German Shepherds Forum banner

1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Hello,

BACKGROUND: I posted about cat socialization while back when I first got my GSD mix, Albie, who is now going on 8 months old. So far, the process has gone well. Generally, he one-sidedly likes/admires the cats and they get annoyed at him. He mostly ignores them, is sometimes curious and likes to sniff them/their butts which they only tolerate to an extent, and often begs in tandem with them for treats. He also tries to be involved in their play--ex. bring them their toys (and getting ignored), or trying to join them in a game of "hunt the mouse" (in which he does not know what exactly they're frantically looking for so he just confusedly looks for something along side them). On the rare occasion that gets a little herd-y--quick follow or mini-(halfhearted) chase--he gets a prompt correction and aborts.

Albie had also been socialized with our backyard flock of adult hens. While he did well supervised around them (with corrections), I'd never trust them alone because I could see a little too much of a twinkle of excitement in his eyes, and I could see how playful behavior could easily end up in a dead chicken in no time flat. Sadly, we lapsed a bit with the chicken training, due to miserable summer heat and a backyard wedding that me and my now-husband had planned.

Around the house/property and on a typical walk Albie is obedient and great with basic commands. He is very sweet and gregarious around humans of all ages and sizes and LOVES other dogs.

THE INCIDENT: A few nights ago, Albie's best friend, the neighbor's black lab, wandered onto our porch. We decided to let Albie out to play with him since he hadn't gotten to in a while (our neighbors graciously encourage that whenever). They ran up to the neighbors property, and we went up to mingle with her while the pups played. Albie was doing well in play and we relaxed for a second, only to then notice her young pullets were free ranging--and by the time that clicked a adolescent turkey wandered into Albie's play path, was startled and frantically flew away, and Albie immediately got tunnel vision, following the turkey around the house at lightning speed. By the time I got round the house I saw the poor turkey in his mouth. He immediately dropped it and it ran away, but the damage was done. She was young, small, and I think just the snatch alone did some internal damage, which she shortly succumbed to. I will always be haunted by this scene and her last moments.

AFTERMATH: The neighbors have been so gracious about this and asked us not to blame Albie who was following his instincts. We got them flowers, a card, and a gift card to the local country store they frequent. Meanwhile we keep replaying the evening in our heads and going over everything we should have done differently. We also keep looking at Albie differently, which I know isn't fair. Now I worry about our chickens (which he doesn't have access to, however his kennel is adjacent to their runs). I am now also paranoid about our cats--who I've gotten relaxed about since things were going so well. Now any look he gives them or move he makes around them has me re-reading the behavior and anxious that they will be his next prey.

WHAT I NEED HELP WITH: Has anyone had situations similar to this? We've just started training Albie with an E-Collar, which has gone exceedingly well. Our biggest challenge is high octane situations outside of typical contexts, especially if other dogs (which he LOVES) or new people are around. He gets overstimulated and is difficult to control--though making strides over time. We haven't had to use the e-collar with the cats yet because he still seems fine around them. But seeing how quickly things happened the other night, I'm worried one of our cats could be gone in a blink, even if we are in the same room. And then I wonder if this is the right situation for Albie--to be in a household of small prey and constant scrutiny.

In short, one of my nightmares unfolded a few nights ago with the turkey poult, and now I'm worried about my worst nightmare: one of our cats getting hurt or killed.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
6,599 Posts
Cats and dogs are both predators.If one of your cats got after a bird it would seem natural.No different for a dog's natural instinct.You already realize that he needs more training/ conditioning that poultry is strictly off limits.
The way you describe Albie's interactions with your cats it seems he views them as playmates.But he's being rougher with them than you are comfortable with.I would make a point of teaching him to settle and ignore the cats rather needing to follow them around and join in their every activity.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AlbieTheMountainBoy

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,008 Posts
I commend you for your respect and concern for the welfare and lives of other animals.

There are a couple of things that concern me here. One is your dog's age. I find that prey drive can really kick in to high gear around 9 months of age. That's just a rule of thumb I found with my dogs. Some do kick in earlier. I suspect you haven't seen the full extent of your dog's prey drive yet.

The other is the unknown breeds in your dog’s mix. Other breeds of dogs can have an enhanced kill bite phase of the predatory motor pattern. Not knowing the other breeds makes it difficult to predict future behavior. Some breeds are also well known for getting along with other pets and animals for extended periods of time before things turn nasty so I would not trust a mixed breed in your circumstances.

