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 Controlled Intro Method

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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

Effective
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?

The Maintain Space Method

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1 Vote
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Addy
American Staffordshire Terrier
7 Years
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Question
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Addy
American Staffordshire Terrier
7 Years

We have had a brother and a sister kitten we have brought into the home. at first, the dog was not happy. She would bark and wine and make a noise she usually does when she prey chases and would even try to snap at them from a distance. Gradually, with the kittens in the dog crate and her on a leash outside of it and controlled, I was able to get her to sit, and keep calm to lay down.She has done that for a week now. However, she keeps trying to lick them through the cage. the kittens allowed that for a bit until addy started to not quite do a defleaing bite, but trying to pull them through by fur, so we put them away and tried again later and again the next day.
She is now at a point where she doesn't claw or bark at the door they are behind, she will wine and look at me to bring them out, so we do. She still is a little excited but able to stay seated with my fiance and I. When she gets overly excited, we put them away and allow her to calm down.
We just brought the calmer of the two kittens out and held her while my fiance had addy by the collar sitting. When we bring them close, I bring the kitten's back to her first and she bathes them but then she tries to bite fur with a little bit of skin to pull towards her. I can not tell if this is her way of trying to take the kitten to mother it and claim it or if she's trying to eat it because it's all done calmly but with intent focus. Now that it has been five minutes with the cat put back, she is laying at my feet, head down almost asleep. Calm.
We know one bite or wrong move from our 80lb dog can injure or kill one of these kittens, but addy has shown tremendous progress since they have come in two weeks ago. This is also the first time she has been introduced to cats.
Should we get a muzzle first before letting the cat free or should we give it more time before they are as freely around one another with out the cage and restraint? A little advice would go a long way because if we have to give the cats back, they will be split up and as brother and sister, they make an amazing duo. They don't run from her in the cage, they sit there and wait until she is calm, then they approach. They seem to be very intellectual but they have a lot of energy.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Deseree, I would definitely give it more time. The licking that turns into nipping does sound prey driven and definitely not motherly. It sounds less intense than it was initially, so she is hopefully making good progress, but she is not ready for the kittens to be free around her yet, even with a muzzle on. There is still the risk of her squishing one if she tries to attack it while wearing the muzzle. I would suggest muzzling her and doing what you are doing now, but the muzzle will allow you keep the kitten a bit closer and let her get bored with it. Use a basket muzzle so that she can open her mouth up inside, and pass her small treats through the holes while he is being calm. Interrupt her behavior firmly when she starts to get over excited and nip through the muzzle, and give her a break like you have been doing if she gets over aroused. Practice with her restrained by a leash or collar until she is bored with the kittens when you bring them out. Be patient, this will take time. When you get ready to test them together, then definitely use the muzzle on her and keep a leash on her even if it is just dragging behind her, so that you can grab her quickly if you needed to. I would wait an extremely long time before you trust her around the kittens without confinement or a muzzle. She might get to the point where she can ignore them and be around them just fine, but if they run her prey instincts might kick in again, so you need to take things slow and give her instruction along the way to let her know when she is doing something correct and when her behavior around the kittens is unacceptable. Do not leave her to her own devises. Congratulations on the kittens. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leah
Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Lurcher
5 Years
-1 found helpful
Question
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Leah
Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross Lurcher
5 Years

We got a new kitten last week, he is 8 weeks old and isn't nervous, in fact he is quite fiesty. I have a dog who I share with my dad, she stays over from Friday night til Monday every week but is never left alone in the house during the day. She lives with a older cat at my dads house, who she has lived with since we rehomed her as a puppy (a few months old). When we first introduced her to the kitten we done this with him in a crate, and her on a lead. She was barking and trying to scratch to get in the cage. We then held the kitten standing up and her her on a lead and she would wine and start to jump up at him. I would tell her off and then reward her when she began to calm down. Slowly she started to get bored and not trying to get up to the kitten as much. We kept them seperate for a few days and Leah (the dog) would search the house in hunting mode looking for him. We then held the kitten inside with the dog free but held by her collar and she sits to watch him. Then we let the kitten stroll free and held the dog and she just wanted to be let go. The bedroom door was open with the kitten inside, and the dog walked in (we didnt do this intentionally) they stood and stared at each other for a good 10 seconds until the kitten put his back up, hissed and swiped and the dog ran away. Another time the next day the dog ran towards the kitten and he ran and hid behind the toilet and she stood crying trying to get to him. Im really upset that we cant have them in the same room without restricting one of them but understand this may be a long process. Leah (the dog) is used to being given 100% attention, and treated like a baby (always having cuddles, sleeping on the bed, and hardly being told off or left alone- ive probably made a rod for my own back). As you can see ive also attached a photo of leah with my dads cat, who she doesnt 100% like but knows the cat is the boss and wouldnt cross the line. Please could you give me some advice. Thank you.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Hannah, Honestly, it sounds like you are generally doing the right thing and your suspicions are likely correct - they need a lot of supervision, confinement when you can't directly supervise, rewarding for calmness, correcting for over-excitement, and time. I also suggest teaching her the Out command - which means leave the area. The Leave It command, Quiet, and Place. These commands can help her learn better impulse control and help you communicate to her what she needs to be doing instead of getting too excited. Practice the Place command a lot, so that as she improves, you she can be told to go to Place (and automatically stay there) while the kitten is around and you are supervising them. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Also, reward her very calmly whenever the kitten enters the room and she stays calm, she is tolerant and calm around the kitten, or looks to you for direction when the kitten is around. If you feel like the kitten is endanger and things are not manageable I suggest hiring a trainer who can come to your home to help the training process along faster. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Khloie
Chorkie
9 Years
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Question
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Khloie
Chorkie
9 Years

