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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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.
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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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0 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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Panda
Boxer/Lab
2 Years
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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 Trainier
78 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
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 Trainier
78 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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