How to Train Your Dog to Accept a Kitten

Medium
1-2 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You want to add a feline furry, friend to your family, but your family already contains a dog, who happens to have very little experience with cats. Is there any hope of integrating a new kitten into your home, in a way that is peaceful and safe for all parties involved? 

The answer is yes! Thousands of households contain cats and dogs, that get along just fine. These housemates can even become quite attached to each other, playing together, sleeping together, and providing excellent company for each other. However, when adding any new member to the household, especially a kitten, you will need to ensure the introduction is conducted in such a way as to create a positive experience, so that your dog will accept the kitten and both kitten and dog are not stressed, frightened or injured in the process.  

Dogs can have a tendency to view small critters as prey, so you will need to ensure that your dog does not make this mistake upon introduction of a new kitten. Also, remember that the kitten itself can be aggressive and lash out in defense if it perceives a threat, even when one is not present. Precautions to control the kitten's perception and reaction to being introduced are also necessary when teaching your dog to accept a kitten.

Defining Tasks

You will want your dog to react calmly around your new kitten, not rushing the kitten, crowding it, mouthing, pawing or otherwise invading the kitten's space. A cat or kitten will often see the above behaviors as threatening and will either flee, creating an opportunity for your dog to establish that he is a great toy to chase, or fight--neither of which is conducive to a happy, peaceful home. Both behaviors can result in either the kitten or your dog being injured. A feisty kitten can scratch a dog's nose or eyes, resulting in injuries, and getting the kitten-dog relationship off to a poor start. 

Before introducing your dog and kitten you will want to acclimatize them safely to the sights and sounds of each other and control the environment where they are introduced. Your dog should have a good grasp on obedience commands so you can control and direct him during the introduction and while the dog is getting used to the kitten's presence in his home in the first few days. Remember, this is a big adjustment for a dog that is unfamiliar with cats. Controlling the situation and ensuring that positive associations are created will make your dog's acceptance of the kitten, his new companion, much smoother. 

Most dogs and cats learn to cohabitate quite nicely together. A little bit of effort on first meeting to ensure acceptance of your new pet will speed up the process and establish a lasting friendship between your furry friends.

Getting Started

When teaching your dog to accept a kitten you will need a way to gradually introduce the animals and keep them both safe during the introduction. A separate room to contain your new kitten, barriers, or crates will be useful. Also, if you have a choice, find a kitten that has some spunk, not a frightened or shy, skittish kitten that will avoid your dog and run. A running kitten presents a target for your dog to chase, resulting in a more traumatized kitten and more opportunities for your dog to chase. Take precautions to ensure the kitten does not get chased or injured during introductions. A kitten that stands its ground, or even shows interest in playing with your dog will develop a friendship with your dog faster.

The Maintain Space Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Contain kitten
Contain your new kitten in a separate room for the first few days. Put a litter box in the room; this provides the added bonus of letting your kitten become familiar with the location of her litter box, and the sights, sounds and smells of the home.
Step
2
Allow introduction through the door
Let your dog smell the kitten under the door or through the crack. Do not let your dog bark or scratch at the door.
Step
3
Allow to see each other
Put a baby gate or barrier in the doorway and open the door part way so that the dog and kitten can see each other and meet through the barrier. Remember that while your dog may not be able to get over the barrier, most kittens can. You will want to supervise closely when just the barrier is present.
Step
4
Reward calm
Reward your dog for being calm in the presence of the kitten on the other side of the gate.
Step
5
Supervise loose introduction
Eventually, allow the dog and kitten in the same room, supervised. Reward your dog for being calm and not approaching the kitten. Allow the kitten to approach your dog while you reassure and pet your dog.
Recommend training method?

The Controlled Intro Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Prepare
Teach your dog a strong 'down-stay' or 'leave it' command. Put your dog on a leash. Have a route of escape for your kitten, like a cat tree or a room with a barrier the cat can easily escape to, but the dog cannot follow.
Step
2
Keep dog still
Ask your dog to 'down-stay' while your new kitten is allowed to investigate the home. If your dog tries to rush towards the kitten to investigate, say “leave it” or “down-stay”, restrain with a leash if necessary.
Step
3
Reward calm
Pet and praise your dog and reassure him for staying in the 'down-stay' position in the presence of the new kitten. Keep the initial introduction short so your dog does not become frustrated, jealous, or over-excited or have an opportunity to intimidate the kitten. Remove the kitten to a separate room or part of the house.
Step
4
Increase exposure
Repeat introducing the kitten, while controlling your dog, increase the length of time your dog is exposed to the kitten. Provide your dog treats to create a positive association with the kitten's presence.
Step
5
Increase access
Gradually take your dog off-leash as he shows calm behavior around the new kitten, continue supervising and provide 'leave it' or 'down-stay' commands as needed until the two animals are comfortable around each other.
Recommend training method?

