Dogs domestication and cats
July 18, 2009 5:28 AM   Subscribe

Long time since I owned a dog. This is a two parter. First, is crate training the norm? Second, advise on breed that will fit in with two cats.

I've got the blond, the flat, the time and the big ass park across the road. Now all I need to consummate one of my life images is the dog.

First query: I haven't had a pup since I was a kid growing up in the country, and I've read about crate training. Is this the generally accepted way to domesticate a pup these days? What are the pros & cons, and alternatives? I'm especially interested in the views of folks opposed to crate training.

Second query: we've already got two cats. We were thinking of a Labrador as a dog thats good around kids, seems like a pretty docile breed but does anyone have views on the propriety of a Lab pup with two nineteen month old kittens? Would the dawgs sex make any difference in breed?
posted by Mutant to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Crate training is good. If you have purchased a large crate and the puppy is still small, you might need to put something else in there (suitcase?) so that his/her living area is small. Otherwise, the pup might set up a place to live and a place to go to the bathroom, which defeats the purpose of having a crate.

Have had dogs all my life, often with cats. I find that they adapt and get along or at least tolerate one another. I like labs and I love golden retrievers. The goldens are not guard dogs because they'll get along with anyone, human or whatever. They will of course alert you if someone is trying to break in by barking, but I wouldn't count on them biting/attacking an intruder.
posted by psc1860 at 5:48 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: If it's at all possible, make sure that the cats have somewhere they can go where the puppy can't follow. Puppies (and dogs, for that matter) can be a little over-enthusiastic in their play; if your cats feel threatened and don't have somewhere to retreat to, they may feel a need to defend themselves with claws and teeth.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:56 AM on July 18, 2009

Unless you are set on raising a puppy, you can probably find a great dog, already house trained and socialized, at a shelter. Shelter dogs are generally good pets, as shelters won't put out animals that have behavioral or health problems, which you may not discover in a puppy for some months after you've started working with it. A dog that is house trained and socialized, living in a home without any real stress factors, may or may not enjoy a crate; mine doesn't, but I don't have other pets. In 4 years, he's never given me reason to think crate training would be any improvement in our situation. I like having him meet me at the front door when I come in, and have the freedom to investigate sounds at all entrances while I'm away.

On several occasions, I've heard him (from outside my house, when I was coming back home) barking at the back or side doors, in response to pine cones dropping on the patio, or cats and other animals scooting across my backyard. I trust his barks announce his presence to would be burglars, while I'm away, as well, and for this reason, I've never pushed crate training upon him.
posted by paulsc at 6:11 AM on July 18, 2009 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Re: Crate training - We crate trained a Husky puppy. She was always in the crate at night, or if we were not in the house. When she was out of the crate I watched her pretty much 24/7 for the first few months, and rushed her outside at the first sign of her about to do her business. The pup had exactly ONE accident in the house. She now is only in the crate if we're gone (and never more than a few hours), this happens about once every two weeks. She doesn't seem to mind being in the crate, usually just chews on a nylabone or sleeps. Like many bad dog parents, we allow her to sleep in our room at night... she curls up on the bed or on the floor, gives me a little "woo" if she needs to go out at night.

Re: Cats- We brought the Husky (which is notorious for chasing and sometimes killing small animals) into the house with five cats as a puppy, weighed less then the oldest frailest cat (8 lbs) at the time. Here's how it washed out..

We pretty much let the cats train the dog, I didn't get in the way of the process. The oldest (17 years) cat tolorates the dog, will smack it on the head if the dog is bothering him (which the dog thinks means play time and they spend five minutes hitting each others paws, which is a hoot now that the dog weighs in at 43 pounds).

The two 3 year old former feral cats let the dog know in no uncertain terms that they are the boss. If the dog gets too close there are cat growls and hisses, dog will always back away when that happens, the proximity they allow gets closer as time goes by. When dog is sleeping they come up and sniff her.

