behavior may have developed due to strong survival instincts inherited from their wild ancestors. Dogs, as you know, have evolved from wolves, which live in packs and work together to hunt larger prey animals. In times of plenty, when they are able to bring down a large animal, such as a moose or elk, wolves tend to gorge themselves. When there is plenty of food to go around, wolves may feast for several days. Once the prey animal has been consumed, however, wolves may go days without eating a substantial meal. As individuals, they may hunt smaller prey animals, such as rabbits, but often these meals may not provide enough nourishment to replace the energy needed to hunt and chase the prey down, especially if the prey animal is lean or small. The behavior of burying valued food items may have developed from the need of these ancestral wild canines to store energy-rich food for later consumption. A wolf who could remember where it buried food items could dig them up and later ingest those items and probably survive the winter.


This behavior may persist in our domestic dogs. They may sometimes bury these “bones” or any other items they may perceive as “high value,” such as certain toys or maybe their owner’s shoes or clothing items. They may think that these interesting items are worth saving in case they never get those items again. So, this may explain why your dog buries bones, toys or other unusual but “treasured” items in your flower bed or couch.

We’ve all been there: When walking down the street, our pooch will suddenly be very interested in investigating a random stranger, but a minute later, the dog is uninterested in the human who wants to pet him. And so it goes with visitors to the house, people at the vet’s office and other dog owners at the park. And it often seems as if there is no rhyme or reason as to why a dog can’t resist sniffing one person but ignores another.


So what’s going on? Here are a few theories.

1. The Dog Is Just Saying Hi.

When you entertain guests, does your dog make a beeline for one guest in particular? Does his nose sweep back and forth like a vacuum nozzle—and not always in the most, ahem, polite location? If so, your dog is using his nose to get acquainted. And just as you’re drawn to certain people because they’re more interesting, some people are more fascinating to your dog from a scent standpoint than others are.


Instead of trotting out the usual introductory queries like, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” and “What do you do for a living?” dogs can, with a single whiff, unearth very personal information about someone. They may be able to detect, for example, what a person had for lunch hours ago or that someone owns three cats, two dogs and walked in the woods yesterday.

In fact, according to Alexandra Horowitz, a canine cognition specialist at Barnard College and author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, a dog’s sense of smell is so discriminating that it could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water.


So depending on what appeals to your dog, he could simply be drawn to the smell of someone’s cat or dog on that person’s clothes, or it may be that, on some undetectable-to-you level, the person smells like his favorite treat.

2. The Dog Smells Fear.

Some dogs have a knack for sidling up to the people who are most fearful of dogs. Is it something in the way these people smell?


Maybe. It could be that fear causes people to sweat a bit more, and dogs pick up on that scent, but they’re probably also reading subtleties in a person’s body language. Or it may be a combination of the two that seems to attract your dog to the people who least want his attention.

3. The Dog Is Just Happy to See Someone.

New research shows there may be plenty going on inside a dog’s head when he uses his nose.


In a study published in the journal Behavioural Processes, unsedated dogs underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging while presented with five scents: a familiar human, an unfamiliar human, a familiar dog, a strange dog and the dog’s own odor. The results? The area of the brain associated with pleasure lit up most when the dog was presented with the scent of a familiar human. And even in the absence of the familiar person, dogs were able not only to distinguish that person’s scent, but also had positive associations with it.

The bottom line? Even if we don’t know exactly what the average dog is focusing on as he says hello to people on the street, he clearly knows what he likes — and he’s usually not shy about letting everyone else know, too.

It’s not much of a conundrum, really. The bottom line is that most of the time, dogs will lick their people as a sign of affection. “You are the sun and the moon,” their silky tongue would have you know. “And guess what? You taste good, too!”


But much as barking can be, licking is also a multi-faceted tool that seems to play many roles in canine behavior and, consequently, tends towards many different interpretations. Here’s a list of the many ways in which we homo sapiens have come to understand this culturally alien mode of communication: Licking is a natural instinct in canines. When a mother licks her pups and her pups lick each other during the course of grooming and other social interactions, we’re observing quintessential licking behavior in dogs. Indeed, this behavior is held up as one that may serve as the basis for all other licking decisions a dog makes. (“Mom licked me now I lick you …”)

  • Licking can play a role in the solicitation of resources, as when pups lick their mothers as a precursor to feeding or when lower-ranking pack members lick their superiors in the hopes of an invitation to dine on communal prey.
  • It’s just another sensory tool, say some researchers. Licking (and tasting) is like reaching out and touching something –– a sort of slobbery exploration.
  • Canine attention-seeking behavior often incorporates the tongue. Dogs often lick you to get your attention or as a simple greeting. As in, “Hey, I’m here. I’m cute. Pet me.”
  • Licking may be a way of playing. Many dogs who’s owners report as engaging in excessive licking behavior may be substituting their tongue for their teeth in the reserved dog’s version of a raucous play-fight.
  • In many cases, licking is a learned behavior. Dogs learn that when they lick their owners they get more attention, so they come to incorporate licking into more and more of their daily behaviors.

But what happens when extreme licking happens?


Extreme licking tends to be defined not so much by the dog as it is by the human beholder of the behavior. As such, any unwanted display of lingual attention –– even just a couple of polite laps every so often –– could be construed as excessive. In these cases it’s considered more of a human problem than an animal problem. After all, dogs will lick. It’s in their nature.

Nevertheless, dogs can be trained to turn the tap off, so to speak.

Of course there are those times when licking may take on abnormal tones. Dogs who suffer certain types of obsessive-compulsive behaviors may manifest these as excessive licking. Typically, however, dogs affected by these behavioral disorders will turn to objects –– or more often, themselves –– by way of displaying their outsized penchant for licking.

 Many of these patients can be treated successfully so that their life might include more than what they might find at the end of their tongue.