How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats

Hard
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

With a full-time job and busy family, many people opt for a low maintenance pet like a cat. But circumstances change and many an animal lover's thoughts then turn to getting a dog. This faces them with the problem of how to stop cats and dogs fighting like...ahem...cats and dogs.

Most dogs can learn to live in peace with a cat, however, some dogs are tougher to train than others. For example, terriers are hard-wired to chase down prey, and seeing a moving target such as a cat, pushes their 'chase' button. If you are in the position of weighing up which dog to get, one option is to make life easier for everyone involved and avoid terrier breeds.

Also, starting out with a puppy is a lot easier than re-educating an adult dog. Puppies that are still within their socialization period (the time when they accept what they see around them as normal) are much quicker to catch on that the cat is a family member and not a toy to chase.

Defining Tasks

Having a dog get along with cats can mean different things to different people. It might be that 'getting along' simply means ignoring one another in a live-and-let-live standoff. It is a rare dog and cat that will snuggle up together, but anything is possible!

Most pet parents would be happy if the cat feels able to stroll around in a relaxed manner and isn't stressed by the dog's presence. Indeed, to facilitate this you can help by providing cat-friendly walkways that are up off the ground (shelving will do it!) When the cat is able to navigate round the room without touching the ground, then she is automatically more at ease.

Getting Started

Chasing behavior is self-rewarding for a dog. Therefore, it pays to start the training early, indeed before the dog and cat meet. Teaching a good solid "Sit" and "Look" enables you to stop the dog in his tracks or distract him when the cat strolls into the room. Interrupting chasing behavior in this way helps keep everyone happy.

Train the dog in several short sessions a few times a day, but keep things light and fun. Praise and reward the dog when he gets things right, and never punish him for making a mistake.

To train a dog to get along with cats you'll need:

  • A collar and leash

  • Tasty treats

  • A friend to assist you

  • A crate for the dog or carrier for the cat

  • A squeaky toy or something to distract the dog

The Beef Up Basic Training Method

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Beef Up Basic Training method for Get Along with Cats
Step
1
Self control
Until the dog learns not to chase cats, it is your commands that are the dog's self-control. By teaching him a solid "Sit", "Come", or "Look" you can nip chasing behavior in the bud.
Step
2
Teach “Sit”
Hold a treat in front of the dog's nose, so that it gets his attention. Raise the treat in a slow low arc over and behind his head. As his nose follows the treat, his butt sinks to the ground. Say "Sit" in a happy but firm voice, and give him the treat.
Step
3
Practice sit
Keep practicing, and as he learns to follow your hand, start phasing out the treat by rewarding the "Sit" at random
Step
4
Sit in different locations
Once the dog is obeying in a low distraction place, practice with distractions in the environment.
Step
5
Teach "Look"
Show the dog a treat to get his attention. Travel the treat in a straight line from the tip of his nose up to the bridge of your nose. Hold the treat between your eyes and say "Look". Then reward the dog.
Step
6
Extend the look
Expect the dog to hold his 'Look' for longer each time, before he gets a reward. Ultimately he should be able to stare at you for several minutes, which is a great way of distracting him.
Recommend training method?

The Learn to Ignore Method

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Learn to Ignore method for Get Along with Cats
Step
1
Let the dog see the cat
With the dog on a collar and leash, have him sit by your side. Have a friend bring the cat into the room, but at a distance from the dog.
Step
2
Reward calm behavior
If the dog remains calm, praise him and reward his good behavior.
Step
3
Label bad behavior
If the dog lunges toward the cat or starts barking, give a swift tug on the collar along with a sharp "Leave it!"
Step
4
Bring the cat closer
Have the friend bring the cat a little closer. Again, reward the dog's calm behavior. The idea is to teach him that ignoring the cat gets him lots of praise.
Step
5
Supervise interactions
Repeat these encounters, taking things slowly. Have the cat ever closer while rewarding the dog's calm behavior. Once the dog no longer pays attention to the cat, you can start supervising sessions with the cat wandering freely in the room.
Recommend training method?

The Add Crate Training Method

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Add Crate Training method for Get Along with Cats
Step
1
Avoid chasing
If the cat sprints away, this triggers the dog's prey drive. Aim to avoid this by crating either the dog or the cat (perhaps alternating the two options). For a dog, this means crate training, or using a carrier for the cat.
Step
2
Dog in the crate
Seed the crate with tasty treats so the dog is happy to enter. Close the door and let him settle.
Step
3
Allow the cat in the room
Now let the cat into the room to stroll around. If the dog is calm, then praise him and feed small treats into the crate. If the dog reacts, say "Leave It" is a stern voice and turn your back on the dog.
Step
4
Cat in the carrier
Alternatively, place the cat in a secure carry box. Place the box on a table or chair (up off the ground).
Step
5
Let the dog investigate
Let the dog approach the carrier calmly (keep him on a lead so he's under control). Reward his calm behavior with praise and treats. If he barks or over reacts say a sharp "Leave it!" and wait for him to calm.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
kyra
Akita
3 Years
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Question
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kyra
Akita
3 Years

my dog keeps lunging at the cats we have and grunting and wineing at the cat so we dont know what to do as we dont want the dog hurting the cats.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
666 Dog owners recommended

