Spencer knows every garden/yard where we’ve seen a cat for at least the past six months, and every time we go by one of these places, he sticks his nose in the fence to see if there is a cat there. Or rather, I should say that he does so more insistently in those places, because he also glances into other yards, because you just never know.I don’t mind him doing this sightseeing. What I mind is when he sees a cat and tears off after it. First of all, I’m attached to the other end of the leash, and this is rarely kind to my spine and my arm. Second, I’m terrified that he’s going to dash in front of a car one of these days.
Spencer has actually been making a lot of progress with not pulling on the leash. But when he sees a cat, all bets are off. During the past week, the situation actually seems to have deteriorated, so I decided that with all the other progress he’s made, we can finally make this a priority for training.
There are two basic issues. The first is that he has no impulse control when confronted with a cat. The second is that he doesn’t know what I’d rather he did. So we are working on both at the same time.
There are two primary tactics I’m using. The first is that when we see a cat from far away, we stop and I ask Spencer to sit down. I then ask him to stay and keeping rewarding him for staying as long as he keeps doing so. We only started this yesterday, and he’s already making progress. This evening, we saw a cat further down the block and applied the new rule. Spencer watched without pulling on the leash. Miraculously, he didn’t even pull when an off-leash Golden Retriever cam around the corner and chased the cat (although he did leave his “sit” but without pulling)!
The second tactic is about learning to walk past Houses Where Cats Live without searching every centimetre of the garden. For that, we’ve gone back to the basics of loose leash walking. I stop him just before the boundary of the yard and then we advance step-by-step, with me asking him to look at me at each step. When he does, he gets clicked and rewarded. I’m teaching him that when we walk by these houses, it’s in his interest to watch me and not the yard.
On the way to the park this morning, we walked by the house of a cat we’ve seen several times recently at a painfully slow pace. But it paid off quickly. On the way back, Spencer was watching me and didn’t notice the cat sitting in the yard.
I used to like cats, and I’m hoping I will again once Spencer calms down a bit around them!