Indoor Wildlife

I recently tagged a fellow trainer on a post about a dog up for adoption.  She adopted the dog and is now changing her dog’s association with her chinchilla. It’s a process and it takes time.  I shared my experiences and tips with her. Our lovely conversation inspired this blog post. Thanks, Lindsey!

In addition to dogs, many animal lovers have other pets. Guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and cats, to name a few. It can be challenging to live within a multispecies household, especially if your dog behaves as if those other animals are her prey. You can help your dog learn the context between indoor “wildlife” and outdoor wildlife.

We had our cat for three years before adopting our dog. We definitely had our share of training challenges.  The dog needed to learn not to chase the cat and the cat needed to learn to stop running if he was being chased. With the tincture of time, a strong tether, treats, and patience, we all learned to change our behavior.

Management Tips

Give all animals a single species safe space to retreat to and lounge in when unsupervised.

Give your cat levels beyond the dog's reach so he has a safe escape route. During this transition period, he may enjoy family time from the safety of a perch.

Provide all pets exercise and mental stimulation.

Find a way to stop/limit your dog's ability to chase after the other animal. For example, your dog can drag a leash inside, under supervision, so it's easier to interrupt chasing.

Training Tips

A reliable “Leave It” and recall are a must. Contact a force-free trainer for a training plan.

Help your animals create a positive association with each other.  Mealtimes can take place on opposite sides of doors/baby gates so that your pets can associate the presence of their housemate with the presence of food.  You want to change the association from pest or prey to positive prediction of rewards from you.

Teach an incompatible behavior like bringing you a toy whenever the non-dog animal is around.

We hope these training and management tips help you get started.  There are many wonderful resources out there about multi-species households. In-person help is only a click away!

Click on dog and cat image below to see Aero the dog recalling off Slinky the cat.

Jilly adopted from Partnership for Animal Welfare by Lindsey Paige

Jilly adopted from Partnership for Animal Welfare by Lindsey Paige

Resident Chinchilla extraordinaire Balo and Lindsey

Resident Chinchilla extraordinaire Balo and Lindsey