I agree with teaching your dog to ignore other animals and if need be, put some control and management in place such as your dog never being loose unsupervised especially when he may have access to other animals.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
7,759 Posts
i agree with everything already stated, but i’ll share this, just as another perspective and potentially light at the end of the tunnel.....

my current gsd (x mal x cattle dog) was raised with my cat from 7 months to 5yrs. they had a playful, mutually rough n tumble relationship but she (cat) was confident and dog savvy, and he was responsive to both our (me and cat) corrections..... as well as other indoor cats that he’s lived up to a month with while i was house-sitting.

this same dog will pursue a stray cat or any other small wildlife if given the chance w/o hesitation. he has killed opossums and around the same age as your dog, caught a chicken that had to be manually freed from his jaws. at no point did his demeanor change around my house cat, but my eyes were on him for quite some time. so there is something to be said about context. in a highly aroused state (running around outside while playing with the other dog), then happening upon a startled/frantic turkey - i would suspect my dog would have done the same.

i would never trust either of our dogs around chickens or other fowl / wildlife (although for some reason my dog seems fond of ducks), but i do think that with diligence on your part (observation, training, boundaries and creating a safe place for the cats to escape if needed)... you can get to a point where you can relax having him in a home with cats.

just my few cents.

i’ve recently added another cat to my home... Keys is 7yrs old now but still just as driven with wildlife. formal introductions won’t be for a long while but even knowing/hearing/smelling her in the house so far.. he can care less and has shown 0 interest towards that part of the house.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
32,344 Posts
Everything Fodder said. I had cats and GSDs together for about 30 years. My cats were indoors and treated as part of the pack by the dogs. Outside cats who were not part of the pack were prey objects and I have no doubt that if any of our dogs had gotten ahold of a cat in the yard it would not have ended well. I had a cat room with a baby gate across the entrance, which the dogs could easily have jumped but did not. Halo wiggled the gate open with her snout a few times and went in to eat their food, but the cats were totally chill about her being in their territory and she didn't even try to chase them or anything.

STILL, I never left them together when we weren't home. The dogs went into the garage pen with a door to the outside run, the cats had the house. At night the dogs were crated in the bedroom and the cats were closed into their room. I don't think you need to automatically assume that because he went after wildlife your cats are at risk, but you still shouldn't let your guard down and assume everything will be fine if they're left unsupervised either. Cassidy was the most difficult dog to acclimate to cats, it was probably at least a year before I felt comfortable not directly supervising her with them. The kitties were closed up in their room unless I was in the same room with her and them, and could immediately intercede if necessary. If she did chase one, they learned to turn off her prey drive by jumping up on furniture so they were at eye level rather than on the floor, and I could turn her off by tossing a handful of treats at her. She and Elvis would end up side by side, scarfing up treats off the floor together, lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Cats and dogs are both predators.If one of your cats got after a bird it would seem natural.No different for a dog's natural instinct.You already realize that he needs more training/ conditioning that poultry is strictly off limits.
The way you describe Albie's interactions with your cats it seems he views them as playmates.But he's being rougher with them than you are comfortable with.I would make a point of teaching him to settle and ignore the cats rather needing to follow them around and join in their every activity.
Thanks for your insights. We've definitely doubled down on correcting Albie for the slightest interest in the cats. When he is being calm and that cat is cool with him, we let them check each other out. Could be wishful thinking but I do think he sees them as pack members and not prey (though I know that can turn on a dime).

We also have been starting at square one training him around our chickens--similarly correcting for interest. He's doing pretty good with them, too, but it could be because he sees them as "his" flock (his kennel is next to their coop/run). That said--he will not be around any of our animals unsupervised.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
I commend you for your respect and concern for the welfare and lives of other animals.

There are a couple of things that concern me here. One is your dog's age. I find that prey drive can really kick in to high gear around 9 months of age. That's just a rule of thumb I found with my dogs. Some do kick in earlier. I suspect you haven't seen the full extent of your dog's prey drive yet.

The other is the unknown breeds in your dog’s mix. Other breeds of dogs can have an enhanced kill bite phase of the predatory motor pattern. Not knowing the other breeds makes it difficult to predict future behavior. Some breeds are also well known for getting along with other pets and animals for extended periods of time before things turn nasty so I would not trust a mixed breed in your circumstances.

