How to Teach an Old Dog to Like Cats


Society has considered dogs and cats as mortal foes, but it’s another stereotype that needs to be broken. Typically, dogs are territorial and gregarious, while cats are easily startled and aloof. However, it does not mean that they cannot share the same space. They are just going to need a little help from you.

Dogs and cates that are brought up together in a loving, positive, and encouraging environment, they are going to be buddies, or at least can tolerate each other.

Tips to Help Your Dog and Cat to Get Along

1.    Do not take the breed into account, consider the personality instead.

It is believed by may that certain breeds of dogs and cats don’t usually get along. Don’t look at the breed. It is more important to consider their personality and energy level. If your cat is skittish, a dog that is territorial and aggressive won’t be a good fit. If you have an older dog, don’t get a rambunctious kitten because your dog would hate sharing space with them.

If you already have a dog and a cat that doesn’t match in terms of personality, you should have a backup plan. You can also opt to set up your house that will keep them separated. If you are planning on adopting a pet, you must do your homework. You can ask the previous owner or shelter if the dog or cat has lived with other animals before and if they get along.

2.    Train your dog

In order for your dog to get along with cats, teach them to control their impulses. If your dog leaps across the kitchen when you drop food, or they go on high alert whenever they see a squeaky toy, getting a cat right off the bat probably won’t work. Your dog will likely jump up when they spot a cat.

Hold off their face time until your dog has mastered to stay put. A leash could also be handy during their first several meetings.

3.    Give your cat their own territory before meeting the dog

Cats need their protected space –  a base camp of some sort that is just theirs. You have to make your cat’s space off-limits to your dog. You can create safe areas around the house, as well, so your cat can navigate a shared territory confidently without getting into trouble with their canine sibling.

You can take advantage of your house’s vertical space since cats are great climbers. Install shelves, buy trees, or you can put a cat bed on top of a bookcase. This will allow your cat to observe your dog from a protected and safe distance. They can also cross the room without even touching the floor.

Also, keep the dog away from the cat’s litter box. Your cat must feel safe while they are doing their business. This will also prevent your dog from snacking on your cat’s feces, which could happen, believe me. This bad habit can cause your dog to catch intestinal parasites, which can cause a slew of problems such as weight loss, diarrhea, vomiting, and anemia.

Baby gates could also work, but some dogs are natural escape artists. It is important that you keep the cat’s litter box uncovered in placed in an open space, so your cat won’t be trapped and cornered in the middle of doing their business.

4.    Exercise your dog’s mind and body

It is essential that dogs get enough exercise so that their energy is released. When they have released their energy somewhere else, they are able to slow down and control themselves around felines. Dogs need a lot of stimulation, as well. You can use toys, lure coursing, herding-type activities, and high-intensity trick training.

If you don’t have time to exercise your dog, you can always hire a dog walker or enroll your dog in doggy daycare.

5.    Let your dog and cat follow their noses

It is actually an excellent idea to let your dog and cat sniff each other’s toys and beddings before you introduce them face to face. Doing this can satisfy their curiosity and prevent potential fights.

6.    Carefully plan their first meeting

You only have one chance to make their meeting great. Cats and dogs love food, which can help them like each other. You can schedule their first meeting during mealtime. However, you have to keep your dog on a leash, and both should be on opposite sides of a door that is closed. Even though they don’t see one another, they are able to smell each other while they are enjoying their food. Both will begin to associate what they are smelling with food, which is a good thing.

You can do the mealtime blind meeting for several weeks before you introduce them face to face. Continue feeding them on opposite sides until you get rid of the barrier altogether. They will end up eating side by side and still ignoring each other. Just to be safe, you have to keep your dog on a leash until you are sure that it is safe to take the leash off.

7.    Keep their toys and food separate

After you’ve successfully charmed your dog and cat using feeding exercises, you have to keep their bowls separate. You can schedule regular mealtimes for both, and no free feeding. Put the bowls in separates places of the house. You can put the cat’s bowl on a higher spot. This will prevent disastrous mealtime encounters with the two. Keep an eye on their toys, as well. They will compete over toys, which will lead to fighting.

8.    If you can, consider raising a cat and a dog together

When you socialize them at a young age, it would be easier than letting them meet as adults. Puppies are easy to train – they are like sponges that will soak up new information, skills, and situations. However, you still have to be watchful to ensure that everything is going smoothly, especially when your dog goes through their “teenage” stage.

What Seems to be the Problem Why Some Dogs and Cats Don’t Get Along?

As much as owners want their dogs and cats to get along. Their personality quirks and natural instincts usually get in the way. Several dog breeds have been bred to be hunters for generations, and that hunting instinct runs deep even if they don’t intend to do it.

Also, puppies have less self-control. On the other hand, cats are cautious. They can recognize threats, and because of it, they can be fearful. When a dog and a cat are put together, they show compatibility issues, and it can be worse depending on their specific personalities.

Solutions to Get Your Dogs and Cat to Get Along

If a dog is showing some sort of predatory aggression toward felines, it can be changed with proper training and loads of patience on the part of the owner or trainer.

Socialization

Starting to socialize your dog with cats at a young age has the best chance of success. During their first sixteen weeks of life, puppies are very much open to new experiences. You can start to introduce your puppy with cats and do it on a regular basis. When your pup behaves nicely, give them a reward, and praise them.

