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having trouble with new dog and existing cats in the house

(33 Posts)
bumpybecky Fri 28-Dec-12 20:37:41

We adopted our dog a week ago. He's a springer collie cross and about a year old. He's lovely but we are having big problems with his attitude towards our cats.

He was brought here to meet them before we adopted him and he was interested then, but he's getting worse not better. He has literally been jumping over sofas to get to the cats who went behind. DH has had a mug of hot coffee knocked into his lap as the dog decided to leap onto the sofa in pursuit of a cat.

Grumpy cat has drawn blood swiping the Peanut the dog's nose four times now and it's not deterring him. Even Stupid cat who is the most placid thing ever has swiped and hissed (I've never seen her do that to anyone / thing).

We'd been trying to keep him on the lead when the cats were about so we could control him better, but he's decided that unless we're out walking leads are for chewing hmm

We'd been advised to distract him with toys / treats when the cats were about and at first this seemed possible, but it's working less and less well. He gets totally fixated on the cats and what they're doing. He just ignores all attempts to gain his attention. This evening I've ended up putting him in his crate just to break the cycle of him running from the stair gate to the cat flap and back looking for the cats. We don't think he's being aggressive, he just wants to play, but he's far too much for the cats.

We were also told to use a bottle with gravel in to tell him off (occasionally as it'd stop working if overused). The problem with this is that it also scares the cats who then run, so Peanut chases.

We're in a town house and have a stair gate on the middle floor, so at the moment the dog is confined to the downstairs and the cats are staying on middle and top floors unless the dog is out on a walk or in his crate.

I've done a bit of googling and understand teaching 'leave it' is important, but frankly he is so obsessed I'm not sure leave it is going to be enough.

We are beginning to think we are not the right home for him and that he'll never be able to live with cats. I know it's only been a week, but it's getting worse not better sad

I can't believe I've just typed all of that. I'm in tears about the whole situation. I will be contacting the rescue for advice, but know they're really busy and it'll be a while before I get through to them. I'm really hoping someone here has some advice.

paddythepooch Fri 28-Dec-12 20:59:11

It's very early days. Our cat generally lives upstairs and has started coming down from time to time. That's after the pooch has been here 3 months. Take your time. Keep them apart for now and do slow intros for short periods - when all are fed and quiet.

Try cliker training leave it - it takes time though.

Other things worth looking at are using the crate - dog in crate, cats outside for short periods, treating for any quiet/attention. You might want to think about upping the treats - ie giving higher value ones.

Our cat still hisses at the dog and has swiped him but, like yours, he is still interested - in playing. It is getting better for us. Give it time and they should get used to each other in time or at least reach an accomodation. He is still v young and excitable.

Make sure you never leave them alone and don't allow them all out in the garden at the same time.

others may have other tips.

countrykitten Fri 28-Dec-12 21:17:17

You have a cross of two of the sharpest and most energetic breeds of dog - he will be extremely clever and in need of lots of mental stimulation. The first thing that you need to do is ensure that he is getting at least 2 hours of off lead, running exercise a day. This will make him calmer and more relaxed in the house - most dog behavioural issues stem from a lack of exercise. Collies in particular will run all day long. He will take as much as you can give him tbh.

I had this problem with one of my rescue springers and I was also in tears after a week! Don't worry and don't give up. If you are sure that he is getting enough exercise, then have him on a long line in the house and give it a sharp tug whenever he shows too much interest in a cat. When he settles (which he will do because he will be exercised) give him a treat. He is overly interested at present but it will be interest rather than aggression imo. Let him meet the cats in a controlled environment gradually and he will see that they are nothing to get too wound up about and they will acclimatise. It is easy to get really wound up because it is so stressful but it will get better with time.

To have a rescue dog for a week is nothing - he needs time and patience and he will love you forever once he has settled in. Please don't just give him back - his chances of rehoming will be worse as he will be more damaged by this experience. If you take on an animal you should be prepared for hard work but he will pay you back with loyalty and love. Best of luck. And btw, your cats will be fine! Mine stalked about for a week or two but will now happily share a bed with the dog who used to chase them as he gives them a wash!

tooearlytobeup Fri 28-Dec-12 21:57:34

Is there anything he is more fixated on than the cats? My springer was very interested in our pet rabbit and guinea pig when we first got him but if we kept a tennis ball handy he would refocus on that. After a few months he realised he couldn't play with them and now ignores them completely. Maybe a squeaky toy or game of tug if he's not into balls?

bumpybecky Fri 28-Dec-12 22:30:09

We are keeping them apart, I wasn't sure if that's why it was getting worse! tonight Grumpy cat came into the kitchen in the middle dinner and the dog, who had been laying by my feet quite happily) ended up with two scratches on his nose!

Countrykitten He isn't getting that much exercise as he has very poor recall so I dare not let him off the lead to run properly. He is very dog friendly and I'm sure would run until he found some doggy friends to play with rather than come back to me.