I agree with teaching your dog to ignore other animals and if need be, put some control and management in place such as your dog never being loose unsupervised especially when he may have access to other animals.
Thank you for bringing up your concerns--we will certainly not be leaving Albie unsupervised around our animals (or our neighbors for that matter) in case his prey drive becomes untenable. I really hope his prey driving doesn't get any higher--at least not towards our other furry family members. He's wonderful in so many ways but being dangerous around other animals will be difficult for us.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,008 Posts
Thank you for bringing up your concerns--we will certainly not be leaving Albie unsupervised around our animals (or our neighbors for that matter) in case his prey drive becomes untenable. I really hope his prey driving doesn't get any higher--at least not towards our other furry family members. He's wonderful in so many ways but being dangerous around other animals will be difficult for us.
I feel your pain. I despise inter animal aggression.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
i agree with everything already stated, but i’ll share this, just as another perspective and potentially light at the end of the tunnel.....

my current gsd (x mal x cattle dog) was raised with my cat from 7 months to 5yrs. they had a playful, mutually rough n tumble relationship but she (cat) was confident and dog savvy, and he was responsive to both our (me and cat) corrections..... as well as other indoor cats that he’s lived up to a month with while i was house-sitting.

this same dog will pursue a stray cat or any other small wildlife if given the chance w/o hesitation. he has killed opossums and around the same age as your dog, caught a chicken that had to be manually freed from his jaws. at no point did his demeanor change around my house cat, but my eyes were on him for quite some time. so there is something to be said about context. in a highly aroused state (running around outside while playing with the other dog), then happening upon a startled/frantic turkey - i would suspect my dog would have done the same.

i would never trust either of our dogs around chickens or other fowl / wildlife (although for some reason my dog seems fond of ducks), but i do think that with diligence on your part (observation, training, boundaries and creating a safe place for the cats to escape if needed)... you can get to a point where you can relax having him in a home with cats.

just my few cents.

i’ve recently added another cat to my home... Keys is 7yrs old now but still just as driven with wildlife. formal introductions won’t be for a long while but even knowing/hearing/smelling her in the house so far.. he can care less and has shown 0 interest towards that part of the house.
I really appreciate you taking time to share your experience! It does give me a sense of hope about everything, especially the idea that context could've played a huge role in this. His interactions with our cats haven't changed though I think we're scrutinizing him more and therefore correcting him more because we're paranoid. It's funny you mentioned the ducks--Albie is also fond of (the neighbor's) ducks and we haven't had a problem with them, though we'll take extra precaution now.

Albie also seems to behave differently around our own chickens than he did the neighbors young turkeys--I think he's used to seeing them and maybe thinks of them as "his." Though, I won't trust him for a second around them unsupervised. He definitely does have a knee jerk response to any fast movement from other small critters that we are working on correcting.

Of course, when googling dog/cat horror stories I found an abundance of just that, so I have worst case scenarios drilled into my head at this point. Your experience does help balance things a little and give me some hope. So, thank you again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
Everything Fodder said. I had cats and GSDs together for about 30 years. My cats were indoors and treated as part of the pack by the dogs. Outside cats who were not part of the pack were prey objects and I have no doubt that if any of our dogs had gotten ahold of a cat in the yard it would not have ended well. I had a cat room with a baby gate across the entrance, which the dogs could easily have jumped but did not. Halo wiggled the gate open with her snout a few times and went in to eat their food, but the cats were totally chill about her being in their territory and she didn't even try to chase them or anything.

STILL, I never left them together when we weren't home. The dogs went into the garage pen with a door to the outside run, the cats had the house. At night the dogs were crated in the bedroom and the cats were closed into their room. I don't think you need to automatically assume that because he went after wildlife your cats are at risk, but you still shouldn't let your guard down and assume everything will be fine if they're left unsupervised either. Cassidy was the most difficult dog to acclimate to cats, it was probably at least a year before I felt comfortable not directly supervising her with them. The kitties were closed up in their room unless I was in the same room with her and them, and could immediately intercede if necessary. If she did chase one, they learned to turn off her prey drive by jumping up on furniture so they were at eye level rather than on the floor, and I could turn her off by tossing a handful of treats at her. She and Elvis would end up side by side, scarfing up treats off the floor together, lol.
Love these anecdotes from your experiences--thank you! I'm hopeful it will be the same with Albie: outside animals = fair game and the indoor cats are just part of the pack. Of course, in a perfect world, he would love all creatures great and small/indoors and out lol.

