Denise Holmes is a local pet behavior counselor who owns Ain’t Misbehavin’. She trains animals and also answers pet questions sent in by NWA moms for us here on Motherlode. Denise has been training for 25 years and is passionate about pets.
Denise uuses her U of A degree in microbiology (minor in psychology) to further the health and well-being of pets and people in NWA and has initiated a variety of programs in the area. To send her a question, email it to: mamas@nwaMotherlode.com. Here’s the latest queestion about kitties and dogs:
My dog keeps chasing our new kitten and I’m afraid he’s going to hurt her. Maybe the new addition was a bad idea. Help!
Kittens pounce, play and RUN. Dogs chase. Chances are they will work it out, but if your kitten is really terrified and you are concerned for her safety, there is at least one thing you can do to help your dog learn not to chase the kitten. Teach ‘leave-it.’
I begin teaching this with food and then apply it to any and everything I don’t want my dog to put his mouth on. It eventually means: ‘No, you can’t have that. No, you may never have that. You might as well walk away.’
Start with one treat on the floor, covered by one hand, and a few treats in your other hand. Let your dog see/sniff the treat on the floor. Do NOT let him have it. Keep quiet as he digs and paws, and attempts to get the treat. When he gives up, say ‘Leave-it’ and reward him with a treat from your other hand. After a few repetitions, he should catch on.
Some dogs will quit digging at the treat on the floor and stare at the your hand. If this happens, try uncovering the floor treat but be ready to move quickly if your dogs goes after it. DO NOT let him get it! He must think he can never have any chance.
Once you have mastered this and your dog can stare at the treat on the floor, or stare at you and not care about the treat on the floor, you are ready for step two. In the next step, you will stand up and play the same game. This will confuse your dog a bit because he is thinking you are further away from the treat, so maybe he can get it. Wrong! You are going to cover it with your foot this time.
When you can stand next to the treat without covering it and without your dog making a md dash for it, you ready for step three. Step three is the moving target, which is what your cat is. You are now going to drop the treat on the floor, saying leave-it, before it hits the ground. The first few times, drop the treat close enough to your feet that you can get to it first if need be. Eventually, you will be able to drop or toss treats without your dog going after them. All the time, please remember to reward your dog with a treat from the other hand. He learns that if he leaves treat A, he gets treat B.
Once you are at this point, you can, hopefully, start applying this command to your kitten. However, please be aware this is not a fool-proof strategy, especially if your kitten makes all those hissing and spitting noises. What self-respecting dog wouldn’t give chase to something making such a ruckus? You may need to begin to teach your kitten NOT to run by rewarding her for staying still.