Our dogs are Australian Cattle Dog mix (herding breed) and their natural instinct is to herd our cats. Not great when you have three dogs taking point and surrounding one cat to deliver him back up the stairs. We’ve been working with both the cats and dogs so that we can coexhist peacefully in our home. Mikkel shares tips on how to train your dog not to chase cats.
“Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!”
~ Dr. Venkman, Ghostbusters
By Mikkel Becker, Vetstreet.com
While countless canines and felines share a home in perfect harmony, there are cats and dogs whose shared living situation more closely resembles a battleground.
The typical scenario looks like…
The typical scenario might look something like this; the cat ventures into the room, and the family dog laying on the floor immediately notices the feline’s presence. There may be a pause for a second or two, but with little warning, the dog whines and then springs forward with a burst of energy towards the cat, which terrifies the kitty and sends him flying in a frenzy of fur to his retreat under the bed with the dog in hot pursuit.
The cat’s perspective…
From a cat’s perspective, running away is the best option to protect themselves. Many cats were not socialized to dogs during their early kittenhood, or they’ve had bad experiences with dogs, which makes them respond in fear to the sight of a dog. On the other hand, dogs are predatory creatures who instinctually want to chase after any moving object, especially a small furry one.
About highly predatory dogs…
While most dogs will only chase after a cat, but will not bite or inflict any harm when they catch up to the cat, there are other dogs who are highly predatory and will cause serious injury or death to a cat. Unfortunately, for dogs who have a history of biting a cat or inflicting harm or death on other small mammals, the risk is extremely high; too high to comfortably have both pets sharing living quarters. For situations where a cat’s life is in danger, it’s either best to keep both pets in completely separate areas of the home, or to actually look at rehoming one of the pets. When you have multiple dogs, the situation is also heightened, because two or more dogs who start to chase often get even more excited than if they are on their own.
Most canines are out for the chase…
Fortunately, most canines are simply out for the chase, and will not follow through with any injury. Even if your pet doesn’t follow through with a bite, you need to train your canine for your cat’s mental wellbeing, which is in serious jeopardy if they are constantly being chased.
Provide your cat with retreat areas…
First of all, provide your cat with retreat areas around the home. Give them high perches and climbing shelves around the room where they can jump to for escaping the dog or being able to comfortably navigate around areas of the home without needing to walk on the ground with the dog. Also baby gate certain areas of the house so that the cat can easily jump over the top, but your dog will be prevented from going into these areas after your cat. Dog free zones will help your cat relax and will give them a safe place to go to if they ever feel threatened.
Tips to train your dog not to chase
Next, it’s time to train your dog. If you have more than one dog, train each dog individually before you bring them together.
Start with your dog on leash in a front clip harness or a head halter to give yourself more control. Either have the cat loose behind a baby gate or within a carrier. Start with your dog a great distance away from the cat, such as across the room. As soon as your cat appears, ask your dog to do some obedience command, such as giving eye contact, sitting, laying down, going to their mat or going into a stay. Reward your pet for any calm behavior or for ignoring the cat. If your dog remains relaxed, you can move gradually closer to the cat. Should your dog ever react, don’t punish them, which would only increase their excitement. Simply take a small break from training and gently lead your dog to an area away from the cat, and then come back after the break to start training again at an easier level, such as going back across the room. Once your dog shows relaxation around the cat even within a close proximity, you can let your pet drag their leash and still reward for calm behavior. The leash should be kept on in order to prevent your pet from chasing during this training stage. In multiple dog homes, you can also bring in the other dog who has also had individual training sessions, so that you can practice with both dogs being together, which should be started out when further away from the cat. Eventually if your dogs are staying relaxed around the cat, you can take off their leashes and continue to reward calm behavior.
Even if your dogs are relaxed around the cat, you should still only allow them access to the cat during times when you are supervising. Also remember to provide your dogs with ample exercise of twice daily walks outside of the home to help your pooch settle in better and be less likely to react.
Hopefully with these tips, your multiple pet home can become a Zen area not only for your cats and dogs, but for you as well.
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