Right now we have multiple gated areas set up so that the cats have "safe zones." Like you noted, Albie can easily jump or even knock down these gates but he doesn't. Even if we accidentally leave one open he won't go in. At night, he stays in the bedroom with us (just started doing that since the turkey incident--before he had free rein and I'm thankful we didn't find out about his prey drive in an even more difficult way). The safe zones certainly help me feel less anxious, though seeing how fast he could grab that turkey, I know he could easily get a cat before it has a fighting chance. I hope that never, ever happens (knocks on wood).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
Dogs and cats seem to get along for the most part, especially if the pup comes home with already existing cats in the house. The chickens likewise can be seen as part of your group to be defended.

But a loose bunch of turkeys? If he went into their yard, that would be different but he did what comes naturally and I would never condemn him for that. Good luck.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,008 Posts
Love these anecdotes from your experiences--thank you! I'm hopeful it will be the same with Albie: outside animals = fair game and the indoor cats are just part of the pack. Of course, in a perfect world, he would love all creatures great and small/indoors and out lol.

Right now we have multiple gated areas set up so that the cats have "safe zones." Like you noted, Albie can easily jump or even knock down these gates but he doesn't. Even if we accidentally leave one open he won't go in. At night, he stays in the bedroom with us (just started doing that since the turkey incident--before he had free rein and I'm thankful we didn't find out about his prey drive in an even more difficult way). The safe zones certainly help me feel less anxious, though seeing how fast he could grab that turkey, I know he could easily get a cat before it has a fighting chance. I hope that never, ever happens (knocks on wood).
If outside animals are fair game, what happens when one of your cats accidentally gets out? Or someone dumps a kitten on your property at night? Or a dumped pregnant cat has kittens under your porch?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
804 Posts
Love these anecdotes from your experiences--thank you! I'm hopeful it will be the same with Albie: outside animals = fair game and the indoor cats are just part of the pack. Of course, in a perfect world, he would love all creatures great and small/indoors and out lol.

Right now we have multiple gated areas set up so that the cats have "safe zones." Like you noted, Albie can easily jump or even knock down these gates but he doesn't. Even if we accidentally leave one open he won't go in. At night, he stays in the bedroom with us (just started doing that since the turkey incident--before he had free rein and I'm thankful we didn't find out about his prey drive in an even more difficult way). The safe zones certainly help me feel less anxious, though seeing how fast he could grab that turkey, I know he could easily get a cat before it has a fighting chance. I hope that never, ever happens (knocks on wood).
Our cats were indoor outdoor and we had a dog that would leave them alone inside or outside but would go after any stray cats. He knew which were family and which weren't. (Cats got into the outdoor kennel, we didn't encourage the behavior.)

My dog the first time she saw chickens she was let outside at a relative's house not by me and began chasing these strange flappy things. I started working with her and instigated a strong not allowed to chase other animals besides when playing with other dogs. Now she points when she sees something she wants to chase lol.

It depends on his prey drive but birds are delicate and easily killed even just by dogs that want to play. Continue with a strong no chasing rule and of course supervision. It has really upset me but my dad has now allowed one of his dogs to start chasing the cats in play but the dog is still perfect and gentle with them, has even protected them from a dog running loose. Sometimes we give dogs too much credit and things can happen but other times not enough. I have zero worries about leaving any of my dogs alone with free access to our cats. But of course it's good to be aware if you have a dog you can't trust that much and separate accordingly.
 
  • Like
Reactions: AlbieTheMountainBoy

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
My dogs have free reign to run off any stray dog, squirrel, rabbit, deer, turkey or coyote that comes through the yard. Yes, that would include neighbors cats although I think we've seen maybe one or two in many years. My older dog had caught a few squirrels but never initially on the ground; they fall off the power lines usually. Virtually everything else just runs away or up a tree and my dogs aren't free to roam so I just bring them back to recall.

