This last week has had a cat-flavor to it - not literally, thank goodness - Penny hasn't eaten any cats.
Penny gets excited when she sees a cat, and I have always worried a little that she might jump on one (especially the next-door cat, who likes to stroll around our front garden and tantalise Penny, who can't get out the front).
When we were at training last Tuesday, at K9 in Lilydale, I was interested to hear from Cindy, our teacher, that the Coldstream animal shelter runs cat-desensitisation programs for dogs. I suppose it's mainly for the shelter dogs, but I might ask whether Penny could also have some training. I told Cindy that I sometimes pat the next-door cat near our front door while a family member rewards Penny in the house for watching calmly. Cindy warned me to never hold a cat in that situation, as I might get some serious injuries if the cat suddenly panicked.
I was talking to Cindy about cats because a friend who was visiting me that morning had just received a sad phone call from her daughter, who had been minding a friend's dog. The visiting dog suddenly lunged away from her (inside the house, and on lead) and grabbed her cat by the head. In the ensuing chaos, the dog bit her badly and the cat ran off and hadn't been found, last I heard.
It's possible it will be a tragedy for both the dog and the cat.
Today we visited the home of our GSD friend, Jabari. A cat lives there, and Penny was in the room with the cat for about fifteen minutes before she noticed it. I drew her attention away from the cat and towards me about five times and rewarded her for quiet behaviour near the cat. When it looked like the cat was sick of having a big doggy face peering up at her - and seemed to be getting ready for a sudden swipe with her claws - Jabari's mum took the cat out.
I've read an article at Dog Owners' Guide about teaching dogs to live with cats. I think it has some good advice but it involves holding the cat, which I wouldn't do. Also, having heard how quickly a dog can leap on a cat, I'd be wary about having the dog in the room with the cat unless the cat was up high (which Jabari's cat was), or behind a barrier like a baby gate, or in a crate.
Science Daily reports a study at Tel Aviv University that concluded cats and dogs can learn to read each others' body language, despite the differences between these two species, but it did involve adopting the cat before the dog and also bringing them together when they are young.
The routine suggested in VeterinaryPartner seems sensible, and takes weeks to get the two animals used to each other, which seems to me a to be a realistic time-frame.
Of course, this advice is for people intending to have a cat and a dog live together, which I can't see happening here. However, I'd like to think we could progress to the stage where Penny was neither a danger to cats nor in danger from them.