Cats Dogs Harmony: Getting Along

Today makes one week that my son gave me three kittens, bringing my feline count to nine. Three senior cats: Honey, Tiger, PJ. Three young cats: Tulip, Muffin, and Clover. Three kittens: Marble, Oreo, and Captain Jack.

I kept the kittens secluded in my bedroom closet for approximately 5 days to keep them safe and to help them de-stress from the transition. During that first week I did allow one or two cats to come into the closet to sniff them and leave their scent. I also introduced one leashed dog at a time for about 2 minutes each.

Jordi, my husky lab mix has proven to be pretty amicable around cats. Although he did have about two weeks in which he was slightly preoccupied with following (stalking?)and pinning down Tulip, I have nipped that habit in the bud and the presence of the cats doesn’t evoke much reaction from him anymore.

Biscuit on the other hand, was much more affected by the presence of the kittens, much like he used to be with the presence of the cats. He was visibly agitated at the side of them. My daughter joked that he was probably wondering why I was teasing him with such cute appetizers! Learning to be around the kittens has been a lesson in restraint for him, and I’m proud to say he’s done well.

In my reading of the Cesar Millan book, Be The Pack Leader, I learned about the importance of dogs meeting each other from nose to tail. I thought this method might be helpful in acclimating my resident pets to the kittens as well. With the kittens vision blocked, tucked inside my shirt or covered with my hand, I presented there back sides to each animal member of the household.

The two main reasons I chose to cover the kittens’ faces are so they wouldn’t get frightened, and thereby scratch my hands and arms to shreds; and so they wouldn’t react to the bigger, strange animal, there by causing an unfavorable response from said animal. It worked like a charm. 3 kitten tushies X 2 dog and 6 cats noses resulted in a very civilized meet and greet.

Due to the holiday, I had an extended weekend in which I could dedicate all my free time to observing and supervising the animals and their interactions. Each dog had an equal amount of intense kitten interest in the beginning. Biscuit’s nose stayed pressed underneath the outside of my bedroom door sniffing for the kittens who were well out-of-reach. By day three their interest had reduced itself to mild.

Anytime they got too close for the kittens’ comfort, or I felt they were exhibiting undesired behavior, (Jordi pawing at one, Biscuit “guarding the ball” at another) I quickly intervened with a strong ‘NO’, or the distraction of some toy or edible treat. The dogs obeyed and the continued exposure resulted in more and more harmony between the two species.

One observation that I’ve made is that the sooner a cat shows its courage to a dog, the better the relationship is between them. When I brought Tulip and Muffin home, Muffin showed his fear. He continues to be fearful around the dogs today. Tulip on the other hand, never backed down and today walks among them confidently and comfortably. Clover is also fearless around the dogs, as he was as a kitten.

Captain Jack, a boy and Oreo, a girl have showed only small, healthy amount of fear towards the new giants they now reside with. But day by day I see them getting comfortable enough to walk alongside them without trepidation. My other girl Marble on the other hand, looks like another Muffin, scaredy cat supreme. She could learn a lot from her brother and sister. A cat that isn’t scared isn’t going to run away, triggering any prey drive the dog may have to chase them. Now that’s harmony.

Getting the cats to accept the kittens wasn’t an easy process by them being the same. ALL the cats hissed at the newcomers in the beginning. Neither Honey nor Tiger care for the new additions, avoiding them whenever possible. PJ likes the girls, but still hisses at Captain Jack. Muffin was scared of the kittens then and only rarely interacts with them now. After giving them the customary stranger-danger hiss and growl on day one, Tulip and Clover now dote on them and keep watchful eyes on there comings and goings.

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The process isn’t over. It will be weeks or months before I completely trust Jordi with the kittens as I do with the older cats. It may be years before I’m fully comfortable leaving Biscuit out with them. Until then, the dogs are put away while I’m at work or come along with me when I need to run errands, leaving the cats free to roam without dog intervention. For a glimpse into my animal world, check out my YouTube video with the same title: Cats Dogs Harmony.

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Until next time,

“Keep the harmony!”

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Pet Grief: Mine, my daughter’s, the dogs’.

