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High Energy Dogs and Non-Canine Companions

Topic: Considerations for High Energy Breeds

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Contrary to popular myths and a lot of cartoons, dogs and cats, as well as dogs and other pets can learn to live together in peace and harmony. This isn't always an easy process, especially if you are living with or planning on bringing a high energy breed into your house. There is nothing particularly aggressive or problematic with the breeds, it is just that they tend to have a slightly elevated prey instinct that you will have to curb to ensure your non-canine pets stay safe.

Most high energy dogs have been bred as working dogs and have only become true companion pets in the last hundred years or so. Prior to this time they were more commonly found outside herding livestock, protecting the residence or even hunting with the owner. These natural instincts of herding, hunting and protecting are still evident today, however dogs can learn to socialize with other animals just as they can with other people and other canines. How the owners approach this issue and how carefully they monitor the interactions between their high energy dog and their non-canine pets is going to be very important in how the relationship turns out in the end.

It is important to realize that some non-canine pets and some breeds of dogs just simply should not be left alone together. Some breeds of dogs have such a high natural prey drive that they are not trustworthy around smaller pets. This is not the fault of the dog; rather it is their inherent behavior and not a cruel or vicious streak that the dog develops. Breeds that are not typically recommended for households with other pets unless they have been raised together include Rhodesian Ridgebacks, most of the hunting terrier breeds, Borzois, Afghan Hounds and most of the northern spitz type breeds The dogs that are used specifically for hunting are the most problematic, but any dog that has already developed the habit of chasing cats or other small pets is not going to be a good companion dog in a multi-pet house.

The very best possible scenario is to get a high energy breed of dog at the same time you get the other pet. In other words even a high prey drive, high energy puppy raised with a kitten and properly socialized and monitored by the owner can make a successful companion pet. If the two are raised together they typically develop a natural respect and tolerance for each other along the way. It is going to be absolutely essential for the owner to work with the puppy and the kitten to ensure there are no problems between the two that will get worse as the puppy matures and grows.

One behavior that has to be curbed very early on is if the puppy wants to play with the kitten by chasing. While this may be cute at first, once the puppy gets a bit larger than the kitten it can be disastrous. Simply supervising the two and correcting the puppy when he or she does chase, then providing a ball or toy that is appropriate to chase can stop this potentially dangerous game.

Generally, despite some of the wonderful stories that people tell, keeping any type of hunting dog with a high prey drive with a pet rabbit, hamster, gerbil or other rodent type pet is not a good combination. The terrier breeds would be included in this group, as would be several of the smaller sight hounds. While they can co-habitate very well for years, there are always potential problems on the horizon. Typically the biggest issue occurs if the dog becomes excited for some reason and bites at the smaller animal. The smaller prey animal then either bites back or squeals, both behaviors that will immediately engage the attack behaviors of the dog. Since dogs have such as strong bite and the natural kill instinct, often there is no time for the human to get their to intervene if the animals are even a few feet away.

If you have a high energy, high prey drive breed of dog it is a good idea to always keep the smaller rodent animal in a secure cage, well out of the reach of the dog. Since in most cases these animals will be caged anyway, this is typically not an issue. Just be certain that the dog cannot reach the cage since they can learn to undo latches and they may simply terrorize the smaller animal, something that can be just as dangerous and problematic to the health of the non-canine pet. Birds need to kept in a cage, in a room where the dog cannot access, whenever the owners aren't home. Bird cages are easy to knock down if the dog jumps up, plus most birds are very sensitive to stress so a dog's constant presence can be a real problem.

Dogs and any type of reptile or amphibian is not a good combination and is rarely a positive experience for either. Reptiles can carry certain bacteria that can be very problematic for both dogs and humans, although transference is relatively uncommon. The biggest problem is that if a dog bites or scratches an amphibian or reptile, that pet has a high chance of developing a skin infection that can be fatal in many cases.

Owners of high energy breeds don't have to live in a home without other pets, they just need to ensure that the house is safe for the other pet. Many people allow their dog and cat to spend time together when they are home, then either secure the dog in room, put it outside, or do the same for the cat when they leave. Another option is to have an area or space that the cat can access but the dog cannot. This needs to be something that is very secure, not just a cat climbing area that can be knocked down or the dog can also climb up on. There are cat doors that can be installed either to the outside or to another room that may be very effective if you have a larger dog. A smaller dog could use these doors however, which defeats the intended purpose.

Other articles under "Considerations for High Energy Breeds"

Article 3 - "The Importance of Socialization"
Article 4 - "High Energy Dog Breeds"
Article 5 - "Inside or Outside"
Article 7 - "Kids and High Energy Dog Breeds"

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