How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Cats

How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Cats
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-12 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Do you dream of living in a harmonious household, without any barking, meowing or yelling? If your dog is always bothering your cat and an altercation ensues where there’s barking and hissing everywhere, then now is the time to teach your pooch to leave that cat alone. This will save you a load of worrying about what they’re up to while you can’t keep an eye on them, as well as keeping your two furry best friends safe by having them live in harmony. It will also keep your house safe. Surely, when your dog chases the cat there are furniture and household items that become casualties of the chase. Save yourself a lot of expense by preventing this. Also, imagine how cute it will be when both your four-legged friends can be friends with each other.

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Defining Tasks

If you live in a household with a cat, or you’re thinking about getting a cat in a house with a dog, training will be required. Very serious incidents can occur if not, in particular, if your dog is a real hunter the cat can be very seriously injured by the dog. Or, sometimes dominant cats will give dogs a swipe when they bother them, resulting in nasty injuries such as eye ulcers in your pooch, so make sure this doesn’t happen. Certain breeds are easier to train than others; in general, Labradors, retrievers and smaller breeds such as Pomeranians will be easier to train to ignore cats as, although every dog is an individual, these pups have less of a hunting instinct. Breeds such as German Shepherds, Greyhounds and Jack Russell Terriers will be more difficult to train, as they have natural hunting instincts. Puppies with an older cat will be easier to train also and will be less likely to cause injury to a larger cat, therefore it is advisable to train them young. The timeline for training is variable depending on age and breed, but is likely to take weeks to months.

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Getting Started

For this training, you’ll have to be both vigilant and determined. If getting a new dog in a cat household, it is advisable that you take a few days off work to solidify initial training and prevent anything happening when you’re not around. Keep the dog and cat separated nonetheless for quite awhile until you know your dog is not going to chase the cat. Make sure your cat always has an easily accessible safe haven to rest in. Grab a bag of delicious treats, appropriate for your pooch's age and breed or make your own delicious treats at home. Dogs love plain home-cooked chicken breast, cut into the correct size pieces. If you’re clicker training your pooch, also grab your clicker to signify good behavior.

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The No Chasing Method

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1

Only if your cat is confident

Only use this method if your cat is confident, this is not fair for shy, easily stressed cats. If your cat is timid, you may see them disappear under the couch and refuse to come out for a while.

2

Get the cat carrier

Pop your kitty in their cat carrier with a favorite toy or catnip for distraction. Make sure the carrier is secure and comfortable.

3

Bring in the pup

Get your puppy in the same room, keeping your pup's attention on you by talking to him and giving him lots of treats, paying attention to reward calm behavior.

4

'Sit' and 'stay'

Get your pooch to sit and stay a few yards away from the cat. Keep practicing these commands (in other environments, too), as they will be important in introducing the pair without the carrier.

5

Best treats and reward

Give your pooch the most delicious treats when they don’t pay any attention to the kitty, they need to know you’re rewarding the behavior of ignoring the cat. Use the clicker to click when your pooch looks away from the cat, as well to signify the behavior you want him to display.

The Conditioning Method

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1

Keep him on a tight leash

First things first, put your pup on a tight leash to make sure he’s completely under your control and can’t physically chase. You want to prevent chasing behavior rather than stop it.

2

Tasty, exclusive treats

Have lots of tasty, strong smelling treats on you, only giving your pooch these treats for this exercise.

3

Keep it natural

Let your cat move around as much as they normally would, expressing normal behavior. The idea is that the cat catches your pooch's attention, but he becomes used to it and learns to ignore the feline.

4

Cat attention

Every time the cat makes any motion you think might get your pup's attention, click and give a treat to distract your pooch.

5

Cat equals treat

Give your puppy a treat whether he's calm and does not bark at the cat, look at the cat or anything else. You’re teaching your pup that the cat being there means reward in the form of treats.

6

Wait for him to look to you

Once you’ve repeated the above step a few times, your puppy should start looking to you for a treat every time the cat is around, meaning his attention is on receiving a treat and not chasing the cat.

7

Keep practicing

Really get this behavior in his head, by keeping doing it for a few weeks, practicing every day for 5-10 minutes.

8

Safety first

Don’t unleash your pooch until you’re a hundred percent sure he gets it and won’t chase your kitty.

The Distraction Method

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Go shopping

Every pup loves a shopping excursion at their favorite pet supply store. Not only do they usually get a biscuit or two, but they also have the opportunity to meet other dogs. Most importantly, a new toy is on the agenda. Buy your dog a toy that really piques their interest.

2

Redirection

The aim of the lesson in ignoring cats is to have your dog redirect their interests elsewhere, other than the cat. Make sure that your dog's new favorite toy is close by.

3

Ignore the cat

Play a game within proximity of the cat (having the cat safely out of reach in a crate). Give your pup the new toy and engage them in play, completely ignoring the cat in the crate. Make sure the cat is not the type easily frightened by a dog.

4

Distract and block

If your dog tries to go near the crate, distract them with the toy and stand between them and the cat. When your dog gains focus on you again and ignores the feline, give them a high reward food treat.

5

Reinforce the ignore

Keep working on reinforcing the ignoring of the cat. You are teaching them that playing and high-reward treats are more fun that looking at the cat.

6

Rewarding good behavior

Eventually, you may have to introduce the dog and cat. After all, they will be existing in the same household. Give your pooch a treat and lots of praise if he gently sniffs the cat, ignores the cat, or doesn’t try to chase your feline friend.

By Catherine Lee-Smith

Published: 12/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Sasha

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German Shepherd

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9 Weeks

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Question

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How can I teach my puppy to stop chasing my cats? she's young so she doesn't seem to have enough self control to learn stay or leave it properly.I've tried scent swapping, I've introduced her to them from her crate and behind a baby gate, but whenever she sees them she immediately tries to lunge at them, no matter what they are doing. She completely ignores me from the seccond they are in the room, one of my cats swiped her when she got too close and she back off but she still hasn't learnt her lesson. She's bigger than them already and I'm worried she could hurt them, I need them to be able to coexist, what can I do?

June 6, 2022

Sasha's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Rosie, First, know that its normal for this to take time with such a young puppy. Pup has to learn not just the rules but also how to develop self-control. When you can't train and supervise I would utilize an exercise pen with a dog food stuffed chew toy for pup to play with, and tether pup to yourself with a hands free leash while pup is awake. When you are away and asleep, I would also crate train and utilize the crate. When you are supervising and working with pup, 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 kitty 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/ Expect this to take time. Even when a puppy is bothering an older dog, not a cat, this behavior is normal and confinement and supervision are needed during this age. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 6, 2022

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Zeke

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Border Collie/Australian Shepherd Mix

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13 Weeks

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Zeke is so interested in our two cats. One cat is timid the other is dominant and gets jealous extremely easily. I have tried the leash and ignore method and it doesn't seem to do a thing. There is a gate up to separate the cats and puppy. Will open the gate for the cats to come down and explore while Zeke is on a leash, try to distract him and ignore the cat but he is just so interested in playing. The dominant cat will hiss but it just seems to encourage