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6 month old Rott/shepherd

Helen0423
June 26th, 2008, 09:29 PM
A week ago we welcomed a 6 month old Rott/shepherd pup. He is a sweet dog but we have one big problem. We have four cats....he had never been around cats. He goes crazy when he sees them.. barking and growling and hair up on his back. I have been reading training manuals etc like there is no tomorrow... and we have been trying everything suggested. He is crate trained so when he is in the house he either has to go in his crate or he has to be tied up so he can't race through the house after the cats. He might only be 6 months old but he is 65 lb. My cats who are also our babies... are very upset.. and have been hiding upstairs. They are afraid to come down and even used the tub for a litter box. One cat we have took off and was gone for two days.. back for one.. and took off again... I am sure because she is upset about the dog. I was so upset tonight that I actually emailed the original owner to see if he wanted to take him back as there was someone else interested in owning him when we went to see him. I am having a really hard time with this as he is a nice dog, seems quite smart, and loving to us and my 13 yr old daughter. We got him to heel on walks and he is very gentle with food and treats etc. I just don't know what to do about the cat issue. I am so scared he will go somewhere where he is not treated well... but would love to see him in a place where he is the only pet.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Chaser
June 26th, 2008, 09:45 PM
I have never experienced this first hand, and I know other members will have a lot to add, but a couple basic tips that come to mind would be:

Try to create a safe space for your cats where the dog will not be allowed, where they can access their food, water and litter without having to deal with puppy. You can use baby gates to keep the dog out of their space and eventually teach him that certain rooms/floors are off-limits.

I would also highly recommend umbiical training (keep his leash tied around your waist in the house - he can only go where you go) for your dog. It's a great tool for training in general, helps develop the bond between you, and also restricts his movement within the house.

Good luck! I hope you can give it a bit longer to try a few new methods before having to give up on him. I think it can take a bit of time to give everyone a fair chance to adjust to a new situation like this.

aslan
June 26th, 2008, 09:57 PM
Helen don't panic yet. I too owned a rot/shep mix and your picture looks very similar. Remember your little one ( yeah right) is still young and it's only been a week. Give him more time, he's in a new home with strangers and these really short funny looking dogs.

Helen0423
June 27th, 2008, 07:00 AM
That is exactly what we have been doing. The leash around my arm so he is not allowed to run free in the house or the crate. My husband is on vacation next week so maybe he will have better luck. I just feel like I have no control because he is so big... I am feeling like we bite off more than we can chew so to speak. I also feel heart sick to uproot him again after he was already returned to the previous owner because he was knocking over their 6 year old. Not because of aggressive behaviour. Thanx so much for the support and ideas... I will take all I can get.

jessi76
June 27th, 2008, 08:58 AM
a 6mth puppy will adjust just fine to a cat household, but it'll take time. one major rule - NEVER EVER allow the dog to chase a cat, EVEN playfully. make sure it's NEVER allowed.

you've only had this pup a week. it can take MONTHS for him to adjust to the cats. and YEARS for them to co-exist peacefully. and maybe even MANY YEARS for them to be friends.

definitely keep cat-only safe zones. be sure the litter box(s) is in one of these NO -DOG zones. be sure cat food is up off the floor and in a safe zone.

I have 2 cats and a dog. we brought the pup into the 2 cat household. our cats eat atop a microwave cart and the litter boxes are in a closed room that has a cat-sized pet door. the dog cannot disturb these areas. at first, we gated off part of the house for the cats - the dog was NOT ALLOWED to go in this zone unless leashed and controlled. we worked diligently to teach him LEAVE IT (to leave the cats alone). we also let the cats defend themselves... our dog got scratched in the face only a couple times before he learned not to stick his nose there.

above all, we supervised. we crated the dog when we were not home, or could not ensure the cats safety. but we did make sure to encourage social time between them - calmly, safely, and positively. when (if) your dog leaves the cat(s) alone, REWARD & praise him. give him toys that are MORE fun than the cats.

it'll happen, but it will take time - maybe alot of time.