The little Siamese (about 6 lbs) provokes the dog... they play chase and "find me" all the time... the cat always wins. She'll walk right by the pup, start to run, get the dog to chase her, go behind the couch, go under the couch, dog goes behind the couch, out the other end, looks at me and says, "wtf, where did it go!"...

The fat Siamese (about 16 lbs, the sister of the skinny one), just avoids the dog, and since shes almost too fat to run, the dog doesn't try to chase her, it's just not any fun.

I was convinced when the wife said we're getting a husky puppy that the puppy would eat the cats... a year later everyone is still alive and the place is mostly peaceful.

As much as I love the suggestion that you get an adult rescue dog, a puppy may adapt to the cats much better... but, if you can assure yourself that the rescue dog really is good with cats, I support that concept as well. more word of unsolicited advice... having a dog will change your life, if you do it right. Be prepared to spend as much (and sometimes more) time with a dog as you would a child. They need attention, training, play time, walks, exercise, challenges, affection, if you're not prepared to do this, rethink this idea. Don't underestimate the expense... My $200 (pretty cheap) Husky pup has probably cost me about $2,500 this first year (invisible fence, spaying, shots, vet visits, toys, dog treats, kennel fees for a couple of vacations, etc).

All that said, I LOVE having this dog... we just got back from a 4 mile walk along the river, saw cranes, coyote, herons, deer, and had long, meaningful conversations.
posted by HuronBob at 6:34 AM on July 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can crate train a dog, but that doesn't mean you have to keep the dog in the crate all day when you are gone. Rather, the crate becomes the dog's den.

My dog absolutely loved her crate, but I didn't feel the need to keep her in there when I was gone. I generally just left it out for her to sleep in if she wanted to be left alone. Also having a crate trained dog is really helpful if you plan to travel with him. The crate will keep him safe in the car and becomes the dog's home away from home. The crate can also be very useful if the dog gets tense when certain "intruders" enter the home (cable installers, repairmen, etc.).

A lab or retriever will most likely be fine with your cats. You have to worry more about the "ratter" dogs, like the smaller terriers. Some of them won't leave a cat alone to save its life.

I'm curious, though, as to what you mean by labs being a "docile" breed. I've never had a lab, but my uncle has had several through the years. As young dogs they are very very high energy. If you have young children or are planning a family soon I would worry about having a young dog in the house. He most likely wouldn't intentionally hurt a child, but might accidentally knock a kid down/run a kid over just playing. An older dog would probably be more gentle with small children.

Sex of the breed shouldn't really matter. Males are generally more goofy and happy-go-lucky while females can be a bit more snippy, but there usually isn't a huge variance in personality based on sex.
posted by ephemerista at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The only time we've used a crate was post-operation and she loved it. We put her bed, a nightshirt I'd worn and a few toys in there and left the door open giving her the freedom to go sleep when she felt poorly and come out to play when ready (our older dog couldn't fit in the opening).

The only reason we don't use crates is lack of space - it was a choice between a crate or a sofa. Since we can all sit on the sofa, the sofa won ;-)

As to choice of dog, I wouldn't say that labs are any more docile/good with kids than other breeds. We've had various mixes of collie, shepherd, doberman and rotties all of whom have been wonderful with children. Go along to your local rescue(s), get to know the staff, tell them what you're looking for and meet some puppies/dogs. You'll know the minute you meet him/her.
posted by ceri richard at 6:58 AM on July 18, 2009

I know lots of dogs that live with cats and I think most of the time it works, regardless of the breed. I know to dogue-de-bordeauxs who live with a cat, and a golden who lives with a cat, among some others. I think big dogs work better, but that's just based on my own opinion.
posted by alon at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: Okay, I don't want to get in a big debate over this. My understanding is that mine is a minority opinion, and I'm not interested in convincing anyone else or putting up like a pinata for people to disagree with, so I'm saying this just as one individual opinion, okay? I really hate internet flame wars and try to avoid them, but you asked and since I don't hear this opinion much, I wanted to share it.

