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Old 12-20-2013, 01:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default GSD/Collie stares at cats...

Hello all! I apologize in advance if this is long. My husband and I adopted a 3 year old german shepherd/collie mix about a week ago. I've always loved GSDs, though I've never owned one. My husband has lived with two german shepherds before (his brothers owned them). What drew us to this dog, Apollo, was his sweet temperament. He's very gentle and has been awesome with our 3 year old daughter so far. I watch them interact and he has mouthed her but it is clearly playful. He's also great with our 11 year old blue heeler; she's a grumpy old lady and he submits to her without question when she raises her lips and gives him a warning nip. He's a very smart, calm, sweet dog and we are already falling in love with him.

I do have a concern about the cats though. I'll start off with the fact that he has shown ZERO "aggression" toward them. He's been hissed at and swatted at and he definitely dislikes it and backs away. When the cats get right next to him (either walking by or they've sniffed nose to nose a few times) he avoids eye contact and puts his ears back. The thing that is weirding me out is the way that he watches them. It's an alert sort of stare, and he also is clearly looking for them when he walks through the house, and at first he tried to chase them when they ran to hide from him. Close up, he seems scared of them, but from a distance her very intently tracks them. My guess is he's never been around cats so I'm sure a large part of it is curiosity. I know he had a prey drive, so when he is staring or getting too interested we say leave it in conjunction with using a spray bottle full of water. This has helped him improve a ton. But the stare that he does and the amount of interest he is showing still creeps me out!

I made the mistake of reading too much on the Internet and ran across some stories where a german shepherd had killed the owners cat. My cats are my babies and I would lose it if he ever hurt them. I do wonder if I'm over reacting though, since he's shown no aggression at all. Any thoughts on this? Are we training him correctly in regards to the cats? He's an awesome dog all around and I know it's only been a week but I just worry a bit. I also wonder if some of it is the collie in him, my parents had a border collie that would follow one of their cats everywhere and it was sort of his "job." It was never an aggressive thing. We're still getting to know him though, so I guess I'm just having a hard time deciding what intentions his curiosity has.

We also crate him anytime we're gone so he is never truly alone with the cats. We let him chase squirrels in the yard and try to give him a lot of playtime with toys so he can direct his "drive" elsewhere. Thanks in advance for any advice!
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Old 12-20-2013, 01:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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He sounds much like Riley did. Riley was our GSD/Border collie mix. Riley always watched the cats, even if it was just out of the corner of his eye. He KNEW they were off limits pretty early on. There were times he would still try to chase them and times you could hear a growl out of him but otherwise, he never tried to hurt them. Riley was wary of the cats.

Just keep an eye on him. Keep enforcing the leave it and make sure the cats have a place to go away from him that he's unable to follow if they want to get away. The fact that the cats swipe and hiss and he backs away tells me a lot. It really does sound like it's just curiosity and he's trying to figure out the strange dogs OR he's been around cats before and they were friends so he could be unsure why your cats don't want to be friends with him. I know my current pup just hit 9 months old and he still cant figure out why our cats don't like him. He tries so hard to make friends sharing toys and attempting to convince them to play. They just wont have it.

Bear in mind it can take anywhere from a week to 6-8 weeks for a dog to show it's true personality in full in a new home. But really, from your description, it sounds like he's just curious about the cats and is respectful of your wishes when you tell him to leave it.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Look at it from your GSDmix point of view - cats stare. My 2 GSDs stare at our cat, I have watched our cat and the cat just sits there staring at them, the cat does not break the stare ever.

I understand the cats are your babies but it takes 2 to tangle and the cats may be teasing him in a way. GSDs do have a high prey drive and it is important to set ground rules for all, not just the dog.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thank you both for the advice! Harry and Lola, that's a good point. One cat is a bit aloof but very friendly, so I don't see her instigating. The other...she's a trouble maker. I actually did notice her staring at him earlier while she was on my lap so I will try to keep that at bay.

Kzoppa, your post makes me feel a bit better. I keep trying to remind myself that he's only been here a week and if he's never seen cats before, then what should I expect him to do but be very curious? He's been in our nicer cat's face several times to sniff and he is super alert but has never shown aggression. He does attempt to follow her after that though. Hopefully with us staying on him about it he will get bored of them/decide it's not worth his time. He also just got neutered so maybe he will chill out a bit in that respect over time.
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Old 12-20-2013, 04:50 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kelly014 View Post
I do have a concern about the cats though. I'll start off with the fact that he has shown ZERO "aggression" toward them. He's been hissed at and swatted at and he definitely dislikes it and backs away.

Please be aware that it takes 2 to 3 weeks for a new dog to begin to show it's true personality. I would not allow it to mouth your child at all. Zero tolerance. This is the best time to draw the line. I wouldn't be ugly about it, I'd just let your new dog know that 'mouthing' isn't tolerated.

If you allow your cats to hiss and swat your new dog, I don't blame it for being watchful of the cats.
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Old 12-20-2013, 05:17 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Should they not be allowed to hiss when he gets too close? How is this different than letting our older more dominant dog snarl to let him know she doesn't want him in her face? I don't purposefully put the cat in his face but if he walks over it and it gets upset I let the cat react. I'll take your advice on the mouthing thing, we are still teaching our three year old how to behave around him! She needs a bit of "training" too. She knows he plays so she tries to get him too. Thank you for the tips!
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:35 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Kelly, in terms of allowing the cats to hiss and swat the dog, I'm going to tell you why we allow it here. Our cats, though they've literally been around dogs since they were born or still young enough they didn't know any better, still need to be viewed by my dogs as not only part of the family, but above the dog in the hierarchy. Our male was born into the house. He's been around dogs since day one. He slinks. He will watch the dogs and he'll do that slow creepy slink cats do where they're trying not to be noticed. My female, she's the boss. She rules over the animals. She is the one who will straight up attach herself to a dogs face and not let go if it means her point gets across. I've had to physically detach her from a dogs face. She will stare. She watches. She is not only the one who will hiss and slap at the dogs, but she's also the one more likely to instigate. She likes reminding the dogs and our male cat, who is the boss. The dogs respect her.

Our puppy is just that. A big puppy. He's 9 months old and tries oh so hard to be friends with the cats. He's very slowly connecting the dots that if he's calmer, the cats will let him keep his nose. He really behaves with them like they're just funny looking dogs.

Keep enforcing the leave it, and break his focus when he does focus on the cats. I'm sure he'll continue to be respectful as long as you are consistent. It really does sound like he may just be trying to figure them out.
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Old 12-20-2013, 10:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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My old Katy-dog a BC/GSD mix(funny eh?) was literally murder on cats. A few met their end when attempting to cross my fenced in backyard.

My ex-fiancee had two cats, Katy stalked them. A predatory stalk that was NOT a game for Katy. If I caught her stalking her ears would go down and she'd break off the stalk. So, I never let them be together alone. She didn't stare per-se, she was hunting. She was 45 pounds of BC agility with a GSD mind, cats/bunnies/birds/squirrels didn't stand a chance when she was in the groove.
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