Cats and Small Dog Testing

How To Introduce Greyhounds To Cats and Small Dogs:

One of the biggest misconceptions about Greyhounds is that they cannot live with cats:

Greyhounds are bred to chase but many of them can live safely with indoor cats, if they are introduced and supervised properly in the beginning. We have even had some that live with pet rabbits and birds. However, if you have outdoor, free roaming cats, a Greyhound is not the right pet for you. Prey drive outside is much higher than indoors. Greyhounds vary between: scared of cats, to no prey drive towards them at all, to some interest, to extremely focused on cats. Most fall between “no interest” to ‘some interest” but are may be correctible. Greyhounds are calm, quiet, lazy and very cat like, so tend to appeal to cat lovers. We test all of our Greyhounds and label them “cat safe” or “not cat safe” depending on their reaction.

We also test all of our Greyhounds with small dogs: 

Even a non-cat safe Greyhound can be tolerant with small dogs if introduced and supervised properly. Greyhounds are smart and can usually identify another dog by smell as long as they have a chance to sniff a small dog and it doesn’t just come running at or past them. Cats are more likely to be considered prey than another dog. We do however often run into a Greyhound with a high enough prey drive that it cannot live with small dogs.

Nearly all Greyhounds will fail a test conducted outdoors with a fast moving cat:  

Another thing that can cause a Greyhound to fail a cat test, is watching another dog fail the test. Pack instinct kicks in and the watching dog will get excited about that cat too. Nearly all will fail a test with a cat at a distance, since they have no idea what it is without getting a sniff. If they have never met a cat or small dog, they can mistake one at a distance for a lure, a squirrel or a rabbit. It isn’t fair to assume they won’t be tolerant, until they actually get to sniff the small animal and identify it.

Greyhounds are very smart and learn quickly:  

They WILL learn something from the introduction; either that cats are prey and need chasing, or hopefully, that cats are to be left alone. There are quite a few steps to the process that can affect how a greyhound will view cats permanently.

Checklist for testing:

  1. MUZZLE! MUZZLE! MUZZLE! No cat or small dog testing or introductions should ever be done without a muzzle on the Greyhound!

  2. TEST ONE DOG AT A TIME! Never let one dog watch another dog’s cat test. If one dog fails a cat test the ones watching will fail too. Pack instinct is strong and excitement is contagious.

  3. TEST ON LEASH WITH PROPERLY FITTED COLLAR! A test or introduction should never be done with an off-leash Greyhound! The collar should be tight enough that it won’t slip over the dog’s head and accidentally remove the muzzle. A properly fitted slip lead is ideal as it is not attached to the collar. Hold the leash very short and hold the collar as well to stop the greyhound from banging the cat with its muzzle if it gets too excited. A Greyhound should never be tied up for a test, or any other time, tying up a dog for a test is likely to increase excitement over whatever is just out of their reach.

  4. TEST INDOORS ONLY! Prey drive is higher outdoors. Judging a dog’s reaction to a strange cat at a distance outside is NOT a reliable way to cat test. Yes, most Greyhounds will be interested and want to chase cats they see on walks in the neighbourhood. That will be true of even the most cat tolerant dogs indoors. Dogs are predators so this is not unique to Greyhounds. Dogs are more alert and excitable outside, than in their den or house where they typically rest. Dogs are also territorial and consider squirrels and the neighbour’s cat to be intruders, in their yard.

  5. NEVER HOLD THE CAT DURING THE TEST! You will get scratched and holding a cat up in the air increases prey drive. The dog is much less likely to pass the test with cat being dangled above his head like a lure or a toy. Let the dog meet the cat on the ground as if it were another dog. The same thing applies when introducing a Greyhound to a small dog. It will be much more recognisable as a dog if it is on the ground walking like a dog and not carried like a toy.