I hate crate training. I think it's flat out awful. And I'm not talking about having a crate around so the dog can hang out in it when he wants, I'm talking about putting a dog in a crate and going to work. Dogs are pack animals. Solitariness is not the norm for them. They need to be around people and to be stimulated, and they need to move their bodies.

I would not do it to my dog. When I got her, I also got a cat, so they'd have each other when I was at work, and it worked out very well. They curl up on the bed together when I leave, and are good friends. I think it's nice that you have cats. Our dog is part schipperke, and she and kitty have always loved each other. It's actually a little weird, but it was sort of a great friendship from day one, but I got them together, from the same shelter, and I think they felt kind of close in some weird way because of it, in this strange new place.

If you're not around a lot, a puppy might wreck havoc in your house while you're at work, an older dog, even a year, might be better.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:05 AM on July 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

I agree with Terrible Llama about leaving a dog in a crate all day, 5 days a week while you go to work, if you need to do that, you probably shouldn't have a dog yet. Crate training a dog at night in order to housebreak it is very different than keeping a dog in a crate for your convenience while you're not home. Those two shouldn't be confused.
posted by HuronBob at 7:28 AM on July 18, 2009

Woah, I understood crate training to mean having a den (with bed & toys) open and available for the dog when s/he wants it and not as somewhere to lock the dog away. I wouldn't leave a dog alone for any longer than 3-4 hours, even if they have canine/feline companions. (My understanding is that the OP and his wife have flexible schedules ideally suited to living with dog(s).)
posted by ceri richard at 7:50 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know anything about crate training (never did it, never needed to, really) but I concur that if you do get a puppy the cats will probably train him pretty effectively.

We also got our dog as a wee one, smaller than our two cats, and they took very good care to define their boundaries. Now he's 85 lbs and they still put him in his place at a hint of getting out of line... mostly they ignore each other, and sometimes the more outgoing cat will initiate some play with hm. Sometimes they let him lick their butts, which is gross but amusing.

Not sure if breed matters too much, although I'd probably agree that staying away from a ratter type breed that's predisposed to chase small animals might be a good idea.

(Yeah, lab puppies can be very hyper. Labs aren't aggressive but they're certainly not chill either. Although some of that would depend on whether you can give him a ton of exercise.)
posted by miss tea at 8:05 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: A lab would probably do fine with your cats. They are not typically aggressive - I have a lab and a cat, and the cat is clearly the dominant animal in the house.

A lab does have an extended puppyhood and LOTS of energy - they are definitely not laid-back, couch potato dogs. Crate training MUST be balanced with lots of exercise with this breed.

It took my lab puppy about 5 days to be completely housetrained. We still used the crate for 2-3 years because he enjoyed making labfetti out of our belongings. Before we had kids we'd do a long walk daily, and a 7-8 mile hike on weekends, plus lots of fetching in the park or backyard. Now my four-year-old and the lab (now 11 years old) tend to wear each other out. He still enjoys walks, though, and he LOVES swimming.
posted by Ostara at 8:16 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: So Lab's aren't docile. They're common around kids and generally good natured but they can be extremely high energy. I've got a lab and a border collie/lab mix, the straight lab is nuts (but lovable as all heck). I've always said my next dog would be a Rhodesian Ridgeback, beautiful dogs and they seem to always have a very even temperament (there also always seemed to be RR's at my ASPCA when I was getting my dogs too). They can be large though.

Crate Training works for some not for others. I only ever used it for house training - I never left my dog alone in his crate all day. That being said he loves his crate - its his home and he spends much of the day in there. My other dog never liked being stuck in the crate - so we used it for a while well house training (through the night) and she's never used it since. It's one of those things where buying one can be hit or miss on whether your dog likes it (we now basically have an extra).

