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Episode 302 - Simon Strikes Again

“A dog is not born aggressive, but is made that way by humans. By taking on the role of Pack Leader and fulfilling an aggressive dog’s needs, we can return them to a state of calm, balanced energy.”


Q&A with Cesar

Cesar, I too have a lot of respect for people who foster dogs. I am considering doing it myself. What are your best tips for successfully fostering given that I already have two dogs of my own?

My first tip would be, “Know your own dogs.” Are they socialized and friendly? How do they relate to other dogs in places like the dog park? And how do they get along with each other? If they aren’t friendly to strange dogs or if they are constantly battling each other for resources, it’s probably not a good idea to foster.

But if your dogs are socialized, then the two most important things are: 1) Foster a dog that’s at the same or lower energy level than your least energetic dog, and 2) Make sure that the foster dog is introduced to your pack properly.

Cesar, how can I get my Rottweiler to get along with my girlfriend’s cats? I would love it if he got along with all animals like Junior does.

There’s an old joke among trainers: How do you get a dog to stop chasing cats? Let him catch one. There’s no natural enmity between dogs and cats. The only reason that dogs do chase cats is because cats run when they see dogs, and this triggers the dog’s prey drive.
Since all animals communicate the same way — through energy and body language — they can understand each other a lot better than two humans who speak different languages. This means that they’ve done half the work for us. We only need to bring them into the same territory along with a strong human Pack Leader.
The key to getting your Rottweiler to get along with cats is getting him used to the idea of a cat in the first place. You can start by putting the cats in a carrier and letting the Rottweiler sniff them, which will satisfy his curiosity about what kind of animals they are. The next steps are to gradually let him and the cats approach each other, one cat at a time.  If one of the cats is more dominant than the other, start with that one.
The most important thing to remember is to take him on a long walk before each step in the cat encounter process in order to drain his energy and bring him to a calm, submissive state. This will make him less likely to go into predator mode. In addition, his calm energy will help the cats feel safer, so they’ll be less insecure.
You also have to be constantly ready to correct him with a nudge the instant he starts to show any aggression toward the cats and distract his mind from the idea that they might be prey. And he may or may not react this way at first. For some dogs, just smelling a cat once is enough to let them know they aren’t really that interested and they’ll leave the cat alone after that.
At the same time you’re getting the dog used to the cats, you need to be sure that the cats have a high place they can quickly escape to and that they know it. This will help them feel less insecure about the process as well.
With patience, it’s possible to get any two animals to get along, as you saw in this episode of Cesar 911. If I can rehabilitate a pig-killing dog to the point that a pig becomes the dog’s Pack Leader, then you can help your Rottweiler and girlfriend’s cats get along as well. Good luck!

I’m living my own predicament of “It’s me or the dog.” My boyfriend’s dogs have no rules, boundaries, or limitations. How can I salvage my relationship, Cesar?

I think you need to start with rules, boundaries, and limitations in your relationship first — and rule number one is that your boyfriend has got to get his dogs under control. The reason that a lot of people don’t like to discipline their dogs or give them any rules is because they think that it will hurt the dog’s feelings. But this is exactly backwards.
What our dogs want from us is precisely what your boyfriend isn’t giving them: instructions on what behavior is expected and when. Dogs need rules, boundaries, and limitations because most of them are not natural born leaders. They’re followers. If you don’t give them anything to follow, then they can become anxious, aggressive, or fearful. They’ll attempt to make their own rules, which can lead to disaster.
But you’ll have to take some initiative in this process, and that will involve doing a little dog training yourself. Start by teaching them simple commands, like “sit” and “stay,” using whatever reward motivates them the most, whether it’s treats or praise.
The idea here is to show your boyfriend by example the difference between a dog that has rules and a dog that doesn’t. It will also help train your boyfriend, because people frequently find it irresistible when a dog knows a trick and love to ask the dog to sit or shake. He’ll be enforcing rules without even realizing it.
The one other very important thing to teach your boyfriend is that he should never give affection to a dog that is not in a calm and submissive state. Affection just reinforces whatever behavior a dog is engaged in at that moment, so giving affection to a dog that’s excited or nervous is the absolute worst thing you can do. At those times, they need your calm, assertive leadership more than ever — the time for a cookie or a hug comes later.

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How to Watch

TV: "Cesar 911" appears in the U.S.A. on Nat Geo WILD. Check local listings.

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