Helen0423
June 27th, 2008, 09:46 AM
That is what we are doing now. Crate when we aren't home, and at night. No free range in the house, on leash and always with us... cats have cat doors, and treats when he does listen. I think the fact he is so large bothers me. Even a paw hitting a cat will hurt them as one is still a kitten and seems to be the bravest out of the four. So new to me and over whelming I guess.... Thanx for the info.. we will keep plugging away.

Dingo
June 27th, 2008, 10:46 AM
My last dog was fairly large. When we brought her home our one cat stayed under a bed for 2 days. One good swipe at her nose with claws out a few days later and she was very polite around the cats for the rest of their lives....

Lissa
June 27th, 2008, 11:22 AM
Please don't give up.... Although he is quite big, he is very much a puppy and depending on his socialization/training in his previous home, he may be more puppyish than you'd expect a 6 month old to be.

Every dog will have a different prey drive but the 2 breeds in your dog are known to have an extremely HIGH prey drive... Does that mean they cannot be socialized, trained, desensitized or managed around smaller animals? Of course not. He may never be 100% trustworthy with cats but then again, he might - it depends a lot on how you manage things and his personality/prey drive. There are no guarantees.

You've had some good suggestions... but I would advise caution on how much you are crating him. Not only does he need a lot of physical exercise, he needs just as much mental exercise.. You've got a dog that needs to work. If you are crating him when you aren't home/can't watch him AND overnight - you need to be exercising and training for almost every moment that he's not confined. While crates are good tools and likely necessary in this case, they are often overused and some people end up with a dog that doesn't know how to behave outside of a crate.

I would also start a pretty intense desensitization process. If he reacts when he sees a cat 10 ft away, then you need to add A LOT more distance. Keep moving back until he is not reacting - that is where you start training. Make sure you have a tasty reward and start feeding him so long as the cat is in sight. Then you literally inch closer - if you ever get a reaction, you've moved too fast and need to take a few steps backward. The idea is to set your puppy up for success by not allowing any reactions (obviously this is hard to do when you live with cats but do you best to set things up so your dog does not practice reacting).
If you have 1 cat that is confident or less afraid, you can use him/her in a proximity training session. It's important that the cat either has an escape route or the dog is contained... Something I did with a friend's Golden who found cat chasing extremely rewarding was put my cat in her crate on the chair/table (my cat is quite dog savvy - I wouldn't do this with a timid cat) and stood a few feet away, rewarding - slowly making our way closer... It took 2 days (I was dogsitting for 2 weeks) to change her response from whining/lunging/chasing to being calm, ignoring and maintaining distance from my cat. Nonetheless, I never left the dog unsupervised, my cat always had 2/3 of the house to herself and its important to note that while it stopped her from chasing MY cat, other cats are still fair game. While my friend's Golden reacted in the beginning, she quickly realized that it wasn't working and the cat (her trigger) wasn't doing anything/going anywhere. Ultimately she realized it was more rewarding to interact with me and behaved herself.

A few guidelines:
1. Management - don't let your dog practice reacting (dogs get better at what they practice, the longer it goes on, the harder it will be to stop)... Keep them separate unless you are working with the puppy.
2. Exercise, Exercise and more Exercise - both physical and mental. In the beginning it can be especially helpful to work with a tired puppy - especially if you are working in close quarters
3.Train a variety of behaviours - watch me, touch, go to your bed, bow, sit, down and most any tricks so you have things to ask for when you need to redirect your dog's attention away from the cat and back to you. It may be helpful to have a command that essentially means "leave it" but that is exclusive to cats... Mine is "just a kitty" - my dog who is a hunter, will immediately redirect his focus elsewhere or go and greet the cat - his prey drive is essentially turned off when I say "just a kitty" because he knows they are not his prey.
4. Redirect your dogs prey drive to something appropriate - make a lure pole or take your dog off leash to play fetch or with other dogs. Dogs basically have a prey drive tank and it needs to be filled on a daily basis - if it isn't filled in appropriate ways then they will find a way to meet their needs - for instance by going after cats.
5. Do not expect overnight results. This will take time! And even with the best trainer/techniques you may not get a harmonious relationship. But that doesn't mean that you can't aim for it!

