Q: We have three pets — two cats and a dog – and they all got along very well until recently. Our middle cat, Lila, had major surgery about eight weeks ago and we have kept her separated in order to heal. Since we brought her back out, our dog, Milo, has been relentless. He chases her around the house, and we are afraid he will injure her. We have gone back to separating them, but that isn’t a long-term solution. Is this something that can be salvaged? –Steve Young, Jessup
This situation isn’t unusual. Once a “pack” member is segregated from the family, a dog’s purpose in the family may change. He has to get to know her again in a canine sense.
There are several ways to coach along the relationship and bring harmony back into your home. Dogs and cats are both scent/smell oriented. Start by taking Lila’s blanket or bedding and putting it on Milo’s bed. The next day, return the bedding with his scent back to Lila and swap bedding out again. After about a week, he will become reacquainted with their smells.
Week two would be the time to switch living areas. Move Lila’s litter box out, let her have run of the house and allow Milo to stay in that room for a few hours with one of you. He will sniff everywhere and probably roll around; he may try to find her in the room as well. This allows both of them to safely interact through sensory application.
Then, take Milo out and return Lila (with Litterbox) to her room. This should be repeated as much as possible. Once the switching exercise is done (this should take about three to five days) and Milo is calmer in the “cats” room, then it is time for the re-introduction. Put Milo on a 6-foot-foot leash and sit in an area where you would normally all be together, family room for example. Hold the leash during this introduction period. Open the door and allow Lila to roam. Once Milo tries to chase her, give him a firm vocal command and maintain eye contact.
This step may take some practice, however, after about three or four afternoons/evenings of this, your situation should start to normalize. Once things seem better, it’s best to keep them separate when you are not at home. Easing them back into their “new normal” is the best way to ensure a harmonious environment.
By the way, here are a few tips to ensure the safety of your pets this winter:
- Due to severe winter winds and snow, many outdoor gates and fences can break or get pushed open. So be sure to brace them and/or secure them with bungie cords;
- Use some Vaseline on your dogs’ paws before a walk, to protect them from the snow and ice build-up. This will prevent ice balls from forming in the paw pads.
- Keep a small pan of water and Listerine (with alcohol) and a rag outside your door, so that you can clean your dog’s paws after a walk. This will eliminate any street salt residue from being ingested, as well as keep it off your floors.
Joy Freedman is a dog behaviorist and obedience instructor She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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