The answer is … it depends.
I know, so helpful, right?
I have a Lab mix, a Weimaraner puppy and two cats and I’ve left my older dog and cats loose together thousands of times. I know you can’t trust animals 100 percent, but, well, I trust those three 100 percent!
Sure, they’ll get into trouble but they don’t harm one another.
But how do I know?
And how does a dog owner decide when it’s safe (if ever) to leave two dogs loose together?
I have lots of experience with this through fostering dogs and offering overnight dog sitting in my home. The answer is always, it depends.
I’ll share some of my deciding factors below, and I’d also like to hear how you decide when it’s safe to leave two pets together (if ever). By safe, I mean you trust them not to harm one another.
These aren’t “rules.” They’re just some general guidelines. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
Leaving two dogs together when you’re not home
Don’t leave two dogs loose together if …
1. The dogs don’t know each other. For example, maybe you recently adopted one of them or maybe one is just visiting.
2. YOU don’t know the dogs. For example, maybe you’re watching them for a friend. It’s generally better to be safe and leave one or both in their crates or separate rooms.
3. There’s any chance the dogs will fight.
4. They’ve ever fought before.
5. Either dog tends to show possessiveness/guarding of food, water, beds, bones, the dog walker, toys, furniture, etc.
6. One dog tends to cause the other to get in trouble. For example, maybe they both bark when they’re together or maybe they chase and wrestle and break things.
7. One is not yet housebroken or tends to mark. You don’t want the other dog to start peeing in the house as well.
8. Either dog tends to become aggressive around certain triggers like the doorbell, the mail carrier or hearing other dogs outside. You don’t want one to re-direct the aggression to the other. Happens all the time.
What else would you add to this list?
Leaving a dog and a cat together when you’re not home
Don’t leave a dog and a cat loose together if …
1. For whatever reason, you have any doubts. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.
2. Your cat is nervous or tense around the dog or scared of the dog. Trust her instincts.
3. You haven’t had both pets for at least 2 or 3 months to really get to know them and how they interact. Even if someone told you “he’s cat friendly!” or “She loves dogs!” That means very little.
4. The dog tends to chase the cat, even if he’s just “playing.” Or if the cat tends to bolt away from the dog.
5. They’ve ever fought in the past.
6. If either tends to guard or show possessiveness of food bowls, beds, certain rooms, etc., and you’re not 100 percent certain the other will back off. For example, my cats won’t allow my dog Ace to enter certain rooms. He just turns around and leaves. Or cries.
7. You catch your dog staring at the cat or fixating on the cat, even if it seems “playful.” For example, is your dog obsessively following the cat around, whining or pawing at her? Not cool.
Again, let me know what you’d add to the list.
Taking precautions about leaving two dogs loose together
When I foster dogs with unknown histories around cats, I always leave the foster dog in a crate in a bedroom with the door closed. Then, I put my cats in another bedroom with that door closed. That way, there are two doors (plus the crate) separating the foster dog and my cats.
Sound extreme? Maybe, but I’ve had multiple dogs break out of their crates. One then proceeded to rip apart my door frame.
Sadly, I also know someone whose cat was killed by her foster dogs after the dogs broke out of their crates. Such a heartbreaking story.
– Pick up all food bowls, toys, bones, etc., before leaving dogs loose together until you’re 99 percent sure they won’t fight.
– Exercise both dogs heavily before you leave them home alone, especially the first couple of times.
– Start with leaving them for short periods. Are they OK while you take a shower? OK, how about while you leave to get the mail? How about when you run errands for a half-hour?
– Invest in some sort of pet camera so you can check in on them. You can’t put a value on Peace Of Mind!
– Don’t feel guilty if one dog needs to be crated for any reason, even if it’s for other reasons like chewing, potty training, etc.
– Animals are animals. Sometimes they do fight over unexpected things. Even my sweet, passive dog Ace has gotten into a minor fight over a Kong toy.