With regards to the cats - they often needs months to adjust, most do not deal well with change. The best thing you can do is make sure they have a large area to move around freely without fear of the puppy. If they like toys or catnip then get them out and spend extra time with them.

pitgrrl
June 27th, 2008, 11:34 AM
Just one other suggestion since you've already gotten a ton of great advice, you might want to invest in some baby gates, or gates like this (http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=12521) so the cats have a safe escape route to an dog free area. It might also help with desensitization while keeping all parties separated and safe.

Stacer
June 27th, 2008, 06:58 PM
Super advice from everyone.

I just want to add that 3 months ago we adopted a 1-2 yr old rotti/lab cross and dealt with the exact same response when we brought her home to meet our 2 cats. It took over 2 months for the dog's reaction to go from a chase/lunge to being alert/watching when a cat came into the room and now to finally (for the most part) ignoring the cats. She still playfully goes after a cat once in a while, but we are still working to prevent it.

I know exactly how you feel. I was so overwhelmed emotionally when I thought it wouldn't work out with the dog and cats and questioned whether we could make it work. We stuck it out and now we are so happy that we did.

The animals will sort themselves out, it doesn't happen quickly. It may take months but you have to continue to work with your dog, that's the key.

We set our cats up in a bedroom (we're living in a 500 sq foot apt) and put a babygate across the door so they have a completely dog free safe zone. When we're not home, the cats go in the room and the door is closed so that the dog can't chase or hurt them. We have also made all of our high furniture available for the cats to jump up on to escape the dog if they're feeling frightened.

Our method of training has been very similar to what Lissa mentioned above.

Good luck!

Helen0423
June 29th, 2008, 07:30 PM
Thanx very much for the response. We are going to try all. The cats wouldn't care about the dog if he didn't act like that. We have always had a dog around them.... and they would sleep curled up with her. They just hide from him in the rest of the house.. and peek at him around the corner of the couch. Ace.. the youngest is the bravest.

We will keep plugging away for a while and see what happens. Thanx again and I will let you know the progress if any.

Helen0423
July 1st, 2008, 08:20 AM
Just wanted to let you know we have had some success with the Dog vrs Cats situation. After some research and suggestions we tried the spray water bottle with a hint of lemon juice. He would growl and bark and hair would stand up.. and if he didn't listen to NO or redirect... he got a squirt. Worked like a charm! He was rather shocked but he instantly laid down and put his head on his paws looking up at us. After that the cats walked by and he never budged. I can't believe the effect it had on him. Maybe there is hope!!!! Didn't even have to use it again... just having it within eye shot keeps him under control.

Stacer
July 1st, 2008, 09:32 AM
You just have to be careful that he doesn't associate the negative action of being squirted with the cats, it could lead to a larger reaction later to the detriment of one of your kitties (ie: eliminate the thing that makes me get squirted-the cat).

jessi76
July 1st, 2008, 09:50 AM
I've never seen one think like that - to associate negativity enough to want to eliminate something. sure, they understand negative associations (the squirt coming from the squirt bottle), but I haven't seen one think much past that (harm the cat that caused mom to pick up the bottle that delivered the squirt). dogs live "in the moment". so to the dog, cat = squirt. that's usually the extent of it.

I used a squirt bottle on my dog too - it also worked so well that I didn't need to actually squirt it more than a couple times. Just picking it up was enough.

VERY glad to hear things are going well!