  6. TEST IN A SMALL SPACE! Tests and introductions should be held in a small space where the cat cannot run away. A bathroom works great or another small room where the cat can’t run away or hide under things. This is SO important! The last thing you want is a Greyhound to get excited over a fast moving small animal at the start of a test or introduction, it is almost guaranteed to react with excitement and fail. You don’t want the Greyhound to mistake a cat for the lure it has been chasing at the track.

  7. TEST CALM DOGS! If the dog has seen a lure moving, been playing with toys, chasing balls or has gotten excited by seeing a squirrel or cat at a distance first, skip the introduction and wait for the dog to calm down. Wait until the next day and introduce in a different place. A Greyhound is likely to look for the “lure” even a day later in the spot he saw it before and have a similar reaction. A dog that is very excited will go straight to the chase or pounce rather than being curious and sniffing first. Sniffing to find out that a small dog or cat is not a lure or a squirrel is the key to the whole introduction. Most dogs that can remain calm enough to actually sniff a cat will lose interest after they sniff.

  8. TEST WITH A STILL CAT FIRST! Put the cat in a crate if you need to. Once the dog calmly sniffs the cat in the crate, THEN let the cat out. Restrict the cat’s movement and let the Greyhound sniff it again without the bars between them. If the Greyhound passes that part of the test, then let the cat move a little – walking only. No running! Few Greyhounds will pass a cat or small dog test if it sees them running first without going through this gradual process. Let the dog identify the cat, when it is at its least exciting, so that the dog will already know what it is when it does move fast.

  9. INTRODUCE TO AS MANY CATS AND SMALL DOGS AS POSSIBLE! Dogs can have different reactions to different animals. Don’t consider a dog to be tolerant with ALL cats or ALL small dogs just because he has passed a test with one small dog or cat. Repeat the introduction to each cat or small dog you have and visiting.

  10. NO GREYHOUND SHOULD EVER BE ALLOWED OFF LEASH WITH A CAT OR SMALL DOG HE HAS NEVER MET! Many look like the lure they chased at the track. Most ex-racing Greyhounds have not been exposed to other breeds of dogs or cats. Just because your dog has been good with one small dog or cat he met during a test, it doesn’t mean he will automatically know that the next cat or small dog he sees are the same animals and that the same “no chase” rules apply. They can look very different and it is important that he be introduced carefully to each new animal. For this reason parks or other highly populated areas are not a good idea for a newly adopted Ggreyhound.

  11. DON’T USE A FEARFUL CAT! If you have multiple cats, introduce the Greyhound to the cat that is not afraid of dogs first. A fearful small dog or cat can trigger prey drive in all but the lowest prey drive dogs. This is something we take into consideration when choosing a dog for a home with a timid cat, that is likely to run away. Only the most cat tolerant and low prey drive dog will be OK in that situation.

  12. DON’T USE A FAKE STUFFED CAT FOR A CAT TEST! Greyhounds, like most dogs, love to play with stuffed toys. Stuffed animals don’t smell like cats and even battery powered toy cats don’t move like a real cat. Even the most cat friendly greyhound will play with a stuffed toy. Please do the test right and use a real cat.

The Actual Test:

Cat is in a crate in a small room. A Calm, muzzled Greyhound is brought in on a lead and allowed to sniff the cat in the crate. If the dog gets excited, allow him to calm down before letting the cat out of the crate. This can be repeated several times before moving on to the next step. Even most non-cat safe dogs can pass this part of the test. Just testing the dog with a cat in a crate is unreliable for this reason. Some dogs just can’t resist a moving cat, even if they can pass the “cat in a crate” test. A cat in a home will move around so we want the dog to be exposed to that too.

When the cat comes out of the crate encourage the dog to sniff the hind end of the cat and position them there first. That is the greeting end for a dog. Dogs sniff the back end but they grab the neck of prey. The end of the cat you present first can affect the outcome of the test. You want the dog to sniff politely not try to grab. This is the most important for dogs that are getting excited about the cat at this point in the test.