He is getting out 3 times a day for between 30 and 60 minutes (tends to be one x60 and 2x 30-45 mins) but it's not as fast as he'd like! today it's only been twice though as I've got a stinking cold and feel all dizzy and am not up to being pulled round the park, so DH has done what he could.

We are clicker training inside trying to mentally tire him. So far he's learnt sit and (lie) down and is very good as long as he can smell the treats! we're also playing fetch with his toys at home a fair bit smile

He does settle at home, he's pretty good lying down (on my feet!) in the kitchen. He won't settle in the lounge though as he thinks the cats are in there (even if they're not). I've started sitting with him on the middle landing, outside the lounge (where we thinks the cats are) and treating him for lying down calmly. Mostly he tried to sit on my lap and played biting chewing games with me and my sleeves hmm

tooearly I've tried using the squeaky toys and balls to distract him. Not had much success. Maybe I need something really squeaky!

To be honest I think my cold is making me a bit tired and emotional and I'm listening too much to DH's doom and gloom about it never getting better. I am absolutely horrified at the prospect of handing him back to the rescue. I don't think I'd forgive myself if we did without giving him a proper chance.

Thanks for all the replies smile

paddythepooch Sat 29-Dec-12 08:20:29

Couple of quick thoughts. If you are sick and finding it hard to give enough exercise, training or going somewhere new on lead can be just as tiring. so lots of variety will help knacker him out.

This is all v new to him so you might want to think about keeping him to one room for now then gradually allowing access to other rooms. Dog gates are a godsend.

paddythepooch Sat 29-Dec-12 08:23:36

Couple of quick thoughts. If you are sick and finding it hard to give enough exercise, training or going somewhere new on lead can be just as tiring. so lots of variety will help knacker him out.

This is all v new to him so you might want to think about keeping him to one room for now then gradually allowing access to other rooms. Dog gates are a godsend.

poachedeggs Sat 29-Dec-12 08:35:56

Ok, first thing is get rid of therattle It won't helphelp. And take any further advice from that source with a large pinch of salt.

He's getting worse because when he chases, they run, so it's effective behaviour.

Get yourself a clicker and some special, reserved treats which he loves but doesn't get otherwise (cheese, cheese spread, pate, ham for eg). Teach him 'watch me', while the cats are well out of the way. Just click and treat every time he gives you eye contact. Soon he'll be focusing on you more. Then everything will get easier.

Another useful approach is 'nothing in life is free' - this means instead of feeding him from a bowl you feed him his reason of food for performing 'tasks'. In reality you are just constantly rewarding good, calm, attentive behaviours all day long. Soon he'll be focused enough on you for you to work on 'leave it', and if you've put in the time reinforcing calmer behaviour then he will give you opportunities to expose the cats to him.

I agree re exercise though.

Check out kikopup and Sophia Yin on YouTube.

poachedeggs Sat 29-Dec-12 08:38:19

Gate is a great idea paddy. Gives him the chance to see cats and demonstrate calm behaviour, while allowing the cats to gain confidence so they're not always running (which he will find extremely stimulating).

countrykitten Sat 29-Dec-12 10:35:42

God my spaniels love cheese - it's a great training tool! Glad that you are sticking with him which is hard when another person is being down about it all.

Within four weeks our mad cat chasing spaniel had settled down, realised who was in charge (the cats followed by me!) and the household became a sane place again. I look back on the whole episode now with a little smile because he is a different dog but I do remember how bloody stressful and hard it all was. What I think I did not realise at the time was how very stressful he found being in rescue and then being rehomed and how this affected his behaviour - he was constantly fired up but. When he 'gets' that you are his family and that he is going nowhere I think he will also start to relax and calm down. It really won't take too long.

OnaPromise Sat 29-Dec-12 10:37:15

We have recently adopted an ex racing greyhound and have a cat. The advice we were given by the rescue was about identical to what poachedeggs has said and it has worked. Greyhounds have a penchant for chasing furry things obviously.

We have also been looking at Sophia Yin.

Good luck.

onlyoneboot Sat 29-Dec-12 13:54:45

Have your cats got high places they can get to easily? I put a bed on top of the fridge when we got our dog and one of the cats practically lived up there for the first weeks observing the newcomer. Luckily for the cats our dog was too scared to go upstairs for the first 5 weeks so the cats could hide up there too. 3 months on now, and there is the odd chase or attempt to play but generally they are tolerating each other. The other day I found the three of them sitting in the kitchen together, passing the time of day quite happily. With a bit of time and lots of exercise it should all settle down. Get well soon.

MrsMiniversCharlady Sat 29-Dec-12 14:22:23

When we got our new dog we had similar problems. We read somewhere that to start off with we should put the cat in a cat carrier so he was safe no matter what the dog did, put the dog on lead and then click and treat for ignoring the cat carrier. Once he'd got used to ignoring the cat in its box we then progressed to having him on lead and getting closer to the cat until we could eventually let him off in the same room.