Helen0423
July 1st, 2008, 10:33 AM
Yes.. it was only a couple squirts and he sat down and payed attention to me. So far.... second day and not a bark, growl or a squirt.... cats are happy, Diego is happy.....makes me happy!!!:goodvibes:

Stacer
July 1st, 2008, 10:55 AM
I've never seen one think like that - to associate negativity enough to want to eliminate something. sure, they understand negative associations (the squirt coming from the squirt bottle), but I haven't seen one think much past that (harm the cat that caused mom to pick up the bottle that delivered the squirt). dogs live "in the moment". so to the dog, cat = squirt. that's usually the extent of it.

I used a squirt bottle on my dog too - it also worked so well that I didn't need to actually squirt it more than a couple times. Just picking it up was enough.

VERY glad to hear things are going well!

:shrug:I don't know, I'm just going by what the behaviouralist told us. She's hardcore positive reinforcement though.

I would think if they have the ability to associate certain behaviours with getting a treat and continually carry out said behaviour of their own volition to get that treat then why can't it work the opposite way? Continually getting sprayed when the cat is near (not saying you're continually doing it Helen) leading to not wanting to be sprayed when the cat is near, cat=spray=bad kitty.

Helen0423
July 1st, 2008, 11:56 AM
3 sprays yesterday... and so far he is fine today. I read about the spray in several training manuals which is why I decided to try it. Now when a cat walks by.. and he is well behaved.. he gets a treat. So positive reinforcement

Lissa
July 3rd, 2008, 08:25 AM
:shrug:I don't know, I'm just going by what the behaviouralist told us. She's hardcore positive reinforcement though.

I would think if they have the ability to associate certain behaviours with getting a treat and continually carry out said behaviour of their own volition to get that treat then why can't it work the opposite way? Continually getting sprayed when the cat is near (not saying you're continually doing it Helen) leading to not wanting to be sprayed when the cat is near, cat=spray=bad kitty.

You are right Stacer.... It can and does happen. What also happens is the dog can become wary of humans/hands or any bottle with water or realize that they are only sprayed when a human is around (so the behaviour can still occur when there is no human in sight).. Definately not a good thing IMO... Even if negative associations/bad timing weren't something to worry about, I personally do not think the dog is learning anything. Is the behaviour less likely to occur? Sure, if the individual dog finds a spray of lemon water negative enough... But he is being forced to act a certain way instead of actually dealing with the root cause of the behaviour. For example, lets assume that he had a scary experience with a cat and is afraid of them. By spraying him when he reacts, you scare him enough to stop lunging/barking but what have you taught him? NOTHING.He is still afraid of cats but now he may not give you any warning signs... So instead of lungng and barking, next time he will just bite.
You need to be very careful when incorporating positive punishment - if it is not done correctly, it can backfire with worse behaviour than what you started with.

Helen0423
July 3rd, 2008, 08:48 AM
Just wanted to add... he is not afraid of cats.. he had never seen one before in his life. He is responding to NO KITTY now not the spray. There has been no barking and he has been close enough to sniff and wag his tail when one walked by, no growling barking or hair standing up on his back. It is not like I am spraying him every time he reacts... what I am doing is giving him a treat now everytime he listens and does what he is told.

Lissa
July 3rd, 2008, 08:54 AM
Just wanted to add... he is not afraid of cats.. he had never seen one before in his life. He is responding to NO KITTY now not the spray. There has been no barking and he has been close enough to sniff and wag his tail when one walked by, no growling barking or hair standing up on his back. It is not like I am spraying him every time he reacts... what I am doing is giving him a treat now everytime he listens and does what he is told.

It was an example of what could happen when you rely on positive punishment...

I hope that it works for you - just wanted the make the risks/drawbacks of this tactic clear since there was some confusion on whether or not dogs make negative associations!

Helen0423
July 3rd, 2008, 10:03 AM
Thank you.. I apprecitate that.. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't on a squirting spree with him for everything. He is such a sweet loveable pup... and now that I am not stressing over the growling at my other babies I can relax and enjoy his great personality! Thanx Lissa!

