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How do I interpret the body language of my Jack regarding our new kitten?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Jack

Jack - Master and- Commander
 
 
Barked: Sat Apr 21, '12 2:16am PST 
Hi all, we recently moved from Cape Town in South Africa to Jinja, Uganda (East Africa). We brought our 1 yr 9 mth old Malamut x Border collie boy with us. Jack is my first dog and I did not understand the importance of proper socializing when little and have learnt that valuable lesson!

A couple of months after arriving in Uganda, we agreed to foster two other dogs for the next 18 months. Mickey is a 1 yr old Bloodhound and him and Jack plays together and have become best friends. The other foster is a 7 year old Great Dane called Otis. Him and Jack does not get along at all - they had a couple of quick skirmishes and now avoid each other as much as possible. (luckily we have a big enough area to allow each their own space)

Jack is without question the Alpha dog in the house, I am pretty sure that I am above Jack in the hierarchy, but every now and then he tests his boundaries with me by "back chatting" when given a command.

One week ago my husband brought home an abandoned 4 week old kitten which we thought would be easy to re-home, but it seems he's here to stay for some time.

I have read lots of posts on how to introduce them and are sharing scents at the moment like blankets etc, feeding at the same time on opposite sides of the door, giving lots of attention to the dogs and doing some extra "sit", "stay" and "leave it" training etc etc etc. The kitten is in his own room with litter box, water, toys etc and in the evening for about 2 hours each night the dogs all goes outside and the kitten roams the house. I do this in the morning as well after the boys have eaten, the kitten gets about 1 hour of roaming time in the morning.

So finally - my question is this. What signs are "good" signs from my dogs and which should be considered "bad". I know Jack has a very high prey drive as he's killed some monitor lizards (huge lizard).
For example: He sits in front of the door when the kitten starts to meow and then he whines with it. Like they are talking to each other???
He comes to fetch me every now and then and takes me to the kittens room and then just stands there looking at me???
He's started sleeping in front of the door where the kitten is being kept???

He still responds to the "go" command when I tell him to leave the area.

Basically - is Jack stalking the kitten or is he concerned and wants to take care of it?? What type of body language should I be looking for apart from obvious growling or teeth showing?

Thanks!!
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Jackson Tan

Lad about town
 
 
Barked: Sat Apr 21, '12 3:47am PST 
Given Jack's breeds, and what you are describing, it sounds as though he is pretty much trying to stalk it. The whimpering basically means 'I want this, bad.' He is getting aroused by the presence of the kitten and I would not trust him around it. Alaskan malamutes and other nordics are notorious cat killers, border collies, being herders, also have inbred prey drive. Keep them separate. Other dogsters might have some suggestions for proofing him around the cat, I know dogster Tanuk has done work with her husky Glacier who had a serious desire to kill small animals.
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Kodiak

The cheese ninja
 
 
Barked: Sat Apr 21, '12 11:03am PST 
Kody does seem interested in eating cats, but he seems to pretty readily learn that some cats are special and not prey. I know separation is recommended for a while when introducing two dogs, but I'm not sure it's the way to go with a cat. I think it's creating a lot of drama and mystique. Is it possible to put a harness on Jack and have someone handy to restrain him if needed while he watches you handle and pet the kitty? (If he's prone to jealousy, give him lots of affection right before you try this). This is his first clue that kitty is not dinner. When you feel ready, let him sniff at the cat and reward him if he does so calmly and gently.
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Jazmine- *Jazzy*

1230847
 
 
Barked: Sat Apr 21, '12 1:02pm PST 
That is a major red flag. No he doesn't want to take care of the cats. I would discourage him from sleeping in front of the door and staring at the cat. Essentially it would be better if he ignored the cat all together (definitely praise that). You can have him on the harness and let the cat free roam but I would use this time to be alpha and teach him how you want him to interact with the cat. I wouldn't let them meet nose to nose until Jack is completely calm and has shown for days very little interest in the little guy.

