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Dog Behavior Advice for New Puppy and Household Cat

February 11, 2009

Dear Joan:

My name is Irene. I’m a lovely mature 16-year-old cat. Over the years some of my best friends have been dogs. I don’t hiss or bite or scratch. Recently my humans brought home a Goldendoodle puppy. What were they thinking? He chases me, and when I’m trying to snooze he steals my bed, licks my ears and tries to bite my feet. Now I have to hide in my human’s office for rest, can’t get to my dining table of the past 10 years, and it’s a struggle to get to my cat litter when he’s loose. Do you think as he matures he’ll mellow, or should my humans try some tactics with the idiot dog to preserve my sanity?

— Irene

Dear Irene:

I’m sorry you’re having to go through this. Unfortunately when it comes to roommates, you don’t always get the pick of the litter. I will do my best to help you out, and see if we can’t find you some feline tranquility.

I’ll address your specific questions first:

  • “What were they thinking?’’ I have no idea. Puppies are cute … it’s human nature to want to cuddle with them and bring them home. Maybe you and some of the other pets involved have brought so much joy to your humans that they thought another one would make life even better!
  • “… mellow with age?” Yes. We can be pretty sure of that. However, it might not be until he’s about 10 years old … in dog years.
  • “… should my humans try some tactics?” YES! YES! YES!

Before we begin discussing tactical strategy, let’s address the issues you mention above:

  • Chasing you: OK, he’s a puppy … and to him you’re part of the family, and a playmate. Yes, kitties can be considered “prey” by some dogs. However, your description makes it sounds more like he wants to hang out and play with you. Chasing is a key element in dog play — it hasn’t become apparent to him that you don’t feel the same.
  • Steals your bed, licks your ears, bites your feet: My goodness, how much attention can one kitty take? Especially from a dog! OK, is he throwing you out of the bed, “tasting” your ears, drawing blood from your feet/legs? Is there snarling, growling, “hunting” activity? If so, that sounds like it could be more serious and your humans should meet with a professional trainer in person. Click here for more information.

On the other hand, if it’s more attention seeking, such as “I want to hang out with Irene and be her new best friend” behavior, then your humans can take a few steps to make your life more pleasant, while teaching the Golden-doodle pup some good manners. Click here for more information.

Now let’s get to the tactical maneuvers, or at least a few “behaviors” your humans can teach the Golden-doodle:

  • Chasing you, biting your feet and licking your ears: have them ask him to do something else! Sounds like he’s bored. Instead of chasing you they could provide interactive food toys (get that hunting energy out), take him for a vigorous walk or round of exercise so he’s too tired to chase you, ask him for a nice recall every time you enter the room. And the biggest one of all: reward him when he leaves you alone!
  • Stealing your bed: Give him his own bed! Then reward him for choosing that one and ignoring yours. If he enjoys sleeping with you, however, maybe they can throw in some fresh salmon or tuna treats for you for taking the time to cuddle and babysit him. If you live in a cold climate, this could come in handy on those extra chilly days.
  • Keeping you from getting to your cat box: Again, using the steps above can help. They can also try moving your litter box to an area that is easier for you to get to … although you might be really happy where it is. If so, then have them train the Doodle to ignore the box with a “leave it!” cue, especially if you’re on your way to use it.

My final suggestion: Have your humans give you some yummy treats every time the Doodle is around! This way, you might actually enjoy him being a part of the family.

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail them directly.


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