I got a kitten. My dog has been around and gotten along with cats in the past. The kitten wants to play with my dog, but my dog tries to ignore and avoid the kitten. Now my dog is stressed - not eating or drinking, peeing in the house, and early morning vomiting. Help!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Betheny, I suggest a trip to your vet. While stress may cause some dogs not to eat, the other symptoms indicate that there is likely something medical going on also. - I am not a Vet. If your dog doesn't feel well he won't feel up to being around the new cat, which would make him not want to interact. There may have been something going on before the cat and it's just gotten worse lately. First, rule out any medical conditions with your vet. Don't force the animals together right now. Reward your dog whenever the cat is present in the room and your dog stays calm, and keep the kitten from pestering your dog - let them learn how to simply calmly coexist. Keep the kitten in another room when you cannot supervise the kitten around your dog. For right now I suggest visiting your vet and keeping the animals apart. If something medical is ruled out, then you can also try the suggestions I mentioned above to decrease stress and let them warm up to each other gradually. Until your dog is well though I wouldn't push any interactions. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Panda
Boxer/Lab
2 Years
-1 found helpful
Question
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Panda
Boxer/Lab
2 Years

We acquired Panda from a family member and we have 2 kittens who are old enough to not be cooped up all the time. Whenever we let Panda out if his kennel in the morning his rushes at the kittens and tries to hurt them. We have tried sitting down with him and the kittens and tell him that they are friends and bad dog but he just snarls at them. We don't want to get rid of him but don't know what we should do to help him transition. We have had him for 3 weeks now. What should we do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jacinda, Since it has been three weeks without progress I would highly suggest hiring a professional trainer who uses both positive reinforcement and fair corrections to help you. Right now start out by getting Panda used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle so that he will be safer around the kittens during introductions. This will help a trainer work with him faster also. Have him on a leash for introductions and correct him for any aggression toward the kittens and reward him for tolerating them. Start with more distance between them and with the kittens being still and reward good responses at that distance and correct fixating or acting aggressive toward them. You want the kittens to become boring so practicing his obedience with rewards in their presence may also help. Correct his response early as soon as he begins to act aggressive or fixate on them. Learn canine body language so that you can tell when he is relaxed and happy verses aggressive or stalking. A professional trainer will need to evaluate in person whether Panda can get used to the kittens or if his response is prey driven and cannot be changed enough to make the interactions safe long term. To get Panda used to wearing the muzzle show him the muzzle and give him a treat. Repeat that until he is comfortable around it. Next, touch it to him gently and give him a treat. Repeat that until he is comfortable. Next, hold the muzzle on his face briefly and give him a treat. Repeat that until he is comfortable. Next, hold the muzzle against his face for longer and feed him treats through the muzzle's holes while it is there. Repeat this until he is comfortable. Next, put the muzzle on him and feed him treats through the muzzle's holes once every moment. Gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and increase the amount of time between rewards until he can tolerate wearing the muzzle without distress for one hour. Expect this process to take a couple of weeks. Meal times are a good time to practice this. You can feed him his food one piece at a time as rewards for tolerating the muzzle. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bunny
Aspin (Asong Pinoy)
2 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Bunny
Aspin (Asong Pinoy)
2 Months

My puppy supposed to be a very happy dog, she loves ayong around, biting things and such but the moment I adopted a new kitten, she suddenly changed, she looks sad. They don't scare each other, they even go near to each other but my dog looks so ad, she doesn't play anymore like she used to. Do you have any advice on how to make her happy again? I got no problems on making my kitten and her as friends but, she suddenly got lonely. Please, give me some advice :(

