RABBITS & CHICKENS & CATS --- OH, MY !
From time to time in my Bouvier Rescue work I am faced with potential adopters who have rabbits or chickens or cats and who are either seriously concerned or blithely unconcerned with the question of whether their adopted Bouvier will leave these little friends in peace or rend them limb from limb. Rabbits, chickens, squirrels, mice, and other little critters are natural prey for any canid, wolf , coyote, or dog. A fleeing cat provokes in most dogs exactly the same prey-chasing response as a fleeing rabbit.
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From time to time in my Bouvier Rescue work I am faced with potential adopters who have rabbits or chickens or cats and who are either seriously concerned or blithely unconcerned with the question of whether their adopted Bouvier will leave these little friends in peace or rend them limb from limb. Oh my, it is a problem !
Rabbits, chickens, squirrels, mice, and other little critters are natural prey for any canid, wolf , coyote, or dog. Anything small and fleeing provokes a natural response in the dog of giving chase with intent of siezing and killing. Dinner time! The dog who does this is not viscious; he's normal. It is abnormal to expect him to behave differently, but for many dogs it is not totally impossible to train him to behave differently. As for cats, well there is a reason why the phrase "to fight like cats and dogs" has become trite. For whatever reason, perhaps because they are naturally competitors for the same prey, they don't naturally get along in harmony. A fleeing cat provokes in most dogs exactly the same prey-chasing response as a fleeing rabbit..
Expecting a dog to leave various backyard livestock unmolested is like expecting a really hungery man to ignore a juicy hot ham sandwich. Quite frankly some dogs can never be taught that these natural prey animals are "treyf" (forbidden food). To expect a courseing hound to ignore rabbits, a bird dog to ignore poultry, or a herding dog to ignore poultry , sheep, goats, cattle, horses, etc is just not realistic. But some of these dogs can be taught to inhibit their natural impulses, at least in your supervising presence.
In all cases, it is absolutely essential to put a really dog-stopping fence between the dog and the livestock. I would strongly recommend putting hot wire on the dog's side of the fence to maximize his respect for it --- and keep that charger plugged in whenever the dog is present. Your fence must be absolutely dog-proof. You must spy on your dog for a long long time to make sure that he will make no further attempts to get under, over , or through the fence, before you trust the safety of the stock to the fence and leave the dog unsupervised loose on the other side. If the stock belong to your neighbor, be aware that all states by law give the livestock owner the right to kill any dog that strays onto their property and poses even the slightest threat to the stock. Most livestock owners are very trigger-happy.
Additionally (unless this dog is of a herding breed and you fully intend him to be trained as a herding dog) I would advise you to do a lot of "LEAVE IT" training and a lot of standard obedience training in the presence of the stock. By "Leave it" training, I mean let the dog wander about in presence of the stock (but with either a fence between them or with a muzzle on the dog if the dog has physical potential to seriously injure the critters) dragging a long line. Any time the dog approaches the stock, you must in a deeply gutteral , growling/snarling tone tell him "Leave it!" or "get outta there!" or "knock it off!" (I especially like "get outta there" because it lends itself so well to a gutteral pronounciation) and give a good strong jerk on the long line. If the dog is approaching the stock fairly calmly and curiously, a fairly strong jerk will suffice. If he is bounding towards the stock or if his manner is excieted or aggressive , then give the very hardest jerk your body can produce --- ladies, run the opposite direction and throw your body into it. Don't be too quick to take both line and muzzle off. Leave one or the other untill the dog seems very proofed against stock aggression.
If you own and are experienced in the use of a remote training collar, and if your emotional self-control is superb, after you have done some good Leave It training with the long line, you can begin to transfer the correction to the remote collar. Use a high level of correction. Unless you are very experienced with use of such a device and unless you have exquisite timing and absolute control of your emotions, DO NOT just go out and rent a "shock collar" and think that you will teach your dog to leave stock alone in a few quick easy lessons.
If the dog is intended to be a herding dog, don't do the Leave It work on any type of stock which you intend him to herd -- nor on anything too similar. (You may still want to do it on the bunnies, as they are not a herdable stock. Probably don't do it on the chickens if you might want to herd ducks : too similar.) Instead you must find a really competent stockdog trainer who also is good at teaching human beings to help you train your dog to herd properly.
Issues involving cats are fairly similar to those involving bunnies, chickens, and other stock. If the cat runs, especially outdoors, the dog will be strongly inspired to chase and grab. From chase to grab, and from grab to crunch : bye bye kittie. It is going against Nature to ask a dog to live in peace with a cat. Don't let the fact that many dogs will do so blind you to the fact that it is unnatural and some dogs will never be cat-safe. Be escpecially careful and wary with any breed of dog that is either physically powerful (jaws that can go crunch with great force) or has a high prey chasing response to any type of moving object or is of any of the breeds that are bred to hunt and kill mammals , ie all the terriers and all of the hounds, or any of the breeds that are bred to herd (because herding is a slightly modified predatory behavior) and that includes some breeds that are not always thought of as herding breeds such as Giant Schnauzer and Rottweiler. My own motto for Bouvier is "guilty until proven innocent beyond all rational doubt" !
Now additionally there is the dog's prior experience to consider. A dog who has never before had contact with cats is a much different (better) proposition than a dog who has been accustomed to chasing and/or killing cats. The experienced cat killer probably can not ever become cat safe. A dog who has previously peacefully shared a house with a cat is of course the best prospect for accepting another cat peacefully, but still be careful for quite a while at the start of the relationship. Always be aware that a dog may be peaceful with a cat indoors when the cat is not running, and yet when encountering the very same cat outdoors and ready to run, the dog is likely to give chase vigorously.
The golden rule is "supervise or separate!" When you are not there and ready and able to correct the dog for cat aggression, then make sure there is a really secure barrier between them. I'd recommend a good solid-core door with a reliable latch or even a lock or bolt. If you want or need free airflow through that doorway, use one of the high-security screen-door substitutes, which are solid metal perorated by hundreds of small holes.
When you are present and able to focus attention on the dog and cat , do Leave It training (especially whenever the dog seems on verge of a more forceful approach) and (as the dog seems less bent on a chase) then do lots of down-stays in the presence of the cat. All of this is very similar to the advice above for bunnies, etc. Do this until the dog relaxes completely and accepts the cat. Again, I'd advise that the initial work be done with the dog muzzled. Don't be too quick to take the muzzle off.
Continue to separate the dog and cat from each other whenever you are not present to supervise until long after thay have totally made peace with each other and shown complete peace and relaxation in your presence for some longish time. Don't be in a hurry to leave them alone together. Really, your cat could go the whole rest of its life without being given free run of the entire house shared alone with the dog. If you leave them alone too soon, that very day could be the whole rest of your cat's life. Be careful.
Please go and read or re-read the chapter entitled "The Truce" in Konrad Lorenz's beautifully written book "Man Meets Dog." This deals with relationships between dog and cat. Lorenz points out that even after the dog and cat have a totally tolorant relationship inside the house, theat same dog is likely to react to that same cat outdoors as if it were chaseable prey.
I'd better add that I myself have not had much experience with cat related problems. And I really cannot advise you how best to convince the cat not to aggress against the dog. Though a timely squirt of water from a spray bottle is usually recommended as the best correction for a cat, that might not make much impression on a cat who is fighting in self-defense or who has gone on the attact "pre-emptively" to forestall anticipated aggression from the dog.
FINAL REMINDER : "Gulity until PROVEN innocent !"
|site author Pam Green||copyright 2003|
|created 4/12/03||revised ?/?/03|
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