Chris Kouwenhoven

May i introduce... Fido

When introducing a dog to a cat, the question is really one of proper dog training. Dogs usually want to chase and play with cats, and cats are usually afraid and defensive. After all, the cat has a lot more to lose if the relationship gets nasty. Once the cat is confident that the dog does not pose a threat, then the opportunity opens for a wonderful friendship to blossom.

1. As with all animal introductions, scent is the all-important factor in getting acquainted. Before letting the pets have visual contact with each other, let them sniff each other's bedding.

2. The dog should know some basic commands like "sit", "down", "come", and "stay". Reward obedience with food treats so that the motivation to comply will be strong enough to withstand the distraction of having a cat in the room.

3. Initially, the dog should always be wearing a training collar and a leash when the cat is present so that any attempt to bark at, or chase, the cat can be halted instantly. Praise and food treats should be lavished on the dog when he is calm and obedient in the cat's presence.

(If he is only punished when the cat is around, he may redirect aggression toward the cat.)

Precautions: Keep the dog and cat separated when you are not home until you are certain that the cat will be safe. Be sure that the cat does not have to pass by the dog's area to get to the litterboxes or he may look for a safer and more convenient toilet area. As some dogs enjoy "raiding" the litterbox, it may be best to place a baby gate across the entrance of the room to allow the cat, but not the dog, to pass through.

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