The Crate Intro Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Put kitten in a crate
Put your kitten in a crate, or behind a pet barrier that your dog cannot get through.
Step
2
Introduce your dog
Introduce your dog, while on a leash, to the kitten in the crate or behind the barrier.
Step
3
Allow calm investigation
If your dog barks, scratches or rushes the crate or barrier, reprimand your dog, ask him to 'down-stay' or 'leave it'. Your dog may investigate the carrier or kitten through the barrier but should be calm and not show aggressive or out-of-control behavior.
Step
4
Reward calm
When your dog is calm around the kitten in the container, provide treats and praise. Distract your dog with play with a toy. Repeat over several sessions if necessary until calm is achieved.
Step
5
Increase exposure
Once your dog is calm around the kitten in the container, hold your dog on a leash and let the kitten out of the container or from behind the barrier. Reward calm behavior. Command 'down-stay' for aggressive behavior. Go back to containing the kitten if necessary. Continue supervising and eventually move your dog off leash as he learns to be calm around the kitten out of the container.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/07/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Mochi
Pomeranian
3 Years
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Question
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Mochi
Pomeranian
3 Years

Today I got a kitten (British shorthair). When I got home I wanted to keep her and Mochi separate so I could introduce them correctly. So I took Kimchi (my cat) upstairs to my room so she could eat and drink. As she settled in I took Mochi with me to my bedroom (on a leash). First she was barking and Then when I took her a little closer to Kimchi she licked her and then tried to bite her a few times. The kitten ofc is terrified.
Mochi always has not been so social. We have Another dog which is 9 years old (a Maltese) and they get along fine. But as soon as we open a door, or when she goes outside to do her business she barks and doesn't stop. (Doesn't matter if we say no, or put her in another room). She also does this towards every dog or human she passed by on walks, first I thought she was afraid of them because she is so small and she mostly jumped behind me when she does this, but after seeing what happened today I'm not sure anymore. She's very hard to train as she is stubborn.

My dad wants me to buy a muzzle So they can be introduced without te risk of biting, but I don't know if that will work.

Also, the kitten stays in my room because we don't have any other available (my parents collect antiques and they don't want the cat to jump on those items so she has to stay with me for now). Mochi normally sleeps in my bedroom so I don't know what to do because this is her territorium and I understand that she would bark and growl but I just didn't expect the biting as she has never done such thing.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, Check out the videos I have linked below. Depending on the severity of the aggression toward the cat, you may need to hire a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues to help you in person. For many dogs, the first two videos I have linked can be helpful. If the aggression is more severe, I recommend professional help for the type of training in the third and fourth videos. Be sure to use safety measures like a leash whenever training around the cat too. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats with the same dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 If you do pursue training on your own, I would back tie pup while they are on place - connecting a long leash attached to pup to something near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene. This keeps kitty safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't get off the Place. The leash should be long enough that pup doesn't feel the leash while they are obediently staying on the Place because it has some slack in the leash. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Always keep safety in mind and make safety a priority for yourself and all the animals. A basket muzzle might also be a good thing to desensitize pup to. I would spend time desensitizing pup to the muzzle ahead of time, so pup is comfortable with it and its not just associated with the cat. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle her meal kibble around it. Do this until she is comfortable eating around it. Next, when she is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward her with a piece of kibble every time she touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed her her whole meal this way. Practice this until she is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that she has to poke her face into it to get the treat. As she gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that she has to poke her face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until she is comfortable having her face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while she holds her face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until she can hold her face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when she can hold her face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while her face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed her a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until she is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while she is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As she gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long she wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give her a treat, until she can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Izzy
Pit Bull/Boxer
9 Months
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Question
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Izzy
Pit Bull/Boxer
9 Months

Izzy is a rescue that we’ve had for 4 months and we just recently rescued a male kitten that can’t be more than 2 months. Izzy will calm down around the kitten and watch intently.... until the kitten attacks her wanting to play. But they play too rough together and because of the size difference I’m scared she’s going to hurt him

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christina, Check out the videos linked below for teaching calmness around cats. Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E It sounds like the issue is related a lot to the cat's behavior, so while the cat is this age and prone to attacking pup I would keep them in separate rooms when you aren't supervising. When you are supervising, I would work on teaching the cat to give space to the dog, and teaching the dog to not engage the cat, since once they are playing there it's going to be hard to keep kitty safe with the excitement of both and the size difference. Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long Place command around lots of distractions. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place while you are working with the kitten in the same room. I recommend also back tying pup while they are on place - safely connecting a long leash attached to pup to something near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene. Make sure what the leash is secured to, the leash itself, and pup's collar or harness are secure and not likely to break or slip off. This keeps kitty safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't get off the Place. The leash should be long enough that pup doesn't feel the leash while they are obediently staying on the Place because it has some slack in the leash. You want pup to learn to stay due to obedience and self-control, and the leash just be back up for safety. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control - impulse control takes practice for a dog to gain the ability to control herself. I would specifically use Leave It and Out, to instruct pup to leave the kitty alone, even when the cat initiate the interaction. When pup moves away from the cat willingly, then reward pup, to help pup to learn just to move away from the cat when the kitty is trying to attack, then you be the one to intercept the kitten if it follows pup. Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cinnamon
lab pit bull
3 Years
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Question
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Cinnamon
lab pit bull
3 Years

