How to introduce a puppy to your cat, by expert dog trainer Ben Randall

Introducing a dog to a cat can be nerve-wracking, but get it right and the two of them can get along famously. Ben Randall explains how.

If you’re a cat owner who’s just decided to add a puppy to your family, you might be nervous — and rightly so. Get it wrong and there is the potential for your new canine friend to end up fearful of his feline counterparts for life.

But in most circumstances, there’s no reason cats and dogs shouldn’t get along perfectly well, particularly if they’re introduced to each other while the dog is still a puppy. This week’s reader has done exactly the right thing: thought about it in advance to get some help.

‘We’ve had a cat for several years, and he’s a lovely, friendly pet,’ [writes JS from Surrey], ‘but now we’re getting a labrador puppy, and friends have warned us that we could be in for some trouble. We’re now really worried that the two might not get on; how can we make sure they do?’

We’ll start with the good news: the cat will be fine. In my experience, they’re resilient, assertive and hold their ground well, and are pretty unflappable. I’ll never forget going to one client’s house to help them deal with a dog-cat relationship that wasn’t going well, only to find the cat was calmly sitting out of reach of the frenzied terrier, making the odd, bored swipe of a paw amid the chaos and barking. It was like watching a pair of siblings wind each other up: they just seem to know exactly what buttons to press.  And it’s also worth mentioning that there are some cats who are just a bit on the wild side — their owners know who they are — and who probably won’t ever become friendly towards a dog.

But for most nice-natured, chilled-out cats, there is no reason for them not to get on perfectly well with your puppy — if not brilliantly. Here’s how to go about it.

How to introduce a new puppy to your cat

1. Don’t start the moment your puppy gets home

Don’t worry about introducing the cat at first — your new puppy will be overwhelmed with new things already, so introduce the environment first, and begin with training basics in the first week, such as the leave command and how to get a dog to sit. You want your puppy to be happy and settled before you introduce another new element.

Whatever you do, don’t bring the two pets within eyesight of each other before they get a chance to meet properly. This is important — so important that it’s our next step.

2. DON’T keep the pets apart while letting them see each other from afar

Any time a dog sees a cat but can’t get near it, it’ll become frustrated and anxious — and it’s that frustration which can lead to problems down the line.

This really is the number one mistake I see with owners who have a cat and a dog, and many of them keep their two pets apart as a matter of course. But if the dog only ever sees the cat and vice versa every so often, this creates a huge want from the dog. If it’s sitting in its crate while the cat walks around as if it owns the place, only to be taken out just as the crate is opened; or if the dog is inside and able to see the cat wandering around in the great outdoors, the frustration will just build and build. I’ve known of owners who have allowed this tension to build up for weeks — curiosity turns to anxiety, and then the one time a door is left open, hell can break loose! That generally doesn’t go well for the dog, as cats tend to be quicker, smarter and more savvy when things go wrong — I’ve known very few dogs who can get the better of a cat in a fight.

3. Make it a calm, gentle moment, and introduce your puppy to the cat

The moment your puppy sees the cat it’ll be incredibly exited, and will see it as another puppy to play with. It’ll run up to it and be ready to play — and if the cat gets scared out and lashes out, it could make the dog fearful of cats for the rest of its life.

So you need to be completely in control of the situation. Hold the puppy, stroke it, speak calmly to it, and then bring the cat in to come up, get close, have a sniff and a cuddle so that they get used to each other gently and calmly with you right there.

Keep it calm, keep it relaxed, and your puppy and cat can get along well.

3. Once the puppy and cat are introduced, gently let them get to know each other

Normally, once the puppy has been touched and sniffed by the cat, it’ll be a little wary but curious. Slowly release the puppy, still keeping the calm stroking and talking, and let the two pets get to know each other. Keep it calm and chilled for them both, and this might just be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

And even if not, they’ll still be able to rub along together quite successfully for many years.

For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial.


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