Cat introduction can be a bit difficult. When my wife moved in with her cat we put the cat in a spare bedroom with the door closed for a day or two so the dog could get use to her smell. Then eventually put the dog in his crate and let the cat out to walk around. After he got used to her we let him wander. The cat would generally stay out of the dog's way when they were released but hissed at him when he got too close. Once or twice my dog barked at her and we came down pretty hard on him (very stern no's and put him in a room). He's left the cat alone since. Our cat is mean and pretty independent - you may have an easier time.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:18 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: I used to be against crate training on an emotional level more than anything else until I saw it in action and saw that the dogs trained that way were happy dogs. Our dog (a rescue) wasn't crate trained but she has spent most of her time with us trying to get into enclosed spaces so maybe one day we'll take the hint ;-)

Recent experience with a client (I look after dogs for a living) suggests that you should ensure that both you and Mrs Mutant know what you're getting into and are both totally on board with it. You don't want to be the couple I'm doing puppy visits for where the wife wants rid of the puppy because she "doesn't need this hassle at this stage in my life"

Also when young, puppies shouldn't be crated for too long. Their kidneys can be damaged if they try to hold their pee for too long, so if you're going to be away from home for more than a couple of hours make sure you've got someone coming in whether that be a dog carer or a friend to give the dog a relief walk.

Finally puppies are available from rescue centres, even lab puppies.
posted by merocet at 8:27 AM on July 18, 2009

A Lab is in general a high-energy dog. The fact that they are immensely common does not mean they are suitable for everyone (look at the numbers in rescue, many of those dogs are there because they didn't take into account what the dog was bred to do). I would urge you to choose a dog based on the individual AND the breed, rather than just the breed. Labs are not the right dog for everyone, and with a few exceptions, unless you can provide adequate exercise and mental stimulation, a Lab can easily eat your house (they are hunting dogs, bred to work all day in bad weather, they are not intended to be couch potatoes, yes there are some who are extremely mellow, but this is not the norm for the breed). Liking/hating cats can have some relation to breed, but in general, you would be better going through an ethical rescue group that actually tests individual dogs with cats (please note that this is NOT the case with most shelters, a shelter environment is about as far away from a home environment as you can get, and very few shelters do much more than the (often non-representative as tested) food aggression-oriented tests.

Also, please remember that no dog is safe to leave alone with children, even dogs who love children. Supervision is vital, you do not want to place the dog in a position where it has to defend itself, and you do not want to place a kid in a position where they will get bitten.
posted by biscotti at 8:42 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: I think that getting a dog used to being in a crate, whether you use it extensively or not, is invaluable. Both of my dogs are crate-trained - one dog stays in it while I am at work (she cannot be trusted in the house alone). She really doesn't seem to mind - before I leave for work she knows it's kennel time, and just sleeps all day until we get home and she has free run after that. The other dog only uses his kennel when necessary and sometimes chills in there on his own accord. But having the ability to get the dogs out from underfoot for any number of reasons (workmen, lots of company, someone coming over who is scared of dogs, etc.) and them being comfortable with it is a great help. So my advice is, whether or not you plan on using a crate long-term, just for housetraining, or whatever, get your new dog used to being in a crate so that it becomes a comfort place and not a traumatic experience.

Re: breeds - maybe I'm a bit biased, but I don't understand why so many people immediately think "lab" for their first dog. Labs can be nice, but as biscotti mentioned, they can be extremely high energy and very destructive as puppies. Working in animal rescue, it's apparent that (at least in my area) labs are probably the single most prevalent breed in shelters. They are not the ex-mode dog that people assume they are.

I agree with the suggestions that you consider a young adult from a reputable rescue group. Dogs from these groups have been tested in all sorts of situations - other dogs, cats, kids, etc. You will have a very good idea of the temperament of the dog before you bring it home. Puppies really can be a crap-shoot. Check out for a list of rescues and available dogs in your area.
posted by tryniti at 9:25 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: The Greyhounds I know are very, very docile dogs. They need a bit of a walk/run at least once a day and when they get that, they're happy to lie around all day. And, surprisingly, most of them behave very well around cats. I have one friend who has a Greyhound and I've seen one of her cats literally walk on the dog's head and the dog just looks at my friend as if to say, "Do you see this? Can you do something about it, please? I'm very comfortable and I don't want to get up."