If you're going to let your cat live as a wild animal and meet raccoons, other feral cats and coyotes in the woods by us, my dog running it off is the least of your concerns. In fact, he may just have saved your cat from yotes being around much more often.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
If outside animals are fair game, what happens when one of your cats accidentally gets out? Or someone dumps a kitten on your property at night? Or a dumped pregnant cat has kittens under your porch?
I probably didn't frame that the best I could. We're working on correcting him around any and all outside animals--I want more than anything to prevent another incident like the one that started this post. I've rehabbed injured creatures of all sizes that have been a victim of my animals in the past (ex. a mole injured by the chickens, a chipmunk injured by a stray cat we had taken in and nursed back to health, baby bunnies from a different indoor/outdoor cat, the turkey poult that sadly didn't recover, etc.). I view all animal lives as sacred and try my best to protect/help them when I can--and will certainly be working as hard as possible to get Albie to at least act in line with that sentiment, despite his instincts.

That said, it helps me to not blame Albie (and to be less anxious around the house with my cats) by understanding his instincts were operating differently outside (where he had viewed things as fair game) than inside. And, knowing that has illuminated holes in our training program that we will now focus on improving.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Our cats were indoor outdoor and we had a dog that would leave them alone inside or outside but would go after any stray cats. He knew which were family and which weren't. (Cats got into the outdoor kennel, we didn't encourage the behavior.)

My dog the first time she saw chickens she was let outside at a relative's house not by me and began chasing these strange flappy things. I started working with her and instigated a strong not allowed to chase other animals besides when playing with other dogs. Now she points when she sees something she wants to chase lol.

It depends on his prey drive but birds are delicate and easily killed even just by dogs that want to play. Continue with a strong no chasing rule and of course supervision. It has really upset me but my dad has now allowed one of his dogs to start chasing the cats in play but the dog is still perfect and gentle with them, has even protected them from a dog running loose. Sometimes we give dogs too much credit and things can happen but other times not enough. I have zero worries about leaving any of my dogs alone with free access to our cats. But of course it's good to be aware if you have a dog you can't trust that much and separate accordingly.
I'm hoping Albie similarly views the indoor cats as part of his pack and not prey. Time and training will tell for sure, but so far, at 8.5 months, he's very good with them.

Thanks for the pointers on training--we've been working on the whole no chase rule for any sudden movement, wildlife or otherwise, and he seems to be getting the hint. We'll have to keep stepping up the stimulation fo the environment as he improves to ensure he'll still listen/be able to curb his prey drive in virtually any type of situation.

For now, I won't leave Albie alone with the cats (not sure I ever would--spent one late night stupidly looking up about every horror story anecdote about dogs turning on their own cats via the internet). But I do give him credit. As I type this a cat just walked over him while he was sleeping and he opened his eyes but didn't budge. A bit earlier he let the same cat have a bunch of treats right under his nose while patiently waiting for his own. Fingers crossed!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
My dogs have free reign to run off any stray dog, squirrel, rabbit, deer, turkey or coyote that comes through the yard. Yes, that would include neighbors cats although I think we've seen maybe one or two in many years. My older dog had caught a few squirrels but never initially on the ground; they fall off the power lines usually. Virtually everything else just runs away or up a tree and my dogs aren't free to roam so I just bring them back to recall.

If you're going to let your cat live as a wild animal and meet raccoons, other feral cats and coyotes in the woods by us, my dog running it off is the least of your concerns. In fact, he may just have saved your cat from yotes being around much more often.
Our cats are indoor only so Albie is the only potential (albeit unlikely) predator around. Albie has learned to keep his cool around deer (he went through a phase where he growled at them, tried to chase a baby deer though we called him off, and now he just watches them) but so far but it's the small flappy ones that get his attention before he gets a chance to think things through. I do hope he'll ultimately be more of a protector on our property than a predator--I'm sure his presence by the chicken runs has helped deter many a raccoon or fox already.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
947 Posts
Our cats are indoor only so Albie is the only potential (albeit unlikely) predator around. Albie has learned to keep his cool around deer (he went through a phase where he growled at them, tried to chase a baby deer though we called him off, and now he just watches them) but so far but it's the small flappy ones that get his attention before he gets a chance to think things through. I do hope he'll ultimately be more of a protector on our property than a predator--I'm sure his presence by the chicken runs has helped deter many a raccoon or fox already.
Sounds like Albie is doing great to me
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top