Friday, December 30, 2011

Saga of Pupper vs. Kitty

Our home is never boring. Bailey makes certain of that.
Bailey is my three-year old Golden Retriever-Great Pyrenees mix. And from the moment he arrived at three months of age he has been a handful (more on that later).

If you will permit me the privilege of anthropomorphism the Saga of Pupper vs. Kitty will be
easier told.

We have a new behavioral problem in our home. Bailey has decided he no longer likes our two
cats, especially our four-year old tripawd, Jack-Jack.

While Bailey’s sudden dislike of the cats is new, his temperamental attitude is not—we have worked with Bailey on anger management, resource guarding and impulse control since the age of nine months when his first outburst occurred. So we are not new to this behavior, its trails, struggles or dangers. We’ve also witnessed improvements along the way that we are thankful for.

Life in a multi-pet household is all about management. I was told that I could never have four adult
male (neutered) Great Pyrenees living in harmony. They were too stubborn, independent and territorial. And while we’ve had our challenges; especially as our two youngest puppies matured and hit those all important growth markers at 9, 12, 18 and 24 months of age, we have all survived declaws intact.

After Bailey’s first outburst at nine months of age, I immersed myself in animal behavior.
Already friends with a wonderful positive trainer, Jan Casey, I
surrounded myself with every book, website and recommendation she offered. Jan successfully lives with a reactive dog so I knew she not only had the training to offer advice but that she knew first
hand what life would be like for Bailey & I.

I would estimate that half of all multi-pet households have some sort of relationship issue at one time or another. Human-Dog, Dog-Dog, Cat-Cat, Dog-Cat. So how do we maintain safety and work through the “problem behaviors” to live a happy life together? I don’t have all the answers but as Bailey, Jack-Jack & I work through our issue we’ll share what we are trying, what is
working and what isn’t.

Hopefully, it will give you some ideas to help your pets get along better with their housemates. As
always, I’m not an expert, professional, animal behaviorist or trainer. Just an owner looking for answers.

As we begin the Saga of Pupper vs. Kitty, our first requirement is to maintain safety in our
homes for all involved. If you have severe behavioral issues—growling, lunging, chasing, biting, or guarding—please separate your animals so they cannot reach one another. It may be an inconvenience to fill your home with baby gates and crates, or leave Spike in his fenced backyard but safety comes first. Second, schedule an appointment with your animal’s vet for a checkup. If the issue is an animal-animal issue it may be best to take both pets to the doctor (separately) for a physical. Discuss all behaviors and issues you are concerned about. Health problems can
lead to a pet acting out in a physical manner. And just as we have to maintain safety first, we must rule out any health issues second.

There’s homework involved in this journey. Lesson #1—Pick up a few books to get you
The Other End Of the Leash, For The Love of a Dog
and Feeling Outnumbered? All by Dr. Patricia McConnell and available at

Once we’ve accomplished those three things we’ll meet back here for the next installment of the Saga of Pupper vs. Kitty.

Sheila Rinks is the editor of Finding Fuzzybutt Four, producer of the Raising Indiana podcast and shares her home with her husband, 4 Great Pyrenees and 2 very well-fed kitties.