Meet the Cat Helping to Train Service Dogs

D-O-G was a stray kitten before the trainers at Support Dogs Inc. decided to give him a home—and a job.

- Posted on Aug 6, 2018

DOG trains service dogs at Support Dogs, Inc. (SDI) in St. Louis, Missouri

If you think a cat seems like an unlikely candidate when it comes to dog training, you haven’t met D-O-G. 

Pronounced dee-OH-jee, this cute and cuddly feline has been helping to train service dogs at Support Dogs, Inc. (SDI) in St. Louis, Missouri since he was a kitten. The shelter’s Director of Canine Services, Nadine Wenig, discovered D-O-G near an old barn amongst a family of feral cats when he was young. He had never had contact with humans but Wenig tells People that the instant she saw the tiny stray, he walked right up to her and nuzzled her leg. She knew then she had to bring him home. 

Home for Wenig just happens to be at Support Dogs, where she spends most of her time helping assistance dogs train to help people with physical disabilities and hearing impairments. 

After giving D-O-G a thorough check-up and letting him have a few meet-and-greets with the dogs at the organization, SDI made him an official member of the team. 

“In our training, our dogs have to be so well-behaved and not be reactive in many situations, so when a cat goes scampering in front of them and they’re in a down-stay, the command, they don’t go running after him,” Support Dogs, Inc. CEO Anne Klein told ABC News. “They have to be well-behaved and not get distracted. He’ll go scampering by and they have to be good, obedient,” making D-O-G’s presence a very important part of the dogs’ training.

Staff of SDI said D-O-G immediately took to his new environment, running around with the pups and becoming a member of the family. He now has a multi-level cat condo at the facility and is regularly doted on by the trainers at SDI.

In turn, D-O-G helps his canine friends prepare for their jobs outside the facility. Assistance dogs like the ones trained at SDI go through years of lessons and behavior modification before they’re ready to be placed with their human. One of the most important stages of their training is their ability to focus and hone in on their client. Service dogs have to be attuned to the people they’re working with, so ignoring outside distractions, like a treat, a friendly stranger, or a tiny kitten swatting at their tail, is key to good job performance. D-O-G regularly tests the dogs’ concentration abilities and also prepares them for life in a multi-animal home. 

And while he might be a different species from the rest of the animals at Support Dog, Inc., he sure doesn’t seem to know it. 

“D-O-G likes to drink the water out of the glasses on our desks and ‘redecorate’ our offices by pulling the pushpins out of bulletin boards,” Klein says. “There are a few staff members who like to pretend they’re exclusively dog lovers, but everyone secretly adores D-O-G. He’s spoiled rotten.”

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Tags: Cats,Dogs,Pets
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