I have a feeling that part of this is because we visited friends who have cats. The kittens were intrigued by him that first visit, and I’m confident that, if we’d been there an entire day, they would have eventually let Gwynn sniff them, interacted a bit, and that would have been the end of the cat obsession. Instead, what happened was that they got fairly close, Gwynn would get too excited and try to approach them, and they’d run away as fast as they could, while Gwynn remained within leash-radius of me. We were there for less than 2 hours – he didn’t have time to learn polite cat-approach behaviour.
6 months later, we’re there again, only the kittens are cats now, and more skittish of him, because he just can’t calm down enough for them to get anywhere near them.
Now, his reaction to cats we see out of doors is ridiculous. He goes apeshit, bananas, completely flips out. He lunges with all his might at any cat he sees, wheezing and whimpering and crying and going up on his back legs, trying desperately to GET TO THE CAT. Meanwhile, the cat (up to a block away from us) is frozen in fascinated terror, watching the bizarre antics of the giant slavering beast that is gyrating and crying at the end of his lead.
I don’t think I’d be willing to trust him near a cat, even a dog-friendly cat, right now. There would need to be protective measures in place. I believe that he isn’t in a hunter-prey type mode when he gets excited about them. But he’s TOO excited about cats for me to trust him with them. I think that’s how he’d act about dogs if it weren’t possible for him to ever meet dogs, just to smell them from a distance. When he gets that excited about dogs, I wait for him to stop pulling, and then walk towards the dog, if it’s friendly. I can’t do that with cats.
I’m pretty sure that if he could just meet a cat, spend a few minutes doing the sniff-sniff-ignore routine, that it would prove that he wants to be their friends, not eat them. It would probably cure him of the excited-leaping-crying-mess reaction to cats. But I’m not willing to risk a cat, based on my slightly biased opinion of my dog. And I really, really want for him to be ok around cats. And functional in the outside world when cats are near.
And the worst part is, if it were dogs he were reactive about, I COULD SOLVE IT. Dogs are on-leash. they are
visible, generally, coming down the street towards you. I could use one of the many reactivity-solving techniques I’ve read about.
But how, exactly, do I ‘treat with a high-value treat starting from an unresponsive distance’ … from a cat… that I never see first. It’s like playing Where’s Waldo. But Waldo varies in size and colouring, can show up anywhere without warning, moves around, and likes to sit in the shrubbery. And I don’t know anyone with a dog-friendly and leash-friendly cat, so that I could work on it with the cat and Gwynn on leash at a distance from each other.
If I carried hamburger or hotdogs or steak or a brick of cheese every walk, I’d still find myself too close to the cat
before I could start giving him treats. They’re like Ninjas. And once he’s seen them, even walking past as quickly as possible, he’s completely indifferent to treats and anything else for the next block or so, prancing and looking back at where he thinks the cat was, peering under cars and between houses nearby in hopes that the cat is following us in secret. If I try waiting it out and just stand there, braced against the leash, he gets more and more worked up, barking frantically and lunging more and more against the leash.
So, I ask you – any ideas? And which is better – continuing to walk like the cat isn’t at all interesting (and like having a berserker on the end of the leash is fine and normal), or waiting to see how long it will take for him to calm down while going berserk on the end of the leash (it hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve never fully waited it out. Once he starts barking, I abandon the attempt and leave)?