What is cross fostering?
Put simply, cross-fostering is adjusting your pup to accept other species as friend, not foe. It is how you introduce your pup or dog to another species such as a cat, horse, sheep, chicken, rabbit, you name it. It teaches our pup that these other species are part of her wider “pack” and therefore not for chasing or hunting!
When should you do cross-fostering?
You must ideally start socialising your pup with other species in the 2-4 month Formative Period as this is before the hunting instinct really kicks in. Like in the wolf, this is the time for learning about family, so if they are around cats, ducks, chickens and sheep, they will learn to accept them as one of their own and should never chase them again.
How to introduce your pup to other animal species
It is best to introduce your pup to all of these animals (mainly the ones they will have access to during their life) as early as possible. Two months is better than four months. As the pup ages, it will become more and more likely to want to chase the other species, especially if the other animals run (this is so enticing for a dog!). I suggest having your pup on a lead and walking slowly around the other animals, using a clicker to click and reward your pup for any calm, non-vocal behaviours using high value food treats. You can see a video on how to do this properly in my Virtual Puppy School.
Using a correction for inappropriate behaviour (if necessary)
Some dog breeds have a higher natural prey drive than others (for example Terriers, Sight Hounds, and any hunting breeds including Labradors and Retrievers). If your pup they shows any inclination towards chasing a cat or chicken or another animal, you must deliver some form of mild correction. In the ideal world, this would come from the animal itself, so if you have a cat that will take a swipe at the pup, for example, then the pup will learn almost instantly not to chase the cat and also that the cat is more powerful and becomes an authority figure (the dog will show the cat respect from now on).
A good alternative to the animal delivering the correction itself is a long lead and nylon safety slip collar. I like to walk the pup around all the other species, and when it chases any of them, I give it an effective check from a distance. Conversely, when the pup interacts gently and sociably, I continuously click and reward with the clicker and a treat.
When using a slip collar to deliver an effective check, it’s important you do this from a distance and don’t use any commands. You want your pup to believe the correction came from the other animal, not from you, so that she learns to respect those other animals even when you are not around. This is essential! If you’re not familiar with doing effective checks, it’s really important that these are done correctly and effectively otherwise you could risk doing more harm than good. You can learn how to do an effective check in my Virtual Puppy School.
It is important to limit your socialisation not just to animals, and to include as many different things and people as possible. Something people don’t think about is the importance of introducing your pup to a wide and diverse range of people. I like to include all ethnicities and all age groups, or you will inevitably have some form of people aggression when the dog matures. Remember to use your clicker to click and reward your pup for any nice friendly behaviour when meeting other animals, people or dogs.
If your dog was not introduced to other species properly as a pup, she may have developed predatory aggression and want to seriously chase or kill other species. If this is the case, we’d recommend you seek advice from a professional animal behaviourist as it is a challenging issue to treat properly. If you are Auckland based (or able to bring your dog to Auckland), this is an issue we treat at our Behaviour Clinic. If you’d like to enquire about our Behaviour Clinic services, please email firstname.lastname@example.org