Try a Greyhound rescue and make sure they know you need a cat-tested dog. They're such sweethearts, they really are.
posted by cooker girl at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: Wow, I don't think I would have survived the past 4 months without a crate. We brought home a golden at 6 weeks old and she would not be housebroken without a crate. She sleeps in it at night with a few toys and during the day she is in put in the laundry room with the crate open so she can nap during the day. The first couple weeks she would wake up every couple hours or so and we would take her out... now she's in there for 8 hours during the night and is completely housebroken.

Having a puppy is exhausting. I love her dearly, but she has eaten numerous clothing items, rocks, paper products and the couch - and she's supervised a vast majority of the day. She's just fast and has this uncontrollable need to chew everything. She lost three teeth in the past week and I can't tell you how exciting it is to know that adult teeth are on the way.

We went with a pure bread puppy because we had a bad experience with a shelter dog. However, I know many many people that have fantastic dogs and they were shelter dogs. Use as shelters and rescue orgs will sometimes indicate if a dog does not have a problem with a cat.

Good luck!
posted by miss meg at 11:31 AM on July 18, 2009

Oh and there are two cats in the house and they have both trained the golden to not come within a few feet of them. The dog pretty much ignores them now.
posted by miss meg at 11:33 AM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: We have seven cats and two dogs. One of the dogs is a Yorkie mix and the other is a German Shepherd/Great Dane mix. In every single cat vs. dog skirmish, the cats win. The dogs avoid the cats that dislike them, and hang around with the cats that enjoy their company. However, my dogs both grew up with cats, so they have a firm understanding that cats are not food or squeaky toys.

I would contact a local rescue organization in your area and see what dogs they have that are cat friendly. They'll have a good idea of the temperament of their dogs and be able to tell you which ones will work with your cats.
posted by crankylex at 1:43 PM on July 18, 2009

Best answer: If there's a possibility that your dog will have a medical issue and need to be crated during recovery, then you should crate train now, so that the dog doesn't have anything else to deal with at that time.

If there's a possibility that you will have, at some point, some work done on a house you are living in where things that are not dog safe might be left out and laying around for a few days and you want to know have to watch the dog every second while you are cooking dinner or doing the laundry or whatever, have a crate to retreat to can be nice for the dog.

If there's a possibility that you will have to suddenly go somewhere with your dog - like perhaps to a relatives house with another dozen relatives and their unruly pets who are fleeing the flood/wildfires/hurricane/alien invasion with you - then it would be good to crate train your dog now so that being crated is not only no big deal but actually a comfort zone.

If there is a possibility that something might happen while you are not home, and rescue you workers will have to come to your house/yard and get your dog and take it to a shelter where it will be put in a crate while the rescue workers try to reach you, well with all that trauma it's nice for the dog to know what a crate is. When you take a dog off the streets, a dog who may be somewhat stressed about a lot of things, you can tell, instantly, the ones who have been properly crate trained because they hop into a crate with visible relief, glad to have found something that makes sense and fits into the life as they know it.

This is true for puppies and full-grown dogs.

Cat and dogs usually co-mingle just fine. However, there are dogs out there with a prey-drive that will kick-in when they see small furry things move fast. Not a lot of them, but there are out there. As people have pointed out, one benefit of adopting a dog from a rescue group is that you can adopt a dog who has lived in a foster home with cats.

Another thing you might want to do, and this is me on a bigger soapbox than the crating soapbox, is try being a foster. If a dog gets along with you and your cats, you can keep it. If it's not the dog for you, then you can play a part in socializing it and preparing it for a home.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:04 AM on July 19, 2009

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