Helen0423
July 7th, 2008, 08:00 PM
Still stressed out over this training thing. Lots of barking and nipping and other wonderful things. Had me in tears earlier. I emailed someone regarding obedience training but haven't heard back anything yet. Sorry just needed to vent. Not sure what to do... getting so stressed that I am sure it is not helping anything. My patiences are shoot and that can't be a good thing. Why did I let myself get such a big puppy that I feel I can't control. I am used to little 6 month old puppies. Ok I will stop now... :sad::sorry:

Stacer
July 7th, 2008, 08:26 PM
Maybe you should start over with the introductions. Keep them completely separated, and slowly build up to visual introductions by bringing blankets that the cats have slept on out to the dog to smell and get used to the cats' scent without the cats right there.

Do the cats have their safe zone? Have you tried tethering? What about having him sit and feeding him loads and loads of tasty high value treats when the cats are present, so he can associate the cats with something really good. One thing our behaviouralist told us is that it is imperative to stop a chase before it happens (hence the tethering). Make him know that it's not OK to chase, bark or hurt a cat.

The only other advice I can give you, is be consistent and repetitive. Like I said before, it took us several months to get our rotti/lab Skylar to the point that she can tolerate the cats walking around the same room as her. You just have to be patient and calm and keep working with him. If you have to go back a step or two, so be it.

Helen0423
July 7th, 2008, 08:38 PM
He has been tethered since day one. They are seperated because the cats.. other than Ace who is the youngest.. won't go near him. He doesn't lounge at him ... just wags his tail and occasionally bark. It is more the biting and when we try to put his leash on more biting.. or rolling on his back biting and legs flying... he just goes crazy. So we will stop.. and talk to him and get him to just sit..which he will.. until we try to touch him again and then the biting and rolling ... until you don't even want to take him for a walk after that. During the walk he is fine.

The cats have a safe zone. We have cat doors in our bedroom door and the basement door. The tasty treat thing.. we will try that more than what we are doing now. He always gets a treat when he does what is asked.

I have spent the last two hours surfing the web looking for information and basically it is what we have tried.. and it is also more for a smaller puppy. Like the growling and grabbing the back of their neck like the mother would do. How do u do some of this for a pup so big? I need sleep... I am feeling beaten :(

Lissa
July 8th, 2008, 08:36 AM
I am not sure I understand what is wrong...

If he's been tethered to you from day one, I am not sure why its a struggle to get a collar and leash on.... Either he should already have one on or he should be desensitized to the whole leash-collar drill...?????? HOWEVER, if he isn't getting enough stimulation (mental and physical) - I could see him acting this way out of frustration... One other possibility is of course lack of training/socialization - its likely that he's missed out on A LOT of basic handling and you typically see this kind of mouthing/tantrum in immature puppies...

It sounds like regular puppy behaviour... All you can do is handle him like crazy - always making it a pleasant experience. Oftentimes its best to start without a leash/collar - you can have one nearby but don't actually put it on. So just run your hands all over his body, concentrating on the head, neck and shoulder area - treating him so long as he remains calm). Keep the sessions short but do them as often as you can. Something that may help while you get him accustom to all this is to use a slip leash (they slip over the head and tighten so that dog cannot get out - no buckles or clips to worry about so its fast and painless)... However, my only concern there is that he may not be leashed trained and could run the risk of choking himself...

Up the mental and physical stimulation any way you can (frisbee, find it games and training of course).

I hope you get in touch with a trainer!

He always gets a treat when he does what is asked.

This is not an ideal way to train ... It could turn into bribing (which means that dog won't listen unless he sees a treat)... This is basically continuous reinforcement - it doesn't keep the dog guessing which leads to boredome and sloppy execution of commands... You should train on a variable reinforcement schedule - only rewarding the best examples of the behaviour you want/ask for... Never let the dog know when you have a treat or when you are going to give him one...
I am a huge clicker training fan and my primary reinforcer is food so its not that I don't think food rewards are a good idea... They are great but it needs to be done properly to get the best results.

