How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats

How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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

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The Beef Up Basic Training Method

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Beef Up Basic Training method for How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats
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.

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.

3

Practice sit

Keep practicing, and as he learns to follow your hand, start phasing out the treat by rewarding the "Sit" at random

4

Sit in different locations

Once the dog is obeying in a low distraction place, practice with distractions in the environment.

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.

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.

The Learn to Ignore Method

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Learn to Ignore method for How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats
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.

2

Reward calm behavior

If the dog remains calm, praise him and reward his good behavior.

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!"

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.

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.

The Add Crate Training Method

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Add Crate Training method for How to Train Your Dog to Get Along with Cats
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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Written by Amy Caldwell

Veterinary reviewed by:

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

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bella

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American Staffordshire Terrier

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Three Years

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Question

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Hi there, I need some serious help training my girl Bella. She never really seems to listen, and I wonder if this stems from her being homeless and “her own boss” for an extended period of time before I adopted her about a year ago. She barks at things incessantly, and my two cats currently live in their own bedroom. Bella only seems to act out when I’m home, however, which is kind of interesting. I think she has developed a very protective role toward me, which is sweet, but she needs to know that I am actually here to protect her. I could go on, but I’m running out of room :(

Jan. 1, 2024

Bella's Owner

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Bo

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Pit bull

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5 Years

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We just adopted him and we have two cats. He’s not aggressive towards them but he wants to chase them and is overly excited. We’ve slowly been working on pulling him back and saying leave it. He does sit but sometimes doesn’t listen when he’s too excited.

July 8, 2022

Bo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brynn, Check out the videos linked below for teaching calmness around cats. 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 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 cat in the same room. I recommend also back tying pup while they are on place - safely 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. Make sure what the leash is secured to, the leash itself, and pup's collar or harness are secure and not likely to break or slip off. 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. You want pup to learn to stay due to obedience and self-control, and the leash just be back up for safety. 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 herself. 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/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 11, 2022


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