Training with distractions (cat) – Obe’s progress

As a trainer, people tell me their dog already knows how to sit, down…etc., and that’s true to a point. Sometimes the point is at home with nothing else happening, which doesn’t help much when something else is happening. In order for the cues to be really useful, they need to be muscle memory-type response…a ‘no brainer.’ Often there are distractions available at home that could really help the training…think cat.

So we have this long list of things that the puppy can do, will do and will attempt to do. Some of them are pretty good in almost all situations, like sit and kiss, kiss for come (positive interrupter) and kennel up is really quite solid from a long distance/close distance and even when lots of stuff is going on. Others like down, target, tug, retrieve, sit pretty, settle, catch, heel, back up, give, etc., are good, but not distraction proof. So help has arrived…and he has green eyes and an orange nose.

This morning distraction walked in on four white feet.CatNov42012 004 The cat, Smokey, was before not a good dog training cat, but ever since I started doing trick training with him daily, his confidence has bloomed and he now thinks he is 7-month-old Doberman proof. And that if the dog is getting to do tricks for treats, that he – THE CAT – ought to be included.

A good dog training cat is very confident, stands, sits or lays his ground and is not fast to hiss or slap, but will do a measured comment and whack if needed. And if he moves, it is best if it’s a walk, and a stop if the pup seems overly interested.  The person involved must protect who-ever needs protecting and not let the situation get too bouncy. And if chasing is a history, the pup may need to be restrained so they can’t attempt to bounce on the cat, and the treats need to be really, really good (smelly cheese, chicken, beef-really good) so the reward is worth it.

This morning they had several good, close up conferences about how much a dog was allowed to sniff a cat, a couple non-pushy sniffs was the limit. Then I would get Obe to do something else, like lie down while the cat got to do his tricks. Then Obe would be treated (with dog kibble) for lying there quietly and he would get to do tug, retrieve, sit, wait, tug, retrieve. At which time the cat wanted to rejoin the fray. We did several circuits successfully and since I didn’t want bad to follow good I kenneled Obe up and the cat and I had breakfast.

These kinds of meetings…cat to dog, puppy to older dog, puppy to school age kid* are always best short and controlled (actively supervised) for the first….10? 20? or so or until it’s a pretty sure bet that no one is likely to goof it up and devolve into biting or arguing or chasing or whatever unwanted behavior.

*babies/toddlers/preschoolers need constant active supervision around dogs… see website,

If you have a running hiding-type cat, then it is best to find a confident cat to do training with your dog and otherwise prevent chasing.

Or you can get some cat treats and start training that scared-y-cat to do things, like sit pretty, touch your finger tip with his nose, jump between chairs, scratch the scratching post, climb the scratching post, jump up, walk a narrow board, come…and if you play briefly daily, soon your scared-y-cat won’t be as timid any more.CatNov42012 009


One Comment Add yours

  1. gdjoken says:

    We have two black labs, so in training we use them as distractions for each other. It works so well, but they’ve become quite used to one another, so it doesn’t work quite as well. A new distraction might be just what we need.


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