How to Train a Dog Not to Chase Cats: Resolving Common Animal Disputes
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that cats and dogs can rarely get along. Movies have been made about this common animal dispute, and the characters of these two species have been compared time and time again. However, does this mean figuring out how to train a dog not to chase cats a fight you’ve already lost? We beg to differ.
Truth be told, dogs and cats are different. Cats are more independent than most dog breeds, no matter what some dog owners say. They love being in their own little world, doing their thing, jumping off counters and cleaning themselves while concocting a plan to take over the world (or so we’ve heard). In contrast, dogs are always ready to play and love the company of humans. So why should we even make them get along when they clearly aren’t supposed to be friends?
Well, the heart wants what it wants. One can be both a cat and a dog person. Some people love keeping both of these animals as pets but would like to avoid traumatizing them. Additionally, you may have a dog that generally dislikes cats and loves chasing neighborhood kitties. That sort of behavior could even potentially be dangerous, let alone annoying.
In the end, the question isn’t why you should learn how to train a dog not to chase cats. It’s how to do it without ending up on the naughty list of both of these animals. So, let’s see some techniques that you can start implementing right now.
How to train a dog not to chase cats: Can dogs and cats ever become friends?
Whenever someone asks how to stop a dog from chasing a cat, most of us love to tell them that it’s impossible. After all, we’ve all seen what happens when you put a dog and a cat in a room. Most of the time, it seems as if the dog is fairly interested in learning what this furry, strange creature is all about. However, we’ve also seen that cats aren’t fond of dogs sniffing them — so fights and chases are a common occurrence.
However, this animosity can usually be applied to older cats and dogs only. Have you ever seen a puppy trying to chase a kitten? Probably not. When dogs are quite young, i.e., when they’re puppies, they’re looking to explore the world around them. They’re trying to smell, touch, lick and eat everything they can. So, naturally, they’ll also gravitate towards other animals, cats included.
When both of these species are quite young, the animosity simply isn’t there. Sure, they smell different and have different abilities. But they’re still babies whose curiosity trumps their drive to chase around (unless they want to play).
This lack of ill intent tells us that it’s possible for cats and dogs to get along. However, it also indicates one problem — how to stop a dog from chasing a cat if both pets have already stepped well into their adulthood?
How to train a dog not to chase cats: Why does it even happen?
Hunting and working breeds
One of the main reasons dogs chase cats is because this sort of behavior is deeply embedded in their DNA. Some breeds, hunting, and working ones, to be more specific, are always more prone to chasing cats than some other ones.
Dogs that prefer chasing cats around to pass the time are:
- Working breeds: Dobermanns, Caucasian Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, and Akitas
- Hunting breeds: Terriers, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Labrador, and Golden Retrievers, and Dachshunds.
If you own one of these breeds, you’ll likely experience a variety of issues, especially if you live in a neighborhood where cats roam the streets independently. Given that the main traits of these dogs are their hunting instinct and alertness, they will react to a feline’s movement. Thus, these breeds often find themselves in quite a pickle; it’s not uncommon for them to run away from their owners just because they’ve seen a cat. Proper dog training is, therefore, indispensable, not to mention that keeping the dog on the leash could save you a ton of trouble in the future.
The prey drive is stronger than we think
Roughly around twelve thousand years ago, humans first started domesticating canines. Back then, dogs were using their sense of smell and general survival skills to find food and eat it. In other words, the word “prey” meant a lot to dogs, as they had to survive in the human world.
Today, though, we mostly see dogs as cute and lovable pets. Granted, some breeds are still considered quite dangerous, but in most cases, dog training can help with that. However, what’s important to note is that their prey drive hasn’t gone away. It cannot possibly cease to exist after only twelve thousand years. What we see now is the result of domestication.
And that’s why a dog might resort to chasing a cat now and then. Over time, its brain has become wired in that way. It thinks the cat is the prey it has to catch and kill to survive. Of course, you’ll rarely see dogs killing cats — but they do love the chase. They enjoy the excitement as it lets them give in to their instincts. At that moment, impulse control doesn’t exist — their nature trumps everything.
How to train a dog not to chase cats of its prey drive is strong?