Desensitization

You do this through gradual exposure. You can start by safely locking your dog in an enclosed space where they are able to see the cat but cannot get to it. When they act calmly while seeing a cat on the other side, reward your dog. Do that several times until you are sure that you can put your dog in the same area as the cat. You can have your dog on a leash first and move them closer to the cat. It is important that you are committed, and you have the time because it is a slow process. With dedication and consistency, your dog will ultimately get used to the cat.

Impulse Control

The reason why your dog snatches food on the table, barks at people outside, and chase a cat is a lack of impulse. You can train your dog the skill of impulse-control. Mastering the skill before you introduce your dog to cats will streamline the process of training.

Guidelines on How to Make Your Dog Like Your Cat

Plan Ahead

  • First, you have to be realistic. If you have a dog already, you have to think a million times before you introduce a cat into your home. It would be unfair to both animals to experience such a significant change that they are not ready for.
  • If you feel there is a need to train your dog first, don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you are not knowledgeable enough when it comes to training your dog’s behavior, you can hire a professional dog trainer to do it for you. They can assess the limits of your dog and work with you so they can create an effective strategy.
  • You have to keep your expectations reasonable. Don’t expect much too soon, for this is a slow process.
  • Start them young. Kittens and puppies that grown-up together would have the best chance in terms of getting along until they are adults. If you have a full-grown dog, you can consider getting a kitten. Kittens are not afraid of dogs, and they are less likely to trigger their chase instincts.
  • You can do a test run before deciding to get a cat. If you know a relative or a friend who has a well-behaved cat and is used to dogs, ask them if you can bring your pooch over just to test the waters. It will allow you to have an idea of how hard it will be to train your dog to get used to living with a feline.
  • If you are already decided that you would bring home a cat, you can start by bringing items that smell like a cat, such as beds, grooming supplies, litter boxes, scratching posts, and food bowls. Give it time for your dog to get used to the objects.

Training Your Dog Beforehand

  • First, your dog must master the basics. Teaching dogs to get along with cats is quite a high bar to clear. Dogs are wired to chase small and furry things. Start by training your dog to obey commands such as sit, lie down, stay, heel, and come.
  • You can use an event marker to let your dog know that you liked a behavior they did. A clicker is a great option. Utilizing a clicker will allow your dog to understand what action they are being rewarded for.
  • Your dog has to learn the command, “leave it.” This command is harder to teach than the basic ones. The “leave it” command is a very useful tool that will allow you to stop your dog from doing undesirable behavior. This will be invaluable for them to safely interact with a feline.

Getting Your Dog Used to Have a Cat Being Around

  • You can start in an area outdoors that is neutral. Your dog considers your home their territory, and they may feel threatened when a new animal is brought in. It is better to start outside, with your dog on a leash and the cat in a pen. Approach the pen gradually from a distance and when your dog notices the cat, stop.

Let your dog stare at the feline for a few seconds, then utter your dog’s name. When your dog looks at you, click and give a treat. Repeat the process so your dog will be able to associate with the reward the behavior of remaining calm in the presence of a cat.

Keep doing the exercise until your dog is standing next to the pen. You will need plenty of patience here.

  • When introducing a cat to your dog in your home, you can use a baby gate to keep them in separate spaces. This is a great option if your cat is distressed outside being in a pen or for some reason, you can’t have them meet outside in a neutral area.
  • You can also use a crate to keep your dog and cat separated. Keep in mind that you can use this option if your dog is crate-trained.

Moving Forward

  • The cat should set the pace. When your cat becomes curious, they will go to the baby gate to take a look when you and your dog walk by. If both animals seem curious and calm when they are interacting through the gate, you can try to have them both in the same room.
  • Keep your dog on a leash, but make it loose. You should be prepared to react if ever your dog attempts to chase the cat. Don’t use the command “leave it” in this exercise as it is already inappropriate. Continue the activity for a few weeks and never try letting your dog interact with the cat without a leash unless you are certain that your dog won’t be aggressive.
  • When you feel confident that they can interact in peace, you can take off the leash. However, never take your eyes off them. Whenever your dog does a good behavior, click and reward.

Other Tips

  • You have to supervise all their interactions until you are absolutely positive that both of them can be trusted. Until then, don’t leave them alone together.
  • You should respect their boundaries and not force them to interact with each other. It will only cause them to associate unpleasant feelings with being around each other. They are more likely to lash out because of it.
  • You have to stay calm at all times. Your dog and cat will sense when you are on-edge and tense. It could make them nervous too. Whenever you, your cat, or your dog becomes upset, separate them, and return when all are calm.
  • You have to make sure that your cat will never feel trapped. Cats generally don’t understand what a leash is for, and keeping your dog subdued won’t make your cat feel at ease either. When your cat feels trapped, they will feel desperate and may flee or lash out.

Related Questions

If I put a cat disguise on a dog, will it work?

No, it won’t work. You will just stress out the dog because of the costume. It won’t fool your cat either. So, don’t even attempt to do it.

Is it okay for them to play?

It absolutely is, as long as they are just playing and not fighting. When they are playing, they are getting along quite well.

Final Thoughts

Teaching your dog to get along with a cat doesn’t happen overnight. Make sure that you follow the tips in this article if you want your dog and cat to get along very well. Dog and cats getting along is not impossible. You just have to be super patient and committed. There should also be consistency in training your dog.

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