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I have 2 Shih Tzu’s and 4 cats in my home, the dogs are mine and two of the cats belong to my partner.
When we moved in together a year ago, the cats and dogs didn't get on at all. However, one of the cats had kittens, and over the past 7 months we have slowly reached a point where the cats and dogs happily live together! We are both delighted with this progress; however, there is one curious behavioral problem that we can't understand. Our younger dog, Giddy, is 2 and a half, he never had a big problem with the cats, but now that everyone is getting along, he seems to like the cats a little too much. He sometimes tries to mount the kittens and frequently sits beside one or other of the kittens for 20 or 30 minutes licking the kitten’s ear. We stop him whenever we catch him doing it, but he still continues this whenever he is along with them. Sometimes he licks them to the point where their whole head is wet.
It is not a dangerous problem, and the kittens don't seem to mind too much, but we both find it rather odd, and we were wondering firstly if you could explain why a dog would do this, and secondly if there is any way to stop it?
I hope you can answer my question, or at least give some suggestions!
Hi there Janie,
Thanks for the email regarding your kitten loving Shih Tzu Giddy (great name by the way!). I must admit that your email made me laugh as I pictured a kitten with a drool covered head!
You are right in that it is not a dangerous problem and it is good that the kittens don’t seem to mind it. It is much better for the situation to be like this rather than completely the opposite with the dogs and cat/kittens fighting or not getting on well.
I think you will find the current behavior will stop as the kittens grow up and become more adult. They will probably act differently towards Giddy’s behavior and because they are adult they will hopefully look (or at least TASTE) different!
From a health and Veterinary perspective, it is not harmful at all, just a little confusing as to what is going on in Giddy’s head. Is he being protective and loving? Or do they just taste nice!!!? I doubt either of us will ever know. If we could ask Giddy he may not even know himself! The fact that he is humping, or at least mounting them though does give us some clues.
It is important to try and alter at least the mounting behavior, not because anything is likely to happen, but the behavior will probably soon start spreading to mounting of your leg, the sofa, and so on and so on! Because of this mounting and the potentially ‘protective’ nature of his licking the kittens, I am thinking that Giddy feels more dominant than these kittens (since they’re new to the family) and thus he feels as though he needs to protect them and the mounting of them is also a sign of dominance. For this reason, I would encourage you, and any other family members, to read the bonus book "Secrets to becoming the Alpha Dog". This book will give you a good understanding of the hierarchical nature and behavior of your dog.
It is definitely worth considering having Giddy neutered as this tends to lessen dominance like behaviors and will probably help in this situation to both stop the mounting and hopefully even help stop the licking behavior
You should reprimand your dog for his mounting of the kitten, so as to prevent his behavior from becoming a habit. Next time you see him displaying this behavior you should make a loud noise to startle him, such as shaking a can of pebbles, or you can squirt Giddy with a water pistol. Combine these with a guttural growl (AAAAH). As soon as Giddy stops the mounting, praise him so that he understands the difference between acceptable and unwanted behavior.
All the best with Giddy’s training. You have a very exciting and unique problem that isn’t dangerous at all; however completely stoppable should you wish it to be. We would love to have a photo of the behavior (the licking that is!) should you want to take a quick snap of it and send it through to us before beginning your training with him!
Best of luck and kind regards,
Daniel Stevens and the Secrets to Dog Training Team
I've been a professional dog trainer for well over 20 years, and in that time I've helped thousands of dog owners just like you to get the friendly, well behaved, slipper fetching, best pal they always wanted.
But it didn't start out that way. I've always loved dogs, some things never change. But when I first started my professional dog training career I relied on the so-called 'best practices' when it came to dog behavior training. It was only when I heard people tell me over and over again that they just weren't seeing results that I started to question the old accepted wisdom. So I started a journey, a quest to search out the best, most effective, techniques, tips, and tricks that really work.
And that's how I came up with Secrets to Dog Training. Year after year I found new techniques that achieved the results I wanted. Eventually I had a whole book worth of great resources: Secrets to Dog training...
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