Whether you're adopting one Dalmatian or 101, it's important to consider other animals that share your household -- especially cats. Pound pooches and playful puppies alike can learn to get along with cats, but first impressions can be lasting. Don't just let pets fight it out. Instead, introduce them gradually.
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Looking for a dog who loves to play but isn't too rough? Want a canine companion who'll plop down on the floor or couch next to you? A Dalmatian is up to both tasks. This spotted breed is a high-energy, highly social companion.
Dalmatians usually do well with other pets, cats included, but all parties to the arrangement need proper socialization. The dog's intelligence helps, but it also gets in the way. You need to be firm and consistent with training to make it stick. You also need to keep your Dalmatian busy. If he's bored, he may stir up trouble with the cat.
Dogs and cats both have Old World origins, but their dispositions and behaviors are worlds apart. They appear so much at odds that popular culture depicts them as arch-enemies. Consider the phrase "fight like cats and dogs."
Dalmatians may have a better shot at living peacefully with cats than other similarly sized breeds. Historically, these dogs were hunting companions, but in the modern era, their usual gigs are as service animals and firehouse mascots.
Dalmatians have a somewhat strong prey drive, but their loyalty and desire to please people are what has kept them so gainfully employed. Exploit these traits to facilitate a peaceful multi-pet home.
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First meetings make a stronger impression on cats than on dogs, so you've got to plan early play dates favoring felines.
Pick a room or two your cat already knows. Make sure there are multiple escape routes and perches. Confine your dog to these rooms with baby gates or, in a pinch, furniture. Use a leash, and keep a light to medium touch, as a tensed lead triggers stress responses.
This scenario allows your cat to safely approach your Dalmatian. Use positive reinforcers such as praise, affection and treats. Put the the leash aside after a couple of successful meetings, and lengthen the play dates.
If they're reluctant to engage, try feeding both pets on opposite sides of a gate. End on a positive note before returning the animals to their separate quarters.
Progress, Tolerance and (Maybe) Harmony
It's tempting to let your Dalmatian and cat sort out their differences or stake out individual territories, but it's better to referee early interactions.
Your dog may bark or lunge at the cat. Discipline him firmly with basic commands such as "no" or "sit," but don't go too hard on him, or he'll associate punishment with the cat and become more aggressive.
Speaking of Fluffy, you need to allow her a few liberties with your pup. Hissing and scratching should be tolerated in moderation, as punishing a cat can instigate a lifelong grudge. Trim her nails or get her a scratching post to reduce the chances of serious scratches.
Given Your Druthers
Breed aside, research shows one of the best ways to incubate lifelong canine-feline truces -- friendships, even -- is to obtain both animals when they're babies. Also, get the cat first. Ideally, kittens should be less than 6 months old and puppies should be less than a year old.
If you're adopting a Dalmatian, find out as much about his background as possible, and try him around other cats to gauge his default reaction. Bad habits can be unlearned, but it may pay off to train the dog apart from your cat to avoid a sour start.
Purebred dogs often face more health issues than mutts because of their shallow gene pools. About one in 10 dalmatians is deaf -- a significantly higher rate than most breeds. Be prepared for health issues.
- The American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Dalmatian
- Westminster Kennel Club: Breed Information -- Dalmatian
- Dog Breed Info Center: Dalmatian
- Tolutim: Dalmatians and Cats
- VetStreet: The Right Way to Introduce a Dog and Cat
- Dog Owner's Guide: Making Peace Between Dogs and Cats
- UC Davis Veterinary Medicine: What to Expect When Bringing Home a new Pet
- Pet Sitters International: Who Rules? Dogs and Cats -- Learning to Get Along
- Science Daily: Dogs and Cats Can Live in Perfect Harmony in the Home, if Introduced the Right Way
- Dalmatian Welfare: Living with a Dalmatian
- RescueEveryDog.org: Breed Profile -- Dalmatian
- PetMD: Aggressive Behavior in Dogs (and Cats) -- How to Handle This Tough Situation
- Petfinder.com: My Dog Chases my Cat. How do I Stop Him?
- Slate: Dogs and Cats Living Together
- The Humane Society of the United States: U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics