The Old Trainer: Cats and dogs not enemies

June 30, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: We have a 70-pound Labrador/malamute mixed breed named Charley. We are getting a kitten. Will the kitten be safe, and how do we make sure Charley won't harm it?

-- Tyler, Denver, Colo.

A: There is no genetic enmity between cats and dogs, Tyler. Millions of families have both and the dog never bothers the cat. It is common for them to play together and sleep together. I had one that used to sleep on my dogs to keep warm.

Society uses what they perceive to be natural hostility between the two as a metaphor for groups who cannot get along. Lawyers even refer to Monday, divorce day at the local courthouse, as Cat and Dog Day.

The mistaken perception arises because when a dog sees a strange cat, both of them obey natural impulses. The cat flees for the nearest tree, and the dog's pursuit reflex kicks in and he chases the cat.

If Charley is trained, you will have no problem. Hold the kitten so he can smell it and inspect it. Tell him that it is your kitten and is now a member of the pack, and that he is to make friends. Pet him while he inspects the kitten and speak to both in a calm tone.

Labs and Malamutes are friendly breeds, so Charley is more likely to hurt a kitten trying to play than through aggression. His paw outweighs the kitten, so keep an eye on the proceedings when they are together.

If he is not trained, then you cannot expect him to follow your orders. Keep them separate while you train Charley. I have covered basic training so many times I will not cover it here, but I have emailed you detailed instructions on how to begin.

Dear Old Trainer: We have a 1-year-old golden retriever mix named Sadie. We give her a bath once a month, but she has gotten so big that she barely fits in the tub. She is so playful, the entire bathroom is wet when we are finished. What can we do?

-- Josh, Los Banos

A: Bathe her outside, and put her leash on to make sure she stays in place. Use the garden hose and run water over her. Move your hand through her fur to ensure the water is getting down to the skin, and cover her entire body, including feet and tail.

You won't need shampoo unless she has rolled in something.

If she starts to shake, grab her by the fur on her neck and tell her, "don't shake." When you are finished say "shake," and then pet and praise her when she does.

Rub her down with a towel and let her roll in the grass if she wants. She will smell good, her coat will be fluffy, and she will enjoy it so much, she will come running the next time you pick up the hose.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions for The Old Trainer to

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