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Pet-Dating Sucks

So we've been trying to find a new dog for the last week or two, since Gir needs a friend. It's...not gone well.

Our first try was a lovely dog who came home and promptly went for a cat, full lunge and snarl. Back to the foster family he went.

Our second try is a marvelous Staffordshire and I loved her immediately and she needs a great home. She made it three days. Unfortunately, she thinks cats are small dogs. She wanted to play with the small orange dog (Angus) so badly. She brought him toys, she pranced alongside him, she was trying so hard...and then he got in a windowsill and she trapped him back there, and when she got a face full of claws, she lunged forward in what was probably meant to be a play-bite. I got her by the collar, Angus went over her head, across the table, and up the stairs, and that was the end of that. Play-bites from 60lb dogs to trapped cats can be fatal, so she's going back to the foster carer tonight. (Angus is fine, I'm just glad he moved in time. It was one of those things that could very easily have been Not At All Fine.)

(And the descriptions always say that they have been around cats. I swear, I'm checking for "good with cats" on every description. I think sometimes people are so eager to find homes, they fudge a bit with "I think the one family had one outdoor cat, so he must be fine.")

This is killing me, guys. I was always shit at dating, and dogs are generally infinitely more Good than humans, so it's worse. I always fall in love immediately, and when it doesn't work out, I panic that I am dooming them to a life of being unwanted and then I cry for an hour. Kevin, who is in the running for "human who is almost as Good as a dog" is very understanding, but I hate this so much.

So, um, if anybody local wants a female Staffordshire, 2.5 year old, crate-trained, an absolute dream on a leash, drop a line, I'll forward the info. Just...not great with cats.

What if you bring Angus with you in a carrier, so he can assess the dog?

--Okay, I still want that on record, for the sake of full disclosure of my degree of fog, but I immediately realized why it's a bad idea for Angus to be inserted into a carrier, taken for a drive, and then introduced to a strange dog in a strange place.

I know how I'd feel.

We're thinking lengthy in-home visit on the next dog, and they've pretty much got to ignore the cats completely. The making-friends thing doesn't work out so well if they play rambunctiously with their friends...

Not sure if it will be any use to you or not, but bunn - who fosters sighthounds - is currently posting her progress on introducing her new foster lurcher to cats.

Good luck with the search!

I'm so sorry. It's hard. But you're doing the right thing for everyone.

The shelter where I volunteer has a Stunt Cat (well, actually, we have two Stunt Cats, but one of them is a cat-shaped mannequin onna stick and one of them is an actual cat) and we do cat interaction as part of temperament testing in a controlled environment with the dogs who come in. Dogs who pass the cat-onna-stick portion get to interact with the Stunt Cat who is the boss of the shelter (she decided she didn't want to be adopted but instead wanted to live there and has full run of the place) and gives exactly zero fucks about dogs since she's around them all the time. If they behave inappropriately around the Stunt Cat they get the "no cats" flag on their file. If they are polite to her or ignore her they get the "maybe a home with cats" flag instead but we offer immediate no questions asked returns even then.

Our county shelter had an office cat that performed that duty. That's how we knew our first dog was completely cat-compatible.

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I'm very leery of Bengals since I find their breeding to be pretty sketchy, but I have to admit those pictures of the guy with a Serval on a leash, and of F1-generation Bengals, are pretty cool-looking.

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I think A. has a great future with somebody - she seems like a lovely, lovely dog with good training who will land on her feet. But, again, I am so sorry you guys are having to go through this.

What breeds are you looking into, out of curiosity? Are there any specific features you're looking for beyond Is Good With Cats?

We are basically looking for a good-natured couch potato. Low-energy pit bulls are getting a lot of interest--we don't want a working breed that will go mad because we can't give it enough of a job. A dog that wants to hang out with humans, play a little fetch, go for some walks...And there are a TON of rescue pits in this area, so we've been looking at a lot of those.

Aw, it's really hard. :( We lucked out with our dog, who is so far down the hierarchy that one "No" got him to ignore the cats forever. We call him theta-dog. (Not alpha, not beta....)

Have you considered a senior dog? I've always found seniors of practically every breed and species to be pretty chilled out, and you may very well be saving the dog from an early death (hardly anyone adopts seniors.) The downside, of course, is the age of the dog, but I think it would be worth it.

We've just lost a senior dog, and have our ancient beagle still, so we're leery of talking on another short lifespan right away. Adult dogs is what we're looking at, but perhaps this one wasn't quite adult enough...

is that shelters DO lie about the animals. They want to adopt them out and they will say almost anything to get a animal adopted. They will lie about what breed a mixed mutt is, and especially the 'good with cats' thing, because in fact a lot of shelters that specialize in dogs don't care about the cats you happen to have at home. It sucks, but its true.

