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Can Cats be Trained. No, really!

In 1981, when I first started training dogs professionally the only cats I was aware of that had any type of training were those trained for TV commercials. The idea that cat training would ever be offered to cat owners seemed ludicrous. Common sentiments then and now include; cats can’t be trained because they don’t care about pleasing you, they are too independent, etc.

Part of this perception is due to a natural and unfortunate comparison to dogs. It is easy to picture the noble Lassie rescuing Timmy or the bouncy Labrador Retriever working for a belly rub. Picturing this with kitty isn’t so easy. What’s more, when people think about “training”, they often visualize teaching obedience cues, something many cat owners don’t consider.

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The truth is dogs are motivated by many different rewards, some are food motivated, some work for toys, some for praise. Cats are much the same. In a nutshell, cats are highly trainable if you know how.

Here are a few reasons you should look into training for your cat:

  1. It can solve a lot of problems: A great deal of cat training is about problem solving. Cat owners are less concerned with teaching kitty to lie down then teaching her to eliminate consistently in the litter box, not scratch up furniture, spray all over the house, and to be more accepting of other cats, dogs and people. These are all behaviors that can be modified.
  2. It can prevent challenges: Prevention is always preferable to reacting to problems once they take place. Some preventative methods are surprisingly simple. For example; to reduce litter box problems, make sure the box is cleaned regularly, once you find a litter the cat likes stick with it and make sure you have multiple litter boxes if you have multiple cats. Training of behaviors like acceptance of dogs and people may take more work, but are important if you have a busy, pet friendly home.
  3. It can help with veterinary care: On average cat owners take their pets to the veterinarian less frequently than dog owners. One reason owners site is the difficulty in placing cats into a carrier. However, with training, a carrier is something cats can learn to tolerate and, in some cases, even like.
  4. It creates opportunities: Cats can and should learn to walk on a leash with a harness. It’s good exercise, allows owners to take them places without having to always place them in a carrier and believe it or not can be fun. Like most training, leash and harness training goes easiest when introduced early, so start them young.

For more information about cat training please visit Animal Behavior College's page on cat training.


Steven Appelbaum has trained dogs professionally since 1981. He is the founder and President of Animal Behavior College a school for dog & cat trainers. Steve writes a column for Pet Age magazine, is the former editor of Off Lead Magazine, his book The ABCs of Practical Dog Training was published in 2004. His beloved Basset Hound Truffles (pictured) attempted to chase a cat in 2012. She was unsuccessful and so slow it is doubtful the cat even knew she was being pursued. Truffles prefers to sleep on the couch.


8 Tips for Running With Your Dog

One of the perks of owning a dog is having a live-in fitness motivator—they get us off the couch and moving (whether we like it or not), for walks around the neighborhood, short hikes, or games of fetch. For many pet owners, their dog is also their jogging partner, a steady companion as the miles tick by. Jogging can be a great way to use up your dog’s energy and improve their behavior.

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If you’re considering starting to run with your dog, consider these tips and strategies:

      • Check your dog’s health: Just like people are advised to consult with their doctor before beginning an exercise program, the same goes for your dog. Check with your vet to make sure your dog can handle the extra stress on joints, heart, and more, and that their age isn’t a prohibiting factor. The vet also can advise on the appropriate distance for your dog.
      • Consider your dog’s breed: Though every dog is different, some breeds are better built for running. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the breeds that make the best running partners include Weimaraners, Dalmatians, Vizslas, German shorthaired pointers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, English Springer Spaniels, Dobermans, American Foxhounds, Salukis, Belgian and Malinois. Labs, Golden Retrievers, Huskies, and many others are often well-suited, as well, so check with your vet.
        “Even within breeds, every dog has his own personality, and some will take to running more than others,” says AKC. “Consider your dog’s temperament, research its breed, and take your dog to the veterinarian for a physical checkup to ensure that this is a safe activity.”
        Dogs with breathing issues, such as bulldogs and pugs, typically should not go on runs, nor should puppies or seniors.
      • Run safely: “Just like people, dogs need to build up distance and speed gradually,” advises Vetstreet. “Start by alternating walking with short intervals of running. As your dog gets more comfortable running, his distance and speed can be increased over time.”
        And just like with people, it’s important to have a warm-up and cool-down period, says Heidi Beck, a volunteer with the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Get With Fido adoptable-dog running program.
      • Potty first: Barkpost recommends taking your dog for a short walk so they can take care of business right away, rather than in the middle of your run.
      • Monitor your dog: Watch your dog carefully for signs of fatigue or injury. “We observe the dog closely as we run, to see if it’s happy and having fun,” says Beck. “We monitor the dog during the run—if it starts limping or dragging, we stop or slow down.”
        “If your dog is panting excessively, having difficulty breathing, or his normally pink tongue has taken on a blue tint, he has overdone it and needs to stop,” Vetstreet adds. “If stopping for a few minutes doesn't do the trick, call your vet.”
        Regardless of signs, give your dog regular breaks, AKC advises.
      • Be prepared to stop: If you want an uninterrupted run, go alone. Even dogs that love to run may still be tempted to stop and sniff, mark their territory, etc. “Let the dog set the pace,” advises Beck. “If they enjoy stopping to sniff or are just slow pokes, we respect that.”
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      • Watch the weather: Dogs don’t sweat to cool down, so don’t take them running when it’s too hot out. Also be conscious of the pavement—touch it with the back of your hand to make sure it’s not going to be too hot for your dog’s paws.
      • Choose the right leash for you: Most leashes will work for running, provided you can maintain control. Avoid flexi-leashes, which don’t offer the necessary control. “The dog should be under control at all times because you never know what you’ll run into,” Beck says. “It should be on leash and kept away from people, bikes, strollers it might jump up on, etc.
        Coastal Pet’s Loop 2® Double Handle Leash can be used as a standard walking leash or a short handle traffic leash, perfect for high-traffic urban running where you might need to get a close grip quickly.
        Another option is Coastal Pet’s Multi-Function Nylon Dog Leash, which can be used as a 3-foot, 4-foot, or 6-foot leash, a shoulder leash, or double leash for walking two dogs.
        For runs outside in crowded areas, a Bungee Leash can provide for gentler stops.

With a few precautions and mindfulness, running with your dog can be a fun and functional experience for both of you. Happy trails!