I have a 3yr old lab mix and she is afraid of men and other people how do I get her to not lunge at them and we just got a kitten and our dog lick her ears and nudge her

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mackenzie, For the kitten relationship, I recommend teaching pup the Out and Leave It commands, and using those command to enforce pup giving the kitten space. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ For the human reactivity I do recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and fear to work with you in person. I would specifically look for someone who works with a staff or team of trainers, so there are various "strangers" to counter condition and desensitize pup around in the training group. I would also look for a trainer who comes well recommended by their previous clients. I would start by desensitizing her to wearing a basket muzzle, so that can later be used to train safely. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s I would work on desensitizing her to walking past strangers using the concepts of the passing approach method from the article linked below - this method is related to dogs, but the concepts of passing someone over and over again while working on obedience and rewarding good responses of calmness, tolerance, and focus on you, rather than fear responses. Gradually decreasing the distance between her and the people who are helping you as she improves - the important part is to look for not only a lack of fear aggressive response but specifically for times when pup is actually in a calmer mindset and reward that. Passing Approach method: https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Check out how this dog is desensitized to strangers also. Your dog will need to be trained a bit differently, with extra precautions to avoid a bite, but you can see generally how desensitization is done in general here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXCELHDT2fs As pup improves and can handle being close to people, then people can practice being in closer quarters (with safety measures like a basket muzzle or leash as needed to avoid a fear bite), and tossing treats to pup when she is responding calmly around them. Have the people toss treats while acknowledging her very little when she does well. When pup can handle being around people in general in a variety of situations, then have people give her commands and let her work for the treat rewards to further build trust. Finally, have them go on walks with you, where you can hand off the leash to the other person and pup will follow them also, so that pup is working with and following more people in a calm, respect and trust, based relationship. I can be hard to do all of this at the pace need, with the right body language and speed pup needs to keep everyone safe and improve, so this is often much easier when working with a great training group who has a staff of trainers for pup to get used to lots of people, not just the one trainer. Always take safety measures like back-ties, going at a safe training pace, reading body language, and using a basket muzzle if needed, to keep everyone involved in training and interactions safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lucy
Bichon Frise
10 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Lucy
Bichon Frise
10 Months

Hi I have a female 10month small jr cross bichon frise dog we are getting our kitten from the same breeder as the dog which is a friend of mine we go over there’s weekly and our dog is loving and playful to the kittens mum when ever we are over in fact the mum brought the kitten to our dog when we first came over after they were born which we were shocked at and our dog licked the femal kitten we have picked the kitten is 3 weeks old and we are building a bond weekly till we bring her home we bring a set little blanket that the dog has been laying on at our home over to the kittens house so she can get used to our house smells for when we bring her home at 8weeks now my quesgion is when we bring kitten home as she lives with 4 dogs (my dogs 2 siblings her mum and uncle) she will be familiar with dogs and of course our dogs scent as we go over weekly) do I still crate the kitten and re go thorough the introduction method at our house as it will be our home not there’s

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello, It sounds like pup and the kitten are off to a great start. I would crate the first time they meet just so pup has a chance to sniff and realize that it's the same kitten and you can be sure pup reacts the same way when the kitten is in their territory as they did at the other home. If pup does very well, you can probably progress out of the crate very quickly though - watch the animal's reactions to determine how quickly. I would still only allow the animals to interact when you are right there for a couple of weeks to a month at least, just because it only takes one incident for serious injury to occur so you want to make sure resource guarding or territorial behavior doesn't crop up even if pup likes cats in general. I suspect you will be able to progress through the steps much quicker since they are doing so well, just base how fast you go on how they are interactions, and when in doubt slow down the training pace and give extra time and distance. When you are not around, I would keep the animals in separate rooms or crates until the kitten is closer to similar size as your dog though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Flo
tabby cat
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Flo
tabby cat
9 Weeks

Flo is a very energetic and playful kitty who loves to play with fingers and ankles whether there’s a toy in front of her face or not. She constantly goes after the hands in the ankles and I’m not really sure what to do about it. She’s either sleeping or being crazy, there’s no in between. I have many toys for her such as a floor scratcher, a wobbly mouse, a wand toy, and little catnip mice. I’ve given her kitten timeouts by leaving the room when she gets too playful with me, is there any advice on how to stop this behavior?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lauren, I just answered your previous, similar questions, but also know that although I do not specialize in kittens, having had cats in the past, that this behavior is also very much related to age, and my cats often improved as they got a little older and get better control of retracting their claws. I would certainly recommend the clicker training and flirt pole type toy I mentioned in my other response to help in the meantime. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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