Tricky Introductions to Dogs and Cats

Pawnation - Articles by Sandy Robins


Using Tricks to Introduce Your Pets to New People

The chances are that as a pet lover, you know someone who claims that they hate or are scared of either dogs or cats.

Often the reason for such a statement is that the person concerned has never experienced any personal interaction with a pet and is possibly scared and unsure how to approach for a proper feline or canine introduction.

“This is particularly true of cats,” says Jane Brunt, DVM Executive Director of the CATalyst Council, ( an organization whose mission it is to change society’s image of cats as aloof and not needing human contact or care.

“Cats are reputed to be the world’s most popular companion animal. Sometimes all it takes to get to enjoy a cat is an opportunity to see how smart and funny they can be.”

“People are often surprised to learn that cats can be trained,” says Blunt, who runs a feline practice called The Cat Hospital at Towson in Baltimore, MD. ‘So sometimes teaching a cat a simple trick such as sitting on command – something typically associated with dogs – will break the ice.”

How To Teach A Cat To Sit

Hold a treat low above the cat’s head, just far back enough so that in order to reach it the cat has to sit.

Say “sit” as you are performing this action and offer lots of praise when the cat sits. And of course give the treat!

Cats are fast learners and repetition will soon have the cat sitting on command without the treat above its head.

It’s that simple!

Cats, like dogs, react very well to clicker training techniques that work in conjunction with positive reinforcement (offering treats). Using this technique behaviorists like Karen Pryor have taught cats to perform a High Five, and even play Three Blind Mice on a piano!

Because cats are home bodies and don’t get out leading active social lives like their doggie counterparts do, means that people who have never been around them have less opportunities to meet them up close and purrsonal.

Consequently, a great way for cat lovers to introducer strangers to their cat is to take their feline out and out within the safe confines of a pet stroller.

The stroller will be a conversation stopper and lead into an opportunity for the stranger to meet the kitty inside and “talk cat” with its pet parent. Regular outings in a stroller offer indoor cats great stimulation by getting to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.  So it’s a win – win situation.

“I suggest to anyone meeting a cat for the first time to move slowly, extend a low finger, and let the cat check you out,” advises Blunt. “And if you have a treat, either offer it to the cat in the palm of your hand or place it on the ground.”

When it comes to canine introductions, often people who claim they don’t like dogs are hiding behind the fact that they don’t know how to deal with a dog that may jump or bark at them even if the dog has friendly intensions.

When it comes to big dogs in particular, a great way to put out a message that the dog may be big but it’s kind and gentle is to put a cute bandana on the dog or even a T-shirt with a fun slogan. Such a visual image can also be an icebreaker and open the door leading to a conversation and possible introduction to the pet.

“Pet lovers see their pets as an extension of themselves,” confirms Sandy Maroney pet T-shirt designer for I See Spot pet couture in Los Angeles. “You can have fun with a T-shirt. It’s cute to see a dog sporting a slogan that reflects the very antithesis of its personality like a tiny dog wearing a shirt that says Security. And a great big dog sporting a shirt that says Momma’s little boy.”

“And, as with cats, dog trainer and behavioral therapist Greg Kleva of the Bark Busters Home Dog Training organization says that teaching your dog tricks not only improves your bond with your pet but possibly initiates a potential interest in dogs for new comers too.

And, once again, the trick doesn’t have to be something complicated.

“In fact, often it’s simply a matter of ‘capturing’ and re-enforcing a behavior that a dog does naturally and applying a verbal cue or hand signal to the natural behavior,” explains Kleva. “A perfect example is teaching your dog to take a bow. This will certainly impress both friends and strangers alike!”

How To Teach Your Dog To Bow

Observe when your dog likes to stretch. Usually its first thing in the morning, right after a long nap, or if they’ve just been lying down and relaxing for a while.

Next, every time you see your dog get up and take a big stretch, with his head down low, say, ‘Take a Bow.’

After he bows and stands up to a natural position, give him lots of praise and reinforce the action by also giving him a treat.

Eventually, with consistent repetition your dog, will take a bow when you command him to. He’s actually just taking a big stretch, but it will look like he is bowing for you…

“Tricks like this work because you put words with something your dog does and most dogs will learn in it a week,” says Kleva. “And if it takes a bit longer, don’t give up. Just stick with it.”

Recently, a dog named Pudsey won Britain’s Got Talent, the English equivalent of the talent show currently entertaining American TV audiences with judges and pet lovers Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern. Who knows, with a few more tricks and plenty of perseverance, it could be your dog taking a bow on that stage or your cat me-wowing the audience with a feline piano rendition of Three Mild Mice …