Re: The horrible truth

I'm pretty sure in this case the fosterer wasn't deliberately misleading us--she'd seen that the Staffordshire didn't go "prey" on them, so she thought she'd be fine, and she was almost right! But the dog just didn't have enough long-term cat exposure for anyone to realize that she'd try to PLAY with a daft, affectionate cat that wouldn't swat her for getting close, and that she was just too massive and too rough to play safely with said cat.

Honestly, it was a case of being too friendly with a cat that was too friendly back, and when a play-bite can take somebody's head off...yeah.

In my experience it's very typical that dogs who have good behaviors in a stable environment will exhibit very out-of-character behavior (like chasing a cat when they've never chased a cat before), in an unstable, unsure environment where they don't feel secure and safe and loved, yet. Foster/shelter dogs (and cats), in my experience, take months to settle into their real personalities, once they've been introduced to a new home. And environment has a big effect on that, too. I have had problem cats act completely different when given a stable, quiet, single-cat home, for example. If a foster dog doesn't act weird in the first weeks/months, then there's probably something wrong with it. Like, they've disassociated to the point where they'll never be able to trust or bond again. But they'll follow rules.

:( Very sorry to hear about these dogs not working out. I feel like the Staffordshire might have worked but would require some training to just ignore the cats completely. She seemed to have a lot of training potential and was very mindful of the Human's Opinion of her actions, but unfortunately this does take a lot of time and attention.

I absolutely think a good trainer could deal with it, but I suspect I'm not that trainer. I am all mush and no spine and I'd need to keep her leashed to me at all hours because one slip up and we'd have a very injured kitty.

I just don't trust myself to be good enough at it to risk a cat's life.

Animals are not machines. They don't do the same thing every time.

A dog that is perfectly fine with a cat it is familiar with might chase or lunge at a strange cat. They need to work out their relationships.

I think going for a younger dog and introducing it to Sergei would take care of any cat problems.

Sometimes it's about patience

My new puppy (Nov. 2013) is STILL not entirely copacetic with the cats...or maybe they aren't copacetic with her...
I have an electronic fence in the house that MOSTLY keeps Puppy from the back of the house where Kitties have a haven.
Today BoyKitty got trapped in the bathroom though, and Pupper-do was very good and very gentle. BK even did some nuzzling.

It may just take some time for the cats to get used to the dog...and sometimes it takes a nice whack on the dog's muzzle to teach them that KittyPoo isn't a toy.

This is the difficult thing with shelter/rescue dogs, you don't know a whole lot with them being in that environment. And even when they're in foster homes with other animals, those animals may be completely different in how they behave from your own, the house may run differently so there may not be behaviors that are seen, etc. It's hard. Shelter/rescue dogs are a gamble, and sometimes it can take a while to find a good match with the good shelters and rescues out there. The bad shelters and rescues...oh dear....yes, there are lying, scamming, thieving shelters and rescues.

Which is why I have started encouraging people to screen rescues and shelters just as you would breeders.

I would say look at national breed club rescues (also usually throw retired show dogs out there as an option too). I can understand wanting to help out the local "bullies", but sometimes they're just not good with other animals, and it may take a while. Or the next one might be a perfect fit. Who knows? Sometimes it can take a while for a dog to show who they really are though, so....even after okay introductions, do be careful. Especially with high priority toys and treats. Some dogs, bull breed and otherwise, just have issues regarding that sort of thing and are otherwise fine.

My brother had a greyhound, and it was a laid-back dog for sure, but that's still a LOT of dog. Nick had to be taught to go up stairs, too, as he'd never met any before.

We've had two Shelties that were good with cats. Not fond of them, particularly when the resident cat would tease, but they understood that indoor cats were off limits even without being swatted. The second one was smart enough to distinguish between "our" cat and "intruder" cats too; Mom would let her out to chase the local felines away from the birdfeeder (knowing full well that Bernice was not fast enough to actually catch them). And when Saufie the Cat was outside with Mom and wandered too close to the edge of the yard, Bernice would go herd her back.

YMMV, of course, but Shelties in general don't have quite the herding drive that border collies do; ours were happy house dogs with almost-daily walks and the occasional tear-around-in-barking-circle in the yard. However, they do have those heavy coats and we would buzz-cut them in the summer.

I have a Sheltie too. He and his predecessor both adore cats as bizarre ninja-dogs, though we have not found a cat that loves them back.

The heavy coat would be a liability in the Carolinas. Mine gets a puppy cut each summer here in NY for sanity and sanitary sake.