He's now very good friends with the cat and doesn't really chase him, the exception being, strangely, when we pick the cat up, which makes him loopy again. In general though he's a million times better. I think part of the training process is actually about training the cat not to be freaked out by the dog and learn that we won't let him hurt him, which makes them more relaxed and less likely to do the running off which starts the dog off!

countrykitten Sat 29-Dec-12 16:28:20

OnaPromise I am impressed! I have a friend who rescues greyhounds and she will not ever risk them with small furry things. Hers will chase and eat squirrels and even ate a friend's guinea pig. You are clearly a brave lady and a talented dog trainer!

Floralnomad Sat 29-Dec-12 16:36:58

As your cats sound quite brave I'm sure you will be able to crack this but please don't ever be blasé about it even if they seem like they are getting along. An acquaintance of ours thought she had 'cracked it' with her Patterdale pup and cat until she came home one day to find the dog had mauled the cat , fortunately it could be saved and the dog was rehomed.

OnaPromise Sat 29-Dec-12 19:30:57

countrykitten - the rescue he came from test them with cats first, and then he was in a foster home with a cat for a bit before he came to us. They said the dogs who come from that particular trainer are often trainable with cats - to do with how they are trained from pups, apparently. Then I just did what they told me to do, and it has all been fine.

bottleofbeer Sun 30-Dec-12 20:59:27

My cat hissed and swiped every time the dog came near her in the early days. Regardless of whether he was paying attention to her or not. She is usually the most, placid, stupid cat who quite enjoys being carried around like a baby/pushed about in a doll's pram so this was unheard of behaviour from her.

She camps out upstairs now and is getting braver. Doesn't hiss or swipe unless he tries to chase her and tolerates him much more. I kind of expect as time goes on and she realises he's really not a threat she'll calm down much more. Of course if she runs he chases like it's a brilliant exciting game but he's now realising she's not particularly interested in playing with him so he's getting less and less interested. Hopefully it's just a simple case of giving it time for you too.

bumpybecky Mon 31-Dec-12 17:53:16

the cats can't get up high - they're both 16+, Stupid has very poor muscle tone (she saw the vet a couple of months back, nothing seriously wrong, just down to laziness and lack of exercise) and Grumpy is terminally clumsy (always has been!)

the dog doesn't really get the chance to chase them - they stand their ground and screech, growl, hiss and swipe until we rescue them by removing the dog!

it's got to the point now that the dog spends lots of time running between the stair gate and cat flap looking for the cats and he will not settle if he thinks they're around sad he tried to bite DH earlier when we tried to move him from the back door where he was whining at the cat in the garden

in the first few days we were working on coming back when we called his name and also sit and down, he'd got quite good, but now he's far too busy hunting for cats to bother coming when I call him sad

even if we do get this sorted, we're never going to be able to leave him uncrated when I'm at work are we? we were intending to leave him with the run of downstairs, but the cats need access to this too so they can get to their food, litter tray and the garden.

I'm feeling very negative about this today. If we'd known he'd be like this we wouldn't have adopted him. He's a lovely dog, but I'm beginning to think we're not the right home for him sad

swanthingafteranother Mon 31-Dec-12 21:51:10

Move litter tray upstairs (bathroom?) until problem solved? Let them in garden when you are at home, and he is indoors?

We once had visiting Springer for a few months in kitchen 9-3pm and we found it easier to just relocate cats (3 cats) upstairs whilst he was there,and going in and out of house etc, causing commotion. It was an issue as you say in the shortterm, but I know people with Springers and cats, and it has sorted itself out in the end. The cats are allowed upstairs, and the Springer isn't, so there is always a way to get away from him.

Another friend's cat used to use flat roof to get down into garden from a bedroom window hmm to avoid Springer, but as you say that isn't ideal if they can't jump.

swanthingafteranother Mon 31-Dec-12 21:57:05

The other thing I remember was how excellent the recall of the visiting Springer was, even though he has only met me twice, he could be relied upon to come back from a long way off, once we had made friends smile. So maybe you don't need to worry about keeping on a lead forever. I may be wrong, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly he worked out I was looking after him, and how affectionate the bond was, that he wanted to return despite being unbelievably energetic (and having another owner)

bumpybecky Wed 16-Jan-13 15:23:14

final update - we returned him to the rescue people today and very much hope he can find his forever home soon sad

crockydoodle Wed 16-Jan-13 15:39:56

Sprinters/ collies should have fields to run around. I can't see how they would be suited to living in a townhouse.

Floralnomad Wed 16-Jan-13 15:48:36

Sounds like you have made a sensible decision , well done .

tooearlytobeup Wed 16-Jan-13 20:12:28

Oh I'm sorry to hear that, it must have been so hard for you.

Willowisp Wed 16-Jan-13 22:53:30

Just wanted to say youve made the right decision & I'm surprised the rescue (was he a rescue ?) even considered homing that kind of dog to you ?

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