Choose Carefully & Raise them Together

Question:
Am I crazy or is this possible? I want 2 cats and 2 large dogs to get along peacefully in our mountain home. Do you think if we could raise them together we would be able to train the dogs to be guardians of the cats? We love caring for dogs and cats and don’t think we could ever live happily without them.

Dr. Nichol:
Guardians? It is possible that you’re crazy but I like your question anyway. Some cats and dogs do fine together but there are many who have no business in mixed-species relationships.

Kittens who start life with gentle dogs don’t panic when the beasts in their lives get rambunctious. Puppies who learn early that cats are friends – not food are also a good bet.  I recommend forming your kindergarten class on the same day for all 4 youngsters. Keep it fun but not necessarily interactive between species. You’ll just want them associating positive emotional states with being near each other, sort of like monks in training.

Choose dog breeds carefully; many are hard-wired for specific behavioral traits. Consider that retrievers can be habitual retrievers; some herding dogs are incessant herders.  And, at the risk of raising the ire of certain breed enthusiasts, be aware that many terriers are genetically programmed to hunt and should never be trusted with small frightened creatures.  These are generalities with lots of exceptions.

Go ahead and celebrate diversity but keep your expectations realistic. There are cats and dogs who are BFFs but most just ignore each other. At the Nichol house we think our pets would be OK as members of the same country club but we doubt they’d want to shoot a round of golf together. I don’t blame them. That game is too slow for me too.

Dog Behavior Help
A dog who plays nice, respects authority, and understands that the restroom is outside is priceless.  I’ll address out-of-control behaviors as well as the dangerous in my seminar at the Animal Humane Adoption Center, 9132 Montgomery Blvd. NE from 6-9 PM Monday, May 12. Cost: $40. To register go to facebook.com/drjeffnichol and click Events and then Join or call 792-5131. Bring plenty of questions.