From Mara Windstar:
I have been clicker training my service dog "Freely," a golden retriever, for about one year. While we were coming home from a walk last week, a white cat whose house we pass daily lept at me and grabbed onto my side... CLAWS EXTENDED! It was terrifying... I looked at the cat for an instant and it screamed and showed its pointy teeth--and that was it for me! I looked away immediately! I was trying not to panic... Freely started barking and lunging but he was not trying to attack the cat back. Fortunately the owner saw and heard the commotion and came running over and screamed to the cat and it lept off me.
He gave me his phone number and said to call him if I need to and informed me that cat has a problem with stalking. NO kidding! My shirt will never be the same, not to mention the puncture wounds! And it had taken me so long to get Freely to not pay attention to cats. Now I feared we would be back to ground zero on cat issues!
During the week following the attack I had a conversation with the cat's owner. I wondered if he had considered it being an indoor cat, since it has a "stalking problem" with everything and everyone that passes in front of his house. He said that he tried that and the cats (he has numerous cats) raised havoc. The only one that's a problem is the white one, Ricky. He said that he really wished that cats were more like dogs in that they could be trained....He loves his cats! And would do anything if he could get Ricky to stay in the yard when people go by.
I carefully contemplated the whole issue. One of the things that kept ringing out to me over and over was the owner of the cat saying that this cat had a "stalking issue". I was thinking of the overall effects of everyone who walks this path everyday--and let me tell you it is just about everyone in the neighborhood! By now I was planning on carrying a squirt bottle but I wondered if my attempts would be generalized or if it would merely help me and Freely. And what about the cat? Punishment is hard on the cat. And what about some other person this might happen to, who is gonna REALLY be ticked off at this cat AND the owner?
I came home and did a search and then told my neighbor about the clicker cat list, www.clickercats.com and the book Clicker Training for Cats by Karen Pryor. He came by and was very excited. I gave him a clicker and we had an extensive talk. (this all happened over the course of the week.)
Here are the results of last night's walk past the infamous cat house. We took our usual path, the short road to the school's parkway and of course, there in his frontyard, was the beautiful white cat, Ricky. Ricky sees us, arches his back and starts lurking towards us. All the while Freely is totally focused on me, yet I am VERY aware of what is going on. With split second timing, a voice eagerly calls out in a very upbeat voice "RICKY!" Instantly Ricky turns his head. The head turning motion is precisely marked by a CLICK from the front door and Ricky goes running to the door for his treat! He then turns and lays on the porch watching us walk on past. The dog and cat handlers wave "adios" and we are on our way!
S M O O T H !
He called me later and wanted to replace my shirt that had been torn in the attack and I told him that if he could train Ricky to allow people and dogs to walk past without attacking, I'd consider us even! He promised to stay with the training and only allow Ricky out when he was available to be there to train, until the issue is resolved.
So... things are really looking up here... not just for us, but for the whole neighborhood! Here's to clicking!