Very high prey drive greyhounds won’t respond to physical or verbal corrections when they are in the room with the cat. You won’t be able to get their attention away from the cat and they will be so focused that it is as if you aren’t even in the room. Some bark and lunge for the cat, but others get very still and tense, staring at the cat. Often their tail is wagging tensely, but sometimes they are totally still. Don’t mistake a tense tail wag for meaning that they “like” the cat.

A tense, still dog with a tensely wagging tail or still tail is not usually a good sign. Be VERY cautious testing this type of dog. They will seem OK one second and try to pounce on the cat the next. The muzzle prevents them from biting the cat but it hurts to be hit hard with a plastic muzzle. You want to have a firm grip on the collar to prevent the dog from hitting the cat with the muzzle. Some high prey drive dogs will even turn their head a bit as if they aren’t watching the cat, while watching it out of the corner of their eye. If the cat relaxes and turns or looks away from the dog for a second, this type of dog will take the opportunity to pounce. The dog can be very patient and stand motionless for a long time, very much like a cat hunting mice. A dog having this type of reaction to a cat is not likely to be cat tolerant, but occasionally a slap from the cat can change their mind. Even with a dog like this, it is important to get the dog to the hind end of the cat for a sniff. We have seen many dogs at this level of excitement, suddenly lose interest once they sniff the cat and realize what it is. Some at least calm down and become easily correctible and trainable with the cat, once they identify it as a cat.

If the dog passes the initial cat test, we try to get the cat to move a little faster and may let it hop up onto a windowsill or countertop, which can set off prey drive. If the dog responds to the moving cat, we check to see if he responds to correction. We use a collar correction, a loud voice or a firm poke with a couple of fingers to his neck or side to see if we can get his focus off the cat. If he is interested in the cat but corrects easily we label him “cat trainable”. If the dog checks out the moving cat and quickly loses interest on his own we label him “cat tolerant”.

“Non-cat tolerant” Greyhounds can be re-tested after they have been in a home for a while. Racing Greyhounds have been trained to chase a lure and some take it very seriously, but some can calm down after they have been retired for a little while and do better on their cat and small dog test the second time around.

Cat Training In Foster Care And After Adoption:

Some training will have to be done with ALL greyhounds no matter how “tolerant” they seem to be during their test. A dog has to make a split second decision not to chase when they see a flash of movement out of the corner of their eye. All dogs have to learn that that movement is just the cat, by exposure and supervision. It isn’t something that happens immediately because they met one cat during a test. We also recommend this process for all adoptive homes introducing Greyhounds to small dogs. This is especially true of dogs that have not been fostered in a home with cats and have only met cats once during a test.

A cat test should not be considered 100 percent accurate!!! It is just a test of how that dog was on that particular day with one cat. No matter how safe, cute and harmless they seem to be; all dogs are still predators. They should all have supervision for weeks or months around small animals. Always err on the side of caution and keep your new greyhound muzzled and supervised around small animals until YOU are very confident of their behaviour. Some owners always separate their dogs and cats when they leave the house just to be safe.

Use Your muzzle! Hector’s Greyhound Rescue will always provide muzzles to ALL adopters and foster homes. They are not cruel, and your Greyhound is already used to wearing one. Since our breed is used to wearing muzzles, it is a wonderful tool that we have access to that makes cat training safer. We consider a muzzle to be an insurance policy and ask all adopters to use it until they are 100 percent confident of their dog’s behaviour. There is no harm in having your dog wear a muzzle too long, the only harm is if you remove it too soon.

It is very important to keep cat tolerant and cat trainable dogs ON A LEASH around the cat at first until it is very used to seeing the cat or small dog running around. This allows you to correct and stop the dog if it makes a mistake and gets excited and wants to chase. Once a dog chases a cat it can be very difficult to convince him that he doesn’t want to do it again, because it is fun.