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I have a soft coated wheaten terrier and he is extremely reactive, when in training I was told it is a eye contact issue with dogs (they stare him in the eyes and this starts the problem) but this isn't his only problem, he reacts to barks from outside, gets hyper when he sees children because he wants to "play" (akin to tackling if I'm not careful), previously barked and stared at a hamster he presumably wanted to eat, and does react as expected when he sees a cat running away outside (he wants to chase).

Thus I know he has a strong prey drive, and I know he desperately needs to be socialized, and i do intend to socialize him (when get him back, he's currently with my parents)

So, as of right now i have foster dogs and I absolutely love fostering but I'm not entirely comfortable having a foster dog with him because he can turn on a dime with a dog. An example being that he likes my parents dog but because she barks at him when he is riled up he has bitten her (once.. not bad enough for vet but did see some blood) to get her to back off (it never seems like his intent was harm but because she was in his face while he was anxious he bit her).

Thus I'm wondering if i could foster a cat instead of a dog. I think this would help socialize him and be a great benefit to both of our lives. I have my kitchen sectioned off with a cat friendly gate (opens and closes for people and has a cat "door" too small for him) and was theorizing having cat food, and litter box in there along with maybe a bed or something so that in the beginning the cat would stay in that room until we were all comfortable opening the cat door to let it interact with him, and then he would be on a leash and the cat would be able to run back to "safety" if it felt threatened. Honestly, I have no idea if he will even care about a cat, but the worst that he would do is chase it and bark a lot at it but once calm I think he could learn to be "nice". I just want opinions from cat and dog owners on if this is insane, or unfair to a cat. (not looking to do this for approximately 4 months)

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    Usually "fostering" means that an animal needs work before it can really be adopted by a normal owner, so I feel queasy that you might be getting a cat that has issues to interact with a dog that really has issues and just doubling up on your problems. Your idea has a certain appeal to it, but if it were me, I might wait until I felt more confident and the dog has adjusted much more. – rlb.usa Jun 30 '15 at 17:36
  • @rlb.usa this comment brings up a good concern! Can you expand it a bit and post it as an answer so I can upvote it and it'll stick around (comments are meant to be temporary) – Zaralynda Jun 30 '15 at 23:41
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In my experience, socialisation is something that has to start early, and a dog that's people-socialized may not be dog- or cat-socialized.

I'm lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with lots of dogs, feral cats that generally are fine when left alone (and prefer warning swats to going all claws out) and someone around full time to take care of them. The best I'd hope for still is my dog ignores cats and vice versa.

Consider a few things. From what I've read about soft coated wheatens they're generally affectionate, but highly energetic.

They're also hunting dogs, and while there isn't a citation for it, the Wikipedia article specifically mentions how they may have issues with cats and puppies if they aren't properly socialized.

Also consider that a foster cat might be from a less than tranquil background, and you have a highly energetic dog that at best wants to play, and at worst considers the cat to be prey and... it doesn't sound like a great idea.

Our terrier occasionally gets into fights (though, it's rarer as he's gotten older). We ended up training him to run away through positive reinforcement (started with getting him to back off on a leash, now he actually runs away on command and sits down next to the nearest human). It's pretty uncommon I guess, but it's probably a good idea to work on the reactiveness and aggressiveness before bringing in an unknown quantity to the mix.

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From your question, I can see two main issues:

  1. You say your dog is highly reactive

In regards to direct eye contact, most dogs will see this as a threatening gesture. Most dogs will not maintain eye contact with other dogs they meet. Some are fine with it, but it sounds like your dog is not. A lot of people with working dogs, such as terriers, border collies, and huskies say their dog is highly reactive and rightly so. These breeds and all other working breeds were bred for a purpose and to be stimulated by doing work most of the day. I would suggest, in addition to slow socialization and desensitization with other dogs, people, and animals, to take your dog to do ratting. This is a fun sport for dogs that requires the dog to search through piles of hay to find a target-not a real rat. This can take anywhere between 30 minutes to and hour and it's beautiful to watch your dog doing what it was bred to do and seeing them so happy in doing their job. Meeting the needs of your breed and researching what the breed was originally bred for will provide so much enrichment and stimulation for your dog and will help with his energy levels.

  1. You say your dog will chase a cat given the chance

Terriers were originally bred to be ratters and to drive out and kill small prey. It is possible that your dog views cats as something to chase and drive away. For this reason above all, I would strongly advise against getting a cat and "hoping for the best." I do recognize that you want to section off part of your house to allow the cat to have its own space and to retreat to if your dog becomes too reactive. Cats are highly territorial and usually when they are brought into a new house, they are highly stressed as it is and will frequently start marking the house with urine. Add on top of this the stress of having a highly reactive animal or human around the cat and you are asking for behavioral issues from both the cat and your dog.

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