So good signs are:

relaxed posture
laying down
ignoring the cat
a lot of looking at you (not in a "please let me see them" mindframe)
normal Jack behavior without the cat being there and with them being there

Bad signs are:

Intense staring
wining to go see the cat
obsessive behavior
dominate type body language
Stiffness
lunging(obvious)

I hope this helps I might be erring on the side of caution but hey you want them to both live right? Watch what happens when the cat hisses/growls/approaches the dog. If Jacks hissed at does he back off in concern or get more interested? The preferred reaction is reverence to the cat or friendly feelings with the understanding the cats alpha (way easier with an adult cat who will tell the dog what's what but still)
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Tanuk CGC

Sherpa Tanuk of- Everest
 
 
Barked: Sat Apr 21, '12 4:50pm PST 
If raised with cats from a very young age, Malamutes can learn to consider them "pack." However, outside cats or ones introduced later are still fair game. Sadly, with your dog's instincts due to its breeds I would recommend never letting Jack and the cat interact. At best, you could have Jack on a leash and let the kitten out and see how they react to one another. Although, even a cat who is street smart and will claw a rude dog has zero chance of survival against a Malamute in prey mode.

Our Malamute was raised with cats and is excellent with them, but our husky we acquired later and can never be left off leash around cats or even small dogs. It's not really something you can untrain either, it's like their brain literally shuts off. I'm glad you're being careful and have kept the kitten separate, and I would strongly recommend continuing to do so or finding the kitten a more friendly home.
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Jack

Jack - Master and- Commander
 
 
Barked: Sun Apr 22, '12 1:23am PST 
Thank you very much for the posts. Jazzy, thanks for the breakdown in body language, he's definitely leaning more towards the negative responses to the kitten.

I have however caught a glimmer of hope as Jack is still laying in front of the door, but he's stopped whining and the constant barking over the first couple of days have gone as well. It's only been a week so maybe I've been too impatient as well? Things have calmed down a bit. Especially after going for a run, it almost seems like he forgets about kitten for an hour or so before returning to the door.

Because of the kittens age I'll wait a bit before doing the introduction. When the time comes, my husband can hold Jack on the harness as he's much stronger than me!!! smileI will be cautious and never leave them alone even if the introduction goes well.

Thank you again for all the advice! Some days it just feels like I got myself in way over my head with Jack being such a strong-minded, challenging dog and then I went and fostered two more! Such a sucker hey smile

Have a wonderful day everyone!
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Ezra

1241819
 
 
Barked: Sun Apr 22, '12 7:59am PST 
If you do decide to let them meet, just be aware that even if Jack is on a harness and under control, a curious kitten may very well walk right up to him and get killed anyway,even if Jack stays in the same place. I have met many cats who will walk right up to a dog's face. Good luck!
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Jazmine- *Jazzy*

1230847
 
 
Barked: Sun Apr 22, '12 11:53am PST 
Ezra that was my thought exactly. Think of it less as introducing as teaching Jack to ignore the cat. As in don't let the cat approach Jack until you have 100% calm behavior from him and he's 100% responsive to you and what you guys are doing around the cat. Treat/praise him to ignore the cat. You have a high prey drive dog, they definitely aren't going to be instant friends and you may end up with an attacked cat if you let them get close enough to meet nose to nose before Jacks calm enough.
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Jack

Jack - Master and- Commander
 
 
Barked: Tue Apr 24, '12 3:22am PST 
Thanks Ezra and Jazzy. From what you guys are telling me I think it would be best to put the kitten in a crate of some sort just in case he decides to walk up to Jack. I really don't want to endanger the kitten in any way, so again thank you!
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Tanuk CGC

Sherpa Tanuk of- Everest
 
 
Barked: Tue Apr 24, '12 9:17am PST 
Good idea with the crate. To give you some idea of a good response versus a bad one, when my husky first met our cats he STARED at them, pupils enlarged, and would not take his eyes off of them. He then stood up on two legs and tried to pull towards them. After months of working with him on leash around the cats (my cats are dog savvy, mind you, and will not approach) we eventually got to the point where he could be on leash laying at our feet and the cats could be in our laps or out in the room. We also taught him a strong leave it command, but even then he was never allowed off leash in their presence.

Our Malamute on the other hand, politely came to investigate the cats, and when the cats puffed up to tell him off, he high tailed it out of the room. We trust him 100% with the cats, the only issue we have is occasionally he'll body block them from resources, but they just ignore him and he gets over it. But, he was introduced to living with small fuzzy pack members as a puppy and his breeder had cats as well.

Our Klee Kai was tiny when we got her, so the cats actually swarmed her with greetings, bol.
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