Grief expression is different between adults and children, humans and animals, the innocent and the guilty.

In my last post, I documented the death of my youngest dog Koba who was fatally poisoned after ingesting antifreeze. That was about two weeks ago, Christmas morning. I let the two of my dogs sniff the body inside the carrier that she passed away in. I let the two of them watch me as I carried her to the backyard and dug a hole for her. I let them watch me place her body in the hole in the ground. I allowed them to sniff her body at each point. They watched me cover her body with dirt and place Large Stones over the grave. The carrier is still outdoors in the backyard and I will probably dispose of it but until then, whatever scent remains of her can be visited when they choose to go to that corner of the backyard. They know she’s gone.

The holidays have come and gone, and things have pretty much returned to normal as far as the day-to-day activities. Well, things are as normal as they can be considering the trio is now down to a duo. Koba was the only girl of my three dogs balancing out the testosterone level. Her energy was definitely something that kept everyone going. Koba was a near-perfect companion to my husky dog Jordi who also has a high energy drive. The two of them would run around in the backyard together for hours keeping each other company. There was some play fighting and shows of submission and domination between the two as they played out their natural roles as male and female, as well as younger and older / alpha dog. I feel that if Jordi could talk he would express the most grief as a void in this part of his life has been created. He doesn’t have anyone Sprint around the yard with anymore. He doesn’t have anyone to lick and nip at his ears, to the point of annoyance anymore. He doesn’t have anyone to chase through the house or to play tug-of-war with the toy rope anymore. Of course he still has Biscuit as a fellow canine companion. But Biscuit never was much for social interaction, and the relationship between Jordi and Biscuit is civil at best. Ironically, the two have been behaving quite well since Koba’s death. Have they bonded over their shared loss? Can they feel the shift in dynamics? Are they responding to me and my daughters emotions?

Speaking of our emotions, my daughter cried only briefly Christmas morning and went back to bed shortly after watching me bury our dog from the comfort of the backyard door. She didn’t want to see more than she had to. I ask her later that day how she was feeling and she just shrugged. I did not push the subject and let her come to me on her own, which she still hasn’t. Three days ago was the only other response related to her grief. With my daughter and I relaxing on the bed, and the two boy dogs struggling for room at the bottom of the bed, we playfully teased each other saying that there was only room for one dog. “You always let your dog have all the room.” My daughter claimed, referring to Biscuit. “No, sometimes your dog is up here too.” I replied, referring to Jordi. And just like that she snapped back at me: Jordi isn’t MY dog! Koba was MY dog! But she’s DEAD and it’s your fault! This was only the second time I saw her cry about it. I apologized again and asked if she forgave me. Again, with the shrug. When I prompted my daughter to talk about it she still refused. Death of a pet is a normal occurrence in many families and I’m hoping it’s something that she can get through without much traumatizing.

My grief has also been mostly internalised. I was upset near the end of my dog’s life when her death was inevitable and I was mostly overwhelmed with guilt and shame. By the time I knew she needed help it was too late to save her. But I refused to believe she was really dying and when I did accept that fact, I refused to put her down. My grief is mostly comprised of shame for the neglect in keeping her safe, and then letting her suffer. In an effort to share my story and prevent someone else’s misery, I also decided to document this on my YouTube channel(CatsDogsHarmony). As expected, I received quite a bit of negative feedback. There was emphasis placed on my negligence to take her in as soon as possible. I got some support from one viewer, reflecting on the caring and devotion that I had for my animals previous to this incident. But overall I was labeled and unfit pet owner. The damage was done, and the death of a perfectly healthy dog overshadowed any and all positive stories I had shared thus far.

So I accepted the criticism in stride knowing that although no one could ever know the whole story, there was truth to my being at fault. And so, I grieve not only for the loss of life but for a loss of character in myself that I know I possessed but did not act on. I still have to dispose of her carrier, and clean up my garage where the incident first took place and where she spent time in some of her last days. There are shreds of chewed-up newspaper, remainder of a blanket that was slept on, and trails of blood and diarrhea that have dried to a sticky mess. All reminders of a slowly dying dog that could have been put out of her misery much sooner. I’ve avoided both things in an effort to…-to what? Avoid remembering? Deny that it happened at all? Deny facing my responsibility in the death of a living being? These are all valid questions and part of the grief that I must continue to go through. I still have to take care of myself and I still have other animals depending on me for their well-being. So though it is a terrible lesson to learn, it is one that I am taking to heart and learning to live with.