Hello Charlotte, If Kyra is simply acting excited about the cats, like he wants to chase them and be too rough, but not acting like he has a prey drive toward them and wants to kill them intentionally, suggest working on the following commands to teach manners and encourage calmness around the cats: Place command - practice him being able to stay in place when the cats are around. Use Place as somewhere he can go and chew on a chew toy when he gets too excited also. https://youtu.be/omg5DVPWIWo Teach the Out command (which means leave an area) and use it when he is being pushy, overly fixated on, or too close to the cats, to get him to leave the area where they are so he can calm back down. When you enforce this command using your body language like the article mentions you often also communicate that you own the cats and he should respect them because of his respect for you (do not do this if there is true aggression however): https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It command - when teaching this you want the dog to mentally leave something alone and not just be waiting to get it, so when to teach it using treats at first, never give your dog the treat he is supposed to leave, instead feed him a different treat from your other hand when he leaves something alone. Follow the Leave It method from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite If you have issues with him listening and respecting house rules in general, then building his respect for you can help with management also. Commands like Down Stay, a structured Heel, and Watch Me help to build respect, in addition to the other commands mentioned above, like Place. Also, making him work for what he wants by doing a command first, like sitting before having a ball thrown, or laying down before being fed, can also help. Also, do not tolerate pushiness, rushing through doors and bumping into you, or other rude behavior. Make him practice politeness when he acts rude, and in general. If his behavior toward the cats is not just roughness and over excitement but is predatory, I highly suggest hiring a professional trainer who has experience with aggression, prey drive, and high level obedience, and can give good referrals or has good recommendations. Prey drive is a more serious situation that often requires in person help. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lady
Shih Tzu
2 Years
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Question
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Lady
Shih Tzu
2 Years

I was dog sitting my mother in laws dog and I have 4 cats and the dog gets after them if they stare,growl,hiss or swat at her and now my mother in law has given her to us permanently and I want to know how to help them get alone

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
666 Dog owners recommended

Hello Stacy, Check out the videos linked below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojIQmMuOwns I also suggest working on a Place command and rewarding Lady for staying calm on place with the cat in the room, moving around. Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Basil
Golden Retriever
10 Weeks
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Question
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Basil
Golden Retriever
10 Weeks

My puppy Basil is a 10 week golden retriever and also the first puppy I have ever raised. She is so energetic, but managed to get pretty consistent at "sit" within the first two days! I have two cats that have been with me for years, One of them is standoffish (which is fine), the other is super curious, and thinks she is bigger than she actually is. Basil is super interested in her, but I am having trouble figuring out if she is playing or displaying aggressive behavior. She will climb on top of Zya (the non-standoffish cat) and start trying to bite her, Zya perceives no threat and will lie on her back, but it STRESSES me out knowing that something could go wrong. Do you have any tips on how to tell if Basil is seeing Zya as a prey or another play companion? Thank you!!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Basil is adorable. It does not seem like Basil is being aggressive with the cat and the cat does not seem to mind. I think things will be okay but right now Basil is small. I think it might be wise to teach him that the cat is not a toy while he is still young. A bigger dog can hurt a cat without intending to. Commands such as Leave It may do the trick: https://wagwalking.com/training/leave-it. A simple no could also suffice. The Distraction Method may work, too.https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-not-chase-cats. Once the vet says Basil's vaccines are up to date, enroll him in obedience classes so that he learns how to listen to you, and learns basic commands that will keep him safe like "come, sit, stay, and down." Good luck!

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Question
Spark
Karelian Bear Dog
8 Years
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Question
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Spark
Karelian Bear Dog
8 Years

He is a very crazy and hard to train when it comes to other animals

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
666 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jada, I suggest checking out James Penrith from taketheleaddogtraining. He has a free youtube channel, works with dogs who livestock chase and kill - who have strong prey drives like your dog may have, and does a lot of off-leash obedience. Even though I would encourage you to keep pup on leash, you will still need the level of obedience that's required for much off-leash work in order for pup to respond well around distractions like other animals, most likely. If pup is exhibiting any form of aggression toward you, I highly suggest hiring a professional trainer to work with you in person training them. Some dogs will redirect aggression to whoever is closest while highly aroused - putting you in a position to be bitten when working with pup, if pup is highly aroused and aggressive toward other animals. Take the Lead Dog Training: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoxuNKpmUs390K7x_rvgjcg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tilly
Pit bull
4 Years
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Question
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Tilly
Pit bull
4 Years

When Tilly was first adopted, she was totally fine with our cat Stinky. But Stinky passed, and now we got a kitten named Biscuit. Tilly seems highly agitated and aggressive towards Biscuit,and has tried biting at her once (we pulled the cat away before any damage could be done). Is there any way to calm Tilly's prey drive so she can relax around the kitten?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
89 Dog owners recommended

Hello! It sounds like your dog is interested/overly excited. For the most part, I usually tell my customers that cats (even kittens) will absolutely let a dog know when a boundary has been crossed. While it is best for humans to stay out of it and let the animals sort it out, your kitten is still super young! So I think teaching your dog "leave it" is best for this scenario. Any time you feel that Tilly is potentially being over powering, you can tell her to leave it. Leave it is great for anything you want your dog to break her attention away from. Or to stop getting into, paying attention to, etc. It is used in place of the word "no". They often learn very early on to ignore the word "no" since we apply it to basically everything. This is a specific command to "leave the kitten alone!" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions. Please let me know if you have any additional questions. Thanks for writing in!

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