Looking to adopt a family-friendly dog that won't turn your cat into a perpetual poster child for Halloween decorations? Consider taking home a boxer. Properly socialized, they're patient and gentle with family members and other pets, cats included. Research your boxer's history with cats, though, as past behaviors could reemerge.
Boxers in Brief
Boxers are a middleweight breed of German descent widely praised for their affectionate, protective and patient temperaments. They can serve as hunting partners, watchdogs and family pets, according to the American Kennel Club.
Boxers' natural dispositions are a double-edged sword for cats. On the one hand, they have a strong prey drive that, if turned on cats, is deadly dangerous. On the other hand, their docility toward members of their "in group" or family can accommodate cats.
Properly socialized, boxers get along fine with cats -- some even like them -- but the sentiment won't necessarily be reciprocated.
Boxers are highly trainable. It's important you learn about your canine companion candidate's history with other animals before bringing him home to your cat. If you're adopting him from a shelter, ask to bring him in to areas with cats to gauge his high-stress reaction.
Likewise, if you've already got a boxer, take him to a place with cats to assess his reaction before you bring a new cat home. Even if you've raised your furry friend since he was a puppy, there's no way to be sure of his default reaction to cats.
Getting to Know You
The ideal way to foster a peaceful household with dogs and cats is to bring home the cat first and introduce both animals when they're young. The puppy should be less than 1 year old, and the kitten should be less than 6 months old.
One reason dogs and cats fight may be because of their conflicting body language. Dogs, for instance, wag their tails when they're happy and look away to signal submission. Cats, however, wag their tails when they're mad and look away to signal aggression. The Tel Aviv study found that animals in harmonious homes mimicked social cues across species.
Breed wasn't a factor, so it's reasonably safe to assume this information can help incubate your boxer-to-be's love of cats.
When you're introducing a boxer and a cat, you've got take extra precautions to protect the cat.
Use baby gates to enclose in the dog in one or two rooms the cat is already familiar with, and make sure their are multiple perches and escape routes. Put your boxer on a leash, and allow the cat to approach him at his own pace.
Positive reinforcements like treats can help calm nerves. Use simple commands like "no" or "sit" with your boxer if he barks or lunges at the cat. Don't discipline cats directly, as they appear to have longer memories and form less flexible negative associations.
Companions and Company
You're shooting for love between your boxer and cat, but you can settle for tolerance. Build on good experiences and always try to end play dates on positive notes. Expand sessions and loosen restrains before giving both animals free rein (and perhaps reign) of the house.
If you've got a dog and a cat at home you're in good company. Forty-four percent of Americans have multipet homes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the most common combination includes dogs and cats.