Helen0423
July 8th, 2008, 10:50 AM
Hi Lissa... I am sorry.. maybe I was so stressed at the time I didn't explain myself right.

We have been following all the rules with tethering and rewards etc...and he was doing pretty good. Over the last couple days for some reason he has regressed. For example my husband was trying to just put the leash on him to take him for a walk and Diego would roll on his back and legs would be flopping and he would be bitting. Which can be painful because he is a big puppy with a full set of big teeth. We tried just ignoring him so he'd settle down. Once he did you could pat him and love him... but that would only last for a couple min and he'd get all silly again. Once the leash is on him.. he walks great on it and behaves great. He is even doing heel and sitting when we stop etc....I agree it is probably regular puppy behaviour but where he is a 65 lb puppy it is hard to handle and the bites hurt and I was just looking for help to control that better. I am sure he is upset at being tethered in the house too but there is no choice in that matter. We do remove the cats and put them in a room so he can go through the house. I am sure this behaviour is due to lack of socializing and attention when he was really little. This is the reason the people who owned him found a new home for him because with two small kids they did not have the time to work with him... unfortunitely for us we are the ones paying for this. So he is leash trained when he will stop acting so silly and let us put it on him.

I did read about this clicker training and would love to know more about this. We owned two siberian huskys before this and never had this problem with the biting etc and they were also big hyper dogs.

The trainer I spoke about did get back to me but her classes do not start until September... but she did offer to come do a couple private lessons for $35 an hour to give us ideas what to do and she highly recommended we enroll him in september. September seems so far away and we need the help now. The othe trainer we found charges $1500 and that is way beyond my budget.

We will up the mental physical stimulation ... it has been like high 30 C here the last few days so it has also been so hot that maybe that is getting to him as well as it is getting to us.

thanx so much for your reply Liisa.. I will take all the advice I can get.

TeriM
July 9th, 2008, 12:26 AM
Sounds like puppy behaviour to me. The good news is that puppies that age seem to regress for a short while and then they recover for a few weeks and then back and so on .....

I would suggest when he does that roll on back thing and tries to bite you that you let out a short Yipe (similar to the noise a dog would make if you stepped on it or if they were playing to hard with another dog) and then immediately turn your back and walk away. When the pup is calm then try again, it shouldn't take to many times before he gets the idea.

Another option is to start working on sit stay and down stay as methods to calm him down. When they need to concentrate to hold a command it generally has the effect of making them focus and calm down. Start with very short times and gradually work up to a longer time period. One of my most useful commands is "on your bed" where my dog must go to his bed and is not allowed to leave until released. I do let him sit, stand or lie down but he is not allowed to step off his bed. It is very usefull when I am trying to get stuff done and he is being a pest :o.

I think it would be a great idea to get the trainer to come and give you some tips to start with :thumbs up.

Helen0423
July 10th, 2008, 03:27 PM
Thanks TeriM we are trying your suggestions now. I have to admit Diego gave me a really strange look when I yelped!! He stared at me and then put his head down on his paws and looked up at me.... meanwhile I turned my back to him. It definitely did settle him down. I am sure the neighbours are going to think my husband and I have cracked if they can hear us yipping and yapping from inside the house LOL

Chaser
July 10th, 2008, 03:36 PM
I am sure the neighbours are going to think my husband and I have cracked if they can hear us yipping and yapping from inside the house LOL

:laughing: I have a growly kind of noise I use a lot and get some pretty strange reactions to it...but you've clearly seen that speaking your dog's language works wonders! I'm happy to hear you're seeing some all-around improvement. :) Also nice of your trainer to offer some private summer lessons and seems like a reasonable price....I'd take her up on that! :thumbs up