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“Keep the harmony!”

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Dogs are like me on coffee!

I’m not a coffee snob. But lately I’ve been drinking enough cups of Joe to know the difference between “battery acid” as one of my co-workers put it, and a genuinely fine brewed cup of java. I had one such cup as I neared the halfway point of my shift at work last night. It was strong in flavor, but mellow at the same time. It had me peppy. Correction, it had me revving and ready to go! go! go! It’s not my first time getting hyped up on caffeine, but having so much pent-up energy and no real way to a expel it put me in mind of some near and dear creatures I know.

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Of my three dogs, Jordi the Husky-mix is probably the most high energy and athletic dog. I take it for granted that I have such a wonderfully huge backyard to let him run around and play in. I assume that this is enough, or at least better than if I had a small yard or no yard at all, i.e. if I lived in an apartment. I let the dogs out regularly, at least three times a day. And they’re outside for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes, but many times going on an hour.

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Koba Go!Go!Go!

Surely this routine of regular outdoor time is enough to work out any hyperactivity he must have? Surely he must be content with regularly romping in the leftover dried fall leaves and chasing the family of squirrels up trees? Surely he must be satisfied and exercised enough that he should behave like a perfectly good and well trained dog once he’s back indoors, right?

Well, after sharing my stories of various damaged furniture with coworkers and other dog owners, I’ve been receiving the same advice. His breed needs to be walked regularly. In my mind, he’s walking all the time. He walks around the house which is a large 4 bedroom home that he has nearly free reign of. And he has a quarter acre of backyard to run free in all the time. How can he not be exercised with all this walking?

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Meh, just open the back door. They’ll be alright.

Well, free time and structured walking are two different things. I know this, but it still doesn’t make it any easier for me to maintain a consistent walking schedule with my dogs. Between working 6 days a week and staying busy with my new online endeavors, I find it very easy to neglect this very simple dog-owner duty.

I’m about halfway through with the Cesar Millan, Be the Pack Leader book I mentioned in my last blog. And I have garnered lots of great insight, as well as the repeated advice to walk my dogs. Keeping dogs well exercised not only feeds their animal needs to be active, but it tires them out in a way that removes the need for destructive behavior. I keep reading this and hearing this and yet I’m not putting in the effort to walk them and wonder why me being out of the room for 15 minutes results in a 6 inch hole eaten into my bedroom mattress, or why two of my living room sofas have no cushions. None.

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R.I.P. Sleeper Sofa

Pent up energy from my dogs can only be expressed in so many ways. I guess I should be lucky that this energy isn’t expressed in a more violent behavior. Although my two boy dogs have had a few spats here and there, with the lack of regular exercise things could very well be more dramatic between them than it has been.

For the first time tonight I think I was actually able to empathize with them with that lovely hot cup of coffee from the work cafeteria. It made me feel so energized. So alive. So ready to move my feet and do something. Anything! And that’s probably exactly how my dogs feel on a day-to-day basis. Only caffeine is not the stimulus to their instinct to move. Where as I had the wiggles, and pretty much became a non-stop busybody the remainder of my work shift, the dogs have their own way of releasing their wiggles and need to go !go! go!

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Ahhhh!

This catharsis isn’t going to make an instant change in my routine, and I can’t promise that I’ll be training them like it’s the Olympics seven days a week. But I am definitely becoming more attuned to some of their basic needs and allowing myself to make more room for patience and understanding when their limited methods of expression are focused in a way that continually reduces my living room furniture.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please consider subscribing, and sharing. Stay tuned for my next blog update.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please consider subscribing, and sharing. Stay tuned for my next blog update.

Follow us on our YouTube channel, Instagram, and Twitter: catsdogsharmony,

Until next time,

“Keep the harmony!”

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Who’s the real bully?

