1. Dogs and Cats Living Together!?!

    August 3, 2017 by Susan Marett

    Do you remember how Bill Murray described the world coming to an end in Ghostbusters (circa 1984)? “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!” As always, Bill Murray delivers the line with perfect comedic timing, but is it that unlikely that dogs and cats can live together? Are you more likely to see a ghoul or zombie than to see your dog and cat snuggle up or at least coexist? Help is on the way!

    Socialization isn’t just dog to dog. If at all possible, socialize your puppy with cats and kittens. “If you want a dog who will be trustworthy around other small animal species, you’re generally better off starting with a pup and raising him to know only appropriate behavior around other animals.” Pat Miller writing in Whole Dog Journal.

    Find the right playmate or companion. If you have a dog, and are adding a cat to your household, find a cat who is already good with dogs. Visit one of our local animal shelters and talk to staff and volunteers about finding a cat who is tolerant — and not fearful — of dogs. Look for a cat whose temperament is calm, confident, and mellow. Here’s a list of 10 Cat Breeds Who Like to Play with Dogs. There are rescue groups devoted to specific cat breeds too!

    … If you have a cat, and are adding a dog, get cozy with shelter staff and find a dog who has been evaluated around cats and/or has history of living with cats. There will be a dog who is the right fit for your home!

    Management Whether the new (or old) pair is mature cat/puppy, mature dog/kitten, mature dog/mature cat, use management so that both parties have a chance to acclimate. Management means that YOU are in charge of how and when the dog and cat see each other, and how close they get to each other. You’re in the driver’s seat with your own training plan and timetable. Use baby gates to create separate safe spaces, set-up high areas that provide your cat or kitten with an escape route, leash or tether your dog to control proximity, and utilize crates when you need reliable containment.

    Management also keeps everyone safe. Prey drive is #real, and there are certain breeds that may be more likely to chase or injure a cat (or worse). We’re generalizing, but can we say terrier? And some retired racing Greyhounds are not a good fit for households with cats either. Having more than one dog also increases the likelihood that a cat will be chased — as dogs may ‘feed off each other’ when excited.

    Last, cats can hurt dogs. Dogs’ eyes are vulnerable, particularly dogs categorized as brachycephalic. Some of the dogs in this group include Pugs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, French Bulldogs, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Brachycephalic dogs typically have shallow eye sockets and somewhat bulging eyes that are easily injured by a cat’s claws.

    Work to Counter-Condition a different response. Let’s say you’ve done a great job managing your cat and dog’s space, but your dog still goes to crazy town if he and the cat get close. Use counter-conditioning to change his response. Begin at a distance at which your dog sees the cat and is alert but not reactive (barking, lunging, jumping), and feed him tiny treats continuously until the cat disappears. When your dog begins looking at you happily when the cat appears, reduce the distance between them by only a foot or two and repeat. Soon you’ll be working ‘up close and personal’ with both!

    Count on Training! Reliable skills always help! If your dog can respond to come, sit, down, stay, and leave it, you’ll be much more likely to have a peaceful household!

    By Susan Marett








  2. Are Dog Parks Right for Your Dog?

    July 27, 2017 by Susan Marett

    Thinking about taking your new puppy or just adopted adult dog to the dog park? Already visiting dog parks on the regular? Here are some tips for keeping the dog park safe, fun, and beneficial for your dog when it’s a good fit, and when to pack it up and go home.

    Consider the Age of Your Puppy

    • Go to the dog park first without your puppy so that you know what to expect!
    • Introduce your puppy to other puppies and adult dogs, one on one and/or in small playgroups, before visiting a dog park…
    • Complete all puppy vaccinations before visiting a dog park so that your puppy is protected from disease.
    • Avoid a visit during the weekend; instead, go at an ‘off’ time so that your puppy can relax and explore.
    • You are your puppy’s leader! Remember that a traumatic event can make a permanent impression upon your puppy. It’s up to you to protect your puppy and not allow other dogs to frighten or scare him.
    • Other dog owners may encourage you to ignore your puppy’s fear or discomfort, but this isn’t a time to worry about what other people think. When a puppy runs away from a dog, this can grab other dogs’ attention as well and cause an ugly chase game. If this happens, pack it up and go home!

    Assess Your Adult Dog

    • Does your dog prefer to play ball or frisbee with you, and is typically disinterested in playing with other dogs? If so, take a pass on the dog park.
    • Is your newly adopted dog undersocialized or unsocialized? If so, find calm and friendly dogs for him to interact with one one one. He’ll gain confidence and learn how to communicate with other dogs!
    • Is your dog an adult? A mature adult? Dogs become more selective as they age, and are less inclined to play with every dog they meet. Dog parks are great for youngsters, but not so great for mature adults (who are not so tolerant of junior’s shenanigans!).
    • Is your dog geriatric? See above. Since dog parks typically attract young adolescent dogs who need more exercise and tend to have fewer physical boundaries with each other, it’s not a good situation for your elderly dog. Best to avoid getting jumped on and bounced around like a bumper car.
    • Does your dog have any obedience training? Obedience training helps you communicate more effectively with your dog and keeps him safe.

    Evaluate Your Dog’s Temperament

    • Is your dog a wallflower, a shrinking violet, an introvert? Does he want to hide once he’s inside the dog park? If so, take a pass. Finding your dog a small group of besties [away from the park] will give him an opportunity to ‘be a dog’ and to keep social skills sharp without the overwhelm.
    • Is your dog a bully? Does you dog ram, roll, and pin other dogs? Is his style more like professional wrestling than loose and relaxed play? Opt out. Not good for him to practice that style of play over and over again, and not good for the other dogs either.
    • Does your dog guard resources such as toys, balls, treats, or you?!? Since you can’t control what other people bring into the park, or how other dogs interact with you, smarter to find other activities for your dog until you can incorporate training and behavior modification into your lifestyle.


    Remember… there’s no shame in making a decision to avoid dog parks or even dog day cares or beaches if your dog doesn’t enjoy off-leash play with new dogs. At the end of the day, it’s likely that your dog, most of all, wants to spend time with you. Most dogs do want and need interactions with other dogs, but you get to decide how and when that should happen!

    By Susan Marett