May 20, 2012
My name is Greta. I’m a 7-month-old German Shepherd who is absolutely fascinated by my kitty siblings. I can’t seem to leave them alone.
I’ve been told they are beloved family members, but part of me thinks they would make really interesting windup squeaky toys. I keep attempting to figure out how to get them to squeak, which totally freaks out my humans. Since I’d like to remain part of the family, do you have any suggestions on how I can control this behavior?
Dear Miss. Greta,
Congratulations! Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward gaining control. I commend you for being able to get this far, especially when the behavior you speak of is one that is deeply ingrained and very difficult for most animals to control. Allow me to provide my pooch’s perspective.
Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:
Know Your Animal!
In this case, know your humans. Understand they want to believe that domestication has somehow eradicated in us doggies the drive to hunt and play with live things that run around willy-nilly. Just because we have a roof over our head and a bed in every room doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy this type of activity. It’ll be your responsibility to remind your folks who and what you are: an animal of the canine variety, which means that predatory behavior is part of your personality.
For a predator, being surrounded by animals that appear and act as prey is a very tough test of wills–even if they themselves are predators. It does sounds like you have some restraint, unless it’s just that the kitties are much faster than you. Although admitting that you have a problem is the best first step for gaining control, developing a plan of attack (no pun intended) is the next step necessary for reaching their, and your, goal!
Whadda They Want?
Your humans need to decide what they want from you and from your feline roomies. Do they want you and the cats to be able to hang out in the same room at the same time, without conflict? Do they just want you to leave the kitties alone if one or both of them should happen to make an appearance? Do they just want to keep you from trying to find the “squeaker?” Once your mom and dad figure out what is it they want, they can then decide which of the following steps to take in hopes of helping you control yourself.
Reward, Reward, Reward.
The first step your parents need to take is to reward you for the behavior they want. They need to teach you a more acceptable way to behave when the feline members of the family are around. This would include times when you leave the kitties alone, either on your own or when asked.
They can also teach you an alternate behavior, such as performing a down-stay on your bed, or to “leave it” should you want to investigate and push the boundaries. Redirecting your instinctive behavior toward an allowable dog toy with a squeaker whenever the kitties are around (and the mood strikes) is a viable option—although there is a chance that this might get you amped up instead. So tell them to use this one with caution.
Finally, for those times when they can’t train or monitor you, they need to arrange your living conditions so that everyone is safe.
Paws and Reflect
Remember, you’re a dog. And, most of us dogs like to hunt. Remind your parents that this is part of who and what you are. As far as you containing yourself, ask your mom and dad for help. If they don’t want you to play “hunt the kitties” then they need to teach you otherwise, provide appropriate outlets to help get this type of energy out, and reward you heavily for making the better choice. This will make everyone happy, including the fat-cats of the house.