A couple of months back I wrote an article on a fight that broke out between my now one year resident Husky and the newly adopted bully pit. Because of his breed type, a lot of finger pointing defaults to the pitbull. I, being a novice dog owner, aligned myself with that philosophy and was determined to keep an extra careful eye on him and discipline him as necessary.

I’m so misunderstood

It’s become a regular routine for me to rotate the dogs. While I’m out of the house, one dog will be in my room while another is out back in the yard, or one will be in the garage while the other is free to run the house (usually Jordi, my Husky who has a very low prey drive and doesn’t bother the cats). Sometimes two are in a kennel and one is given free time. While I’m at home all three dogs are out and about with the cats in the mix. Cat and dog incidences are virtually non-existent, but I’ve continually been experiencing incidents between my two boy dogs about every other week. Biscuit, my bullypit just keeps bumping heads with Jordi. What could I do to get him under control, I thought? I’m always careful to give them individual treats and to separate them with this much territorial space as possible so they don’t feel the need to protect their food or themselves. But, even without the temptation of a treat to fight over, from time to time when my back was turned a scuffle would break out. It lasted no more than two to five seconds with me intervening with a shout or clap of my hands. Jordi my supposedly goofball would always look casual and innocent, while Biscuit was noticeably worked up with tense face muscles and keen ready eyes. The front of his muzzle was even flushed red. He was obviously keyed up and ready to rumble. But was he really the instigator?

Who, me? A bully?

One day Biscuit was confined to another room and Jordi and Koba, my German Shepherd-mix we’re free to roam in the living room.


I heard the tell-tale snap and growl from the adjoining kitchen. I quickly looked over and saw Koba cowering from Jordi as a leftover bone was being guarded on the floor. No doubt about it this time. Jordi, being bigger, older, and the alpha male of the three was showing his dominance and claim to the chew treat. Would I have come to the same conclusion if it had been him and Biscuit? Probably not, “Got to watch those pitbulls” you know? Fast forward to the next incident… I was laying on my bed with Koba and Jordi at my feet. I was checking my email on my laptop and my daughter was beside me playing on her phone. We heard a vicious snap and growl and both looked up expecting to see Biscuit, but he was in the garage. Koba again was on the receiving end of a show of Jordi’s dominance. Apparently she was too close to Jordi as he snuggled beside my feet. I’ve been noticing more and more lately Jordi becoming somewhat possessive which I hadn’t noticed in his character before. Of all 3 dogs, Biscuit has definitely been the most affectionate but since his arrival Jordi seems to be getting jealous? Or am I just anthropomorphosizing him? He’s definitely been trying to get closer to me, and sometimes physically blocks Biscuit from getting to me when I’m giving out pets.

Koba showing rare affection

In any case, the final show of aggression came when all three dogs were in my presence and I clearly saw Jordi bite Biscuit on the top of the head. I think there was a rawhide cow ear involved this time. But Jordi was the aggressor. A few days later and Biscuit has a small red scar on his muzzle where Jordi has bitten him over an unknown cause.

Everybody on my bed, as usual

The triggers are not always consistent and sometimes they’re not identified at all, but I have definitely discontinued my automatic blame on Biscuit as being the aggressive one in the bunch. Whether it’s jealousy, or instinctual need to dominate, or fight for something else other than attention, I am definitely seeing Jordi as less of a goofy get-along pal with paws and more of what he is. A dog. A complex and multi-faceted animal with unique needs and personality. Intelligence and primal instinct all rolled into one. As a side note, I’ve even caught Jordi snapping at one of the cats who approached to eat from one of their bowls while Jordi was eating from it. (some nerve!) That earned him a couple of hours of time out in the garage as well as ingraining it in my mind that my lovable blue-eyed,brown-eyed dog was no innocent angel pup.

Jordi and Tulip enjoying (?) each other’s company.

So the truth is out. There is a bully in my home, and it’s not Biscuit. It’s Jordi. This is an issue that I will continue to watch and intervene in as necessary. I will make sure that all the dogs get as much equal attention as possible and that their needs are met. It is my goal to do more research on dogs as a whole so that I can do more training for myself as an owner and give more personalized training and conditioning to my dogs. At the moment I’m reading Cesar Millan’s Be The Pack Leader * which is giving me helpful insight.