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Virma, First, I suggest a trip to your vet to check her for potential parasites, an infection, or a virus like parvo. She may have even picked something up from the kitten - it is very possible she is sad and won't play because she doesn't feel well. If there is nothing wrong with her health (I strongly suggest looking into that first though), then whenever the kitten is around give her a treat when the kitten enters the room and when the kitten comes over to her to help her associate the kitten with something good. I also suggest spending time teaching her new tricks and commands with treats and lure reward training in an area where the kitten cannot come. If she is feeling stressed about the kitten, then give her times to do something that will build her confidence without her having to worry about the kitten coming over... such as practicing tricks or easy agility courses you set up outside. Just be sure that these areas outside are somewhere where other dogs cannot come to avoid diseases while she is on the ground - she can be carried other places too but should only be set down on the floor or ground in places where other adult dogs or un-vaccinated puppies have not been. I suggest a trip to your vet first though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jolie
Brussels Griffon/pug mix
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Jolie
Brussels Griffon/pug mix
4 Years

We rescued our dog 2 years ago. When we brought her home we had to adult cats in the house. They all get along fine. Our dog is pretty lazy. Very rarely barks unless there is thunder or fireworks. We just got a 10 week old kitten that we rescued through our veterinarians office. We had to do a meet and freest in the office with our dog and the kitten to make sure the dog didn’t show any signs of aggression. She passed with flying colors. We originally gated the kitten in the living room until he could get used to us but after the first day he learned how to climb over. The dog has been showing signs of aggression towards the kitten. She barks, growls at him and tries to go after him. We can’t leave the house because they have to be watched constantly. What can i do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cindy, First of all I suggest crate training the kitten and Jollie, so that you can crate them in separate rooms when you cannot supervise or need to leave the house. Check out the article linked below to introduce Jollie to the crate. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Second, check out the videos linked below. Jollie needs to be corrected for chasing, staring at, fixating on, or acting aggressive toward the kitten. You can also teach a Place command and reward her for calmly staying on Place while the kitten is in the room. Only reward when she is being tolerant and calm. Check out the videos linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojIQmMuOwns Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Grace
German Shorthaired Pointer
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Grace
German Shorthaired Pointer
6 Years

When I introduce my dog and kitten my dog wants to chew on it like a toy. There is very little progress of them getting along. How can I get them to become best friends?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lydia, First of all, your goal should be your dog leaving the cat alone. At this stage you don't want to encourage a lot of interaction or play. You want your dog to learn to mind its own business and for the cat to become boring. As they establish mutual respect for each other and become safe around each other, they may choose to hang out more as adults. Teach your dog the Out command - which means leave the area. Correct your dog for getting too interested in and intense with the cat. Use a basket muzzle for safety if needed, and always have the dog on the leash or behind a gate and supervised during the early days. Whenever your dog gets too excited around the kitten, command Out, and if he doesn't obey and leave, correct him. Teach Place and have him practice staying on Place with a leash on that is secured to something close by in case he breaks command around the cat. You can screw an eye-hook into the baseboard or wall to attach the leash to if needed but be sure to use the right hardware to make it strong, like finding a stud in the wall and screwing it into that instead of drywall. The leash should be loose while he stays on Place and is only there for an added safety measure - you want him to practice self-control while on the bed and to be staying out of obedience. When he stays calm on the bed with the kitten in the room in your lap, and later the kitten walking around, then toss treats onto the bed as a reward. Essentially, firmly correct any intensity toward the kitten - don't wait until it's a bite. If he is staring at the kitten intensely, let him know he should stop that. If he is getting super excited about the kitten, tell him to calm down or leave. Use commands that he knows to give him instructions, such as Out, Place, Leave It, or Down. Also, focus a lot on rewarding calmness, tolerance, and ignoring the cat. Don't leave them alone together and take measures to keep the kitten safe right now, such as a basket muzzle or leash, and crate him in another room when you are not home to prevent him from getting to the kitten. Out command - which means leave it https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Fizzy
Jack Russell Terrier
12 Years
0 found helpful
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0 found helpful
Fizzy
Jack Russell Terrier
12 Years

We have had our dog since she was a puppy we recently added a kitten (Pixel- 3 months old) to the mix she is very playful and very friendly but the dog is unpredictable and has been staring her down and we are worried she will go for her.

Both animals are very affectionate and loving not vicious at all when they are on there own.

We have tried introducing them slowly but we can't keep Pixel in a seperate room as she cries a lot! And this aggravate the dog.

Im not sure the best way to get them use to each other, the kitten is very eager to get to no the dog and play but the dog not so much please help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
397 Dog owners recommended

Hello Beth, Staring can be related to prey drive, especially since the kitten is so small - when the kitten gets older is could get better but not necessarily. Check out the two videos linked below. One case is an overly interested, aroused dog, the other is a dog with a history of killing cats. You will notice the difference in tools and structure depending on the severity of the case: Less severe case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojIQmMuOwns More severe case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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