It’s a Catastrophe!

When I first got him, he wasn’t like this.  Then again, for the first week of walks, he kept his head glued to the inside of my knee, the ultimate in walk-like-a-cowboy training.  But after that, when he came out of his paranoid-that-I’ll-leave-him shell, he wasn’t like this either.

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.

just... let me go! I MUST GO TO KITTY!!!

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)?

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  1. That picture is awesome. I don’t have an answer about the cat. We got one at the same time we got Sadie, they did fine once they got to know each other. However, if Sadie saw a cat on the street? Freak out.

    • I’m surprised – i’d have thought, since she knows what they are, how they are, etc, that she wouldn’t care about outside cats anymore. oh well, it isn’t like getting a cat is one of my options for solving his crazy-ness anyways 😛 my sister is too allergic to them!

  2. Haha! I can’t offer constructive advice, but if logistically possible, I’d just offer to introduce him to one of my cats, affectionately dubbed Mean Cat; he hasn’t met a dog he couldn’t “train”.

    • i wish that was an option – that’s exactly what he needs! a cat to teach him cat-polite-behaviour 🙂 But i’m also pretty sure you don’t live in Ontario, which is too bad. he needs a good ‘lesson’ in cattiquette

      • Haha – true, it’s the fastest lesson. But fair warning, cat’s aren’t much for positive reinforcement training techniques…

        • 😀 true!
          Gwynn’s gotten a few not-positive-reinforcement lessons from other dogs, though, and those lessons have taught him a bit of doggy ettiquette very efficiently. Sometimes it’s the only way to get hte point across, animal-to-animal.

  3. 😀
    I have to say that I’m happy I get to avoid this… by the time I get home it will hopefully get into the nippy season that makes cats go into their ninja-shelters for the winter months.
    I would try the staying until it dies down, so long as the people in the house you’re beside don’t come out and ask/demand you leave, OR the cat leaves.
    Otherwise I really don’t know.
    Love ya, miss ya!

    • Unfortunately, they all seem to come out most often in the early morning walk. if i actually just stood there, waiting for him to calm down, i’d have all the neighbours ready to draw blood 😛

  4. My George behaves exactly the same when he sees a cat. I think it’s a mixture of curiosity and instinct to chase that makes him act like that. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t really hurt it, but he could definitely give it a fright. So, yes, we just carry on walking, dragging George along. Otherwise, we could be there all day waiting for him to calm down and make friends with the feline. We have often joked about getting him a cat to cuddle up with, but I’m not sure I’ll ever turn that into a reality…

    • glad to hear i’mn ot the only one with a dog who acts crazy around cats! i don’t think he’d ever calm down if i just stood there with him on leash and the cat sitting nearby either. probably just get more and more wound-up.

  5. Cats were put on this earth for dogs to chase…

    the 2 brown dawgs

  6. Hmmm…I don’t know which is better. I will say that one or two experiences with a calm cat who could care less would not be enough to cure him. Chester goes nuts for cats (although not to that extreme). I have a friend though that has cats that shrug off dogs and he doesn’t go nuts with them. Sometimes he even cuddles with them. But back out in the world with other cats and he still goes nuts. Maybe you should just GET a cat so Gwynn gets used to leaving them alone 🙂

    • I had a feeling that the solution wouldn’t be ‘just let him meet one once’… unfortunately, seeing a cat and sniffing it is entirely different from seeing one running across a lawn in the distance. And I would LOVE to get a cat (we had cats all through my childhood), but my sister is really really allergic to cats. A LOT more so than she’s allergic to dogs. Her eyes swell nearly shut and her nose gets clogged and she wheezes. She didn’t when we had cats, but i guess she was too young when they died for the ‘cure-all’ of being raised with cats to stick for her.

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