A bit later, we’ll talk about some of the methods you can use to stop your dog from going after a cat. However, for now, it’s important to accept the dog for what it is. Canines are still animals, no matter how much we want to treat them as our children. As such, they don’t respond to the same commands as our kids, and they cannot understand our social norms that easily.
Thus, one of the best ways to stop a dog from chasing a cat is to start teaching it why it’s wrong from the beginning. It’s far easier to explain to puppies that the cat isn’t trying to harm them. Of course, some cats might want to — but kittens are rarely as aggressive as some older cats. Furthermore, teaching the dog commands while it’s still a puppy is a surefire way of stopping this behavior before it even starts displaying it. In essence, by building the dog’s impulse control, we can prevent certain issues, some of which have nothing to do with cats but with the dog’s natural survival skills.
However, there’s one more reason a dog might go wild when a cat is around — and it’s not as menacing as you might think.
Dogs just want to have fun
We’ve said it time and time again, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it — dogs love their playtime. It’s probably their favorite time of day, apart from mealtime. What’s more, they don’t object to different play partners. Whether humans are trying to get their attention to play fetch or there’s a cat they can chase around for a bit and use up that excess energy they have — fun is almost but guaranteed.
Nevertheless, the problem with this sort of behavior is that cats don’t like being chased around, especially by dogs. Most of the time, dogs are much stronger than cats, not to mention that their bites can harm them. Cats, on the other hand, do have claws, but they would have to attack the dog to hurt it. In other words, given that a dog’s body is much stronger than a cat’s, it can chase it down and pin it to the ground, for example, which could easily lead to bloodshed.
On another note, cats aren’t one of those pets that love playing. Sure, they like lasers and won’t have anything against playing with a rubber mouse. However, they like to keep to themselves and would prefer if the dogs wouldn’t come near them. In the end, they’re rather different species — they’re the inherent opposites, no matter how much we’d like to believe they are sort of similar.
How to train a dog not to chase cats, even if it only wants to play?
Since cats won’t appreciate dogs chasing them around the house, the backyard, or anywhere else, for that matter, it’s important to pay attention to the dog’s impulse control and work on it. Obedience training would come quite useful in this situation, as we play a crucial role in this. Basically, going against the playfulness of the dog is not easy, so we would have to rely on commands. Usually, the basic “sit,” “stay,” “down,” or “leave it” would work quite well and give the cat a bit of peace of mind.
How to train a dog not to chase cats: the dangers of not doing anything about it
Letting a dog chase cats around could lead to many issues, some of which aren’t as obvious as you might think. Of course, one of the main reasons owners should learn how to stop a dog from chasing a cat is the possible tragedy that might occur. If the dog is stronger than the cat and the prey drive in it is too powerful to restrain, it could chase the cat down and harm it.
On another note, there’s the anxiety that stems from this sort of behavior. We, as both dog and cat owners, would all like for our pets to live long and happy lives. However, the cat could become prone to anxiety attacks and general aggression because it’s scared of the dog. Additionally, the feline might even start attacking the dog in advance so that it can establish its independence once more. In that case, the dog will become anxious as well, which is another problem you should try to avoid.
Treating anxiety in pets is not that similar to treating anxiety in humans. We cannot send them to a therapist and let them “talk it out.” Proper training would have to be implemented, and the vet might even recommend medication. As you might presume, that’s not the best idea or something a pet should go through in their life.
With that said, let’s not dwell on the possible outcomes. Without further ado, here are some of the best techniques that will help your dog accept cats and stop chasing them.
How to stop a dog from chasing a cat: three techniques that’ll ease the tension
Teach the dog to “leave” the cat alone
The first technique we’re going to talk about here is the one that will come in handy in all sorts of situations — the “leave it” command. Basically, by teaching the dog to give up on something with a simple “leave it,” you can help the cat get away or even help the dog feel more comfortable in the cat’s presence. Let’s see the steps.
Step #1 Use treats to your advantage
Take two treats or even kibble and hold one in each hand. One treat should be the one the dog sees and wants. Don’t reveal that you have another treat in the other hand.
Open your palm so that the dog sees you have the treat. It will immediately think it can eat it, so naturally, it will start sniffing around and trying to snatch it. When that happens, close your palm around the treat and say, “Leave it.”
Step #2 Repeat, repeat, and repeat
Keep repeating the exercise and saying “Leave it” until the dog stops trying to snatch the treat from you.
