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

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
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

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
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

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
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?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/05/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Billie
Australian Cattle Dog
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Billie
Australian Cattle Dog
9 Months

Aggressive towards cats

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lara, Check out the video I have linked below. How this is addressed will depend on the level of aggression (chasing for fun, hates the cat but not viewing it as prey, views as prey and wants to kill it, for example). Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats with the same dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long, Place command around lots of distractions. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place while you are working with the kitten in the same room. You can also back tie pup while they are on place - connecting a long leash attached to pup to something near the Place just in case pup were to try to get off Place before you could intervene. This keeps kitty safe while practicing and reinforces to pup that they can't get off the Place. The leash should be long enough that pup doesn't feel the leash while they are obediently staying on the Place because it has some slack in the leash. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control - impulse control takes practice for a dog to gain the ability to control himself. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ For severe cases, I would hire a professional trainer with experience using remote collars and working with these types of behavior issues, specifically aggression and prey drive, to help you in person with the training. I would take added safety measures like pup being desensitized to wearing a basket muzzle and use the muzzle for added safety as needed. Look for a trainer who comes well recommended by their previous clients with work with aggression and behavior issues specifically. Ask questions about how they train and their experience with prey drive and aggression, to ensure they have the experience you need for your particular situation. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
sabrina
Calico
1 Year
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Question
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sabrina
Calico
1 Year

he was a very tough kitten but since becoming an adult hes learning to push my boundaries. He used to understand NO,also tried making loud noises and the clicker. hes the best! but i dont want him to get out of control because that would kill me

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sabrina, Unfortunately, I only specialize in dog training. The hierarchy, social structure, and some of the motivations of cats and dogs are different from one another, so although some similar things work for each, there are also a lot of differences. With that said, you may find these youtube channels, from more experienced cat trainers helpful. Jackson Galaxy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJcWoksdlOM Cat School: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yM3n2mWZqUU Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
winchester
West Highland White Terrier
7 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
winchester
West Highland White Terrier
7 Years

my partner has a 7 year old cat that moved us about a year and a half ago. we’ve tried to introduce them and mr. winchester gets very excitable which makes the cat very defensive, hissing and swatting at the dog. there have been a few altercations, one ending in a pretty serious eye injury to mr. winchester. since, we’ve been more cautious about trying to integrate them. i’m extremely nervous about training him to be around the cat because i don’t want him to get hurt again. do you have any suggestions? thank you in advance!!

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

Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the cat. Your dog needs to learn that the cat is just a normal part of the household. So we need to teach him to become less reactive by the cat. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching him "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking him around the cats while on leash. Any time he even looks at a cat, you give the command leave it. Once he breaks his attention away from the cats, you reward him with a treat. Ideally, you want to him to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as he isn't focused on the cat, you can reward him. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the cats until he is no longer interested in the cats. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The cats need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" 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.

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Question
Miya
Mixed
4 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Miya
Mixed
4 Years

I took a dog in from a friend 4 years old I've 4 cats now the dog miya isn't attacking bit will lunge at the cats scary them how can I stop this

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

Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize her to the cats. Miya needs to learn that the cat is just a normal part of the household. So we need to teach her to become less reactive by the cat. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching her "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking her around the cats while on leash. Any time she even looks at a cat, you give the command leave it. Once she breaks her attention away from the cats, you reward her with a treat. Ideally, you want to her to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as she isn't focused on the cat, you can reward her. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the cats until she is no longer interested in the cats. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The cats need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" 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.

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Question
Tilly
Pit bull
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
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
241 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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