*Purchases made through affiliate link gives me a commission.

Because of the difference in their build and breeding I am still aware that one dog may have more capacity to cause damage but that doesn’t make him the more dangerous dogs. In order for them to live together in harmony, and show mutual respect for each other I’ve got to put in the work. I’ve got to make sure that Jordi and the other dogs recognize that there can only be one alpha. Me. And as far as everyone being so quick to caution me on watching out for the unpredictable Pitbull, I say don’t believe the hype. Open your eyes and open your mind and look at what’s really going on. The details are in the dog.

Getting used to each other day by day.

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Until next time,

“Keep the harmony!”

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Be the Pack Leader: Book Review

The books of my youth were consumed like popcorn during a matinee movie. I couldn’t get enough of books like How to eat fried worms, A Wrinkle in Time, Bridge to Terabitha, The girl with the Silver eyes, Judy Bloom, and my favorite, the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Fiction reading for me was awesome. It was my personal escape. I did it because it was enjoyable and fun. Reading school books for the purpose of learning, not so much.

Fast forward 30 years. Although I still enjoy reading as a concept, I’ve fallen out of practice. With my first year of dog ownership coming to a close, and me still not feeling quite the alpha, I’ve decided to beef up my dog knowledge by reading some training books. I was hoping that I wouldn’t be bored by a bunch of technical jargon, or disappointed by a “seems easy enough” step-by-step checklist that wouldn’t carry over from page to pup.

Be the Pack Leader by Cesar Millan didn’t disappoint me. It had enough anecdotal stories to make his training methods relatable, history of dog breeds to emphasize why certain dogs are the way they are, how to use a dog’s breed to its advantage, and simple recommendations on tools to use from novice to advanced level.

These are the takeaway bullet points that I’ve learned:

  • Dogs are dogs not people.Respect that and you’re on the right path.
  • Dogs have dog needs, not human. Fulfil their dog needs and you get a happier dog.
  • A dog’s personality is based on personal interest, breed, and energy levels.
  • Dog’s compatibility with each other are heavily influenced by each other’s energy level as well as scent.
  • Humans understand by names and labels. Dogs understand by use/purpose and status position.
  • Humans are more “me” oriented while dogs are “we” oriented (the pack).
  • We are constantly being observed by our dogs from whom they learn how to behave and what is expected of them.
  • If a dog is not behaving in a consistent manner in which we desire, it is because our signals to them are inconsistent.
  • An”unstable” dog’s behavior is frequently mirrored by the psychological instability of its owner.
  • Training a dog is really just manipulating its natural breed instincts in a way we find desirable.
  • Punishment is a human concept based on the idea that we have higher thinking that can reflect on our past actions. Dogs do not.
  • It’s better to correct a dog’s behaviour by discipline, not by punishment.
  • Physical correction can be successful and humane if done right.
  • A dog needs purpose
  • Spoiling dogs can actually make them lose respect for us.
  • Train your dog first for discipline and safety, tricks and talent secondary.
  • By bringing dogs into an unnatural environment, it’s our responsibility to make sure they understand it in a way that keeps them safe and helps them enjoy it.

I know there are other philosophies on dog training as well as methods, but as a whole this book made a lot of sense to me. It caused me to reflect on some of my own interactions with my dogs and how I can improve our relationship. I really enjoyed this book. It was easy to understand and help me to learn in a way that felt relative.

Cesar Millan mentioned something in his book about people feeling bad about putting their foot down. I’m definitely one of those people. I am overly nice to my dogs in a way that I originally thought they’d appreciate and be grateful for, when all along I’ve been disrespecting them as a species and individual breeds.

I have expectations for them and they have expectations from me as well. It’s time I stepped up to the plate to become the pack leader. I thought my dogs had a long way to go. But the truth is we both do. This will be the first in many book reviews to come as I continue my education of these wonderful creatures I’ve brought into my home. In addition I will be reviewing some of the tools and techniques that I am learning about.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please consider subscribing, and sharing. Stay tuned for my next blog update.

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Until next time,

“Keep the harmony!”

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