Learning this behavior won’t happen overnight, so aim to repeat the command as much as you can. Whenever you open your palm again, and the dog approaches you, close it, and say, “Leave it.” At some point, it will realize that it won’t get the treat until it does what you want.
Step #3 Reward each success
When the dog settles down and sits or at least stares at you blankly when you say “Leave it,” reward it. Wait a few seconds to make sure it has taken the hint. Then, give it the other treat — the one you had hidden in your other hand.
It’s vital not to give the dog the treat it wants but the replacement. We don’t want it to think that it will get the best treatment immediately. But, you have to reward it either way.
Over time, the dog will learn to back away from your hand immediately, so you might not even have to use two treats. One should be enough if the dog knows how to keep its impulses under control.
Step #4 Start using the command around the cat
Once the dog has mastered the “Leave it” command, it’s time to start using it while the cat is present. Whenever the dog sees the cat and starts sniffing around it, say the command. Keep repeating until the dog naturally starts backing away immediately.
Know that it will take time to get this right. The urge to chase the cat is a bit stronger than the urge to snatch the treat. However, by using this technique, you will breed a type of aversion that will instantly make the dog forget about the cat and focus on you, the owner.
Use clicker training to curb the chasing
Now, clicker training is a bit different from the above-mentioned technique. You’ll have to use both treats and the clicker to condition the dog. Over time, it should associate good behavior with the sound of the clicker, which is exactly what will help it leave the cat alone and stop chasing it.
Step #1: Get a clicker and start training the dog
Before even introducing the cat to this equation, you first have to show the dog that a click means it has done something right. So, each time you see it doing something nice, like coming to you as soon as you call it, click once and give it a treat. Aim to repeat this as much as you can (just don’t overdo it on the treats) until it slowly starts associating good behavior with the clicker.
Step #2: Be the cat
Now it’s time to mimic the cat’s movements. A dog might get too excited when it sees a cat because of the way cats move. They’re swift, so they’re a nice prey to chase around. However, you don’t want to put your cat through that (or any other feline, for that matter), so use yourself as bait.
Unlike dogs, cats love going backward fast, so try doing that in front of the dog. If it starts going after you, that’s OK — it’s supposed to do that.
If you suddenly stop, and the dog stops as well, click once and give it a trait. Show it that its behavior is satisfactory and that you’re pleased. Then, repeat until it’s not making any mistakes.
The point of this exercise is to get the dog used to the cat’s reflexes and the way it moves. It will slowly recognize that there isn’t anything that should annoy it. Thus, over time, it will stop reacting to it altogether, provided that you’ve been using the clicker and giving enough treats.
Take the chasing off the table
Finally, there’s one more technique that would be ideal for those who are looking for fast results. For this one, you’re going to need treats again, as well as the clicker. The aim is to condition the dog so that it associates the cat’s presence with the treat and you.
Step #1: Keep the dog on the leash and use the most delicious treats
For this exercise, you ought to get the best treats and use them only when trying to get the dog to ignore the cat. Additionally, keep the dog on the leash to avoid any mishaps. It’s important not to let the dog even try to chase the cat until you’re sure it’s not going to chase it. No need to show it what it’s missing out on!
Step #2: Every time the cat’s present, click and give the dog a treat
No matter how the dog reacts (remember, it’s on the leash, so it won’t do much harm), use the clicker to associate the cat’s presence with the treats. Click once and give the dog the treat so that it may refocus. It should start paying more attention to you rather than the cat.
The cat can roam freely during this exercise. The dog should be on the leash until it’s fully comfortable. After many repetitions, the dog should understand that the cat’s presence equals him/her getting a treat. So, it should start immediately looking for you as soon as the cat waltzes into a room.
Final thoughts on how to stop a dog from chasing a cat
And there you have it. Hopefully, you now know how to stop a dog from chasing a cat without having to pressure either of the species. Over time, the dog will learn how to keep its impulses under control, while the cat will stay safe.
Of course, it does seem a bit unfair to have to teach the dog how to curb its impulses. However, teaching a cat anything will prove to be quite tricky, especially if the feline is independent. What’s more, dogs are more prone to chasing than cats — you won’t often see a feline going after a dog. So, just stay persistent and give lots of rewards. It’s crucial for the dog to realize that rewards are better than chasing another ball of fur!