Dog / Cat advice needed

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Dog / Cat advice needed

Post by Jillybean » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:48 am

Hello everyone, I'm new here and so pleased to have found this forum. I look forward to reading any advice you all might have as well as reading the wealth of information already here.

I do a lot of fostering for my local shelter, anything from nursing newborn kittens/pups, to fostering dogs recovering from surgeries.

Recently, I welcomed Bluto into my home, a 1 (ish) yr old Pitbull who was found emaciated and beaten. The shelter didn't want another young Pit bull spending an eternity in the shelter so they asked me if I would foster him, while teaching him basic obedience. So far, so good. He is a very smart dog and is WONDERFUL with my children and older dog. My big concern however is for my 3 cats.

While Bluto doesn't show any out right aggression towards them, he does give chase when tempted. He does stop immidately when told, but his body language (ears up and forward, tail high) worries me that one day he could take it further.
From what I've read, a "high prey drive" dog like a pit bull, must be socialized with cats from a very early age, if not, it's unlikely they can ever be homed with cats safely. Is there any truth to this? Is there anything I can do to help Bluto understand the cats are off limits? A noise deterent perhaps?
We have a extensive daily exercise routine in place as well as one on one daily training sessions.

I appriciate any tips or advice you might be able to share.

**I take all necessary safety measures to keep my cats safe, nobody is ever left unsupervised**
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight"

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Post by emmabeth » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:52 pm


I think you are unlikely to teach this dog to automatically be best friends to any cat he may in the future be homed with.

In fact I would go so far as to say, I don't even think you will achieve stopping him wanting to chase any cat he may come across.

The reason really isn't him - the reason is, whilst he may in time learn that YOUR cats are not to be chased and could even be friendly companions - other cats may not.

I am very very wary of any dog advertised as 'cat safe' because this almost entirely depends on not the dog... but the cat.

If the cat runs, a dog will chase. If a cat hisses and growls this will interest most dogs.. if the cat fights, the dog will likely fight back.

Anyway - I think as Bluto's fosterer, what you ought to teach is a set of really firm commands that you can pass on to new owners.

Teach him 'stop' - which is to mean 'freeze on the spot whatever you were doing'. And teach him 'leave' which is to mean 'whatever you were doing... i have something better'.

You can teach both with clicker training and if he is like any pitbull ive known... he will pick this up pretty quickly.

To start with I would teach leave first as this will increase his self control.

At first, set him up with an item you want him to leave. Pick a fairly boring item he has little to no interest in. Have in your hand something REALLY interesting.

Toss the boring item in front of him, let him realise it is boring (so let him go 'ooh wossat.... oh..' and when his face says 'oh boring' you show him your great treat or great toy and say 'leave' as he comes away from the boring item.

Practice this lots and there are two areas you can vary (do one at a time).

As you move up the level of difficulty, you can either - change the 'boring item' for a slightly less boring one. Or, you can lower the level of bribery, so instead of treat waved under his nose, you go to treat hidden in hand, then to treat in pocket etc etc.

I like to get the dog leaving the boring item (use lots of different boring items) consistantly, then i lower the level of bribery, until the dog will leave something fairly uninteresting and come with me whilst i go to another room to get the treat.

This way you teach the dog to leave, even if you dont have a treat on you right there and then.

Then when i up the interest level in the item... i go back to outright bribery and start over.

As you go up to more interesting items, you may need (if your dog is a particularly optimistic dog), to actively prevent him reaching the item he is 'leaving', so if you are asking him to leave a sausage on the floor in exchange for a sausage in your hand and you have a dog liable to think 'hey, Id like BOTH sausages thanks', i would start with the sausage on the floor close to me so i could put a foot over it if he tries for it.

If you are clicker training this, I would be looking to click the moment the dog decides to 'leave'.

Whislt you are training this - keep him away from cats and do not be tempted to use the leave command when around the cats for fear he breaks it. The more chances he has to break it, the less effectively he will learn.

Ill come back and do the stop later if no one else has... (pies are burning!!! the oven calls)


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Post by danabanana » Tue Apr 01, 2008 5:43 am

I taught 'stop' because I want my girl to do agility and I saw other people using it to stop the dog at the end of see-saw etc. I don't really know how I taught it though! I started it on-lead while walking I would say 'stop' and I would stop dead then my dog would stop too and look at me to see what was going on. She got a treat when she stood stock still. It kind of went from there she is pretty good at 'stop' now and it comes in handy when she's off-lead and I can see her preparing to chase after some seagulls/other dogs etc. It helps with her attention too if I say 'stop' before I ask her to come here or sit or do anything else the stop gives her a moment to stand still and look at me instead of whatever else it was she was doing.

Hopefully someone else will have more practical ways of teaching it I just kind of did it by a useful accident! It is handy though good luck!

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Post by Jillybean » Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:00 am

Thank you both for your replies and advice.

I will work on "leave it" today and once we have that down pretty well I'll start on "stop". Bluto is funny in that he's not very food motivated and even less toy motivated-I once trained my rott with a tennis ball because he didn't care a bean for treats.

I have some left over turkey bits, perhaps they will grab his attention better.
I'm really quite determined to get through to this dog because I can not even fathom returning him to the shelter. Here in NY (USA) pit bulls make up 90% of our shelter's resident dogs, Bluto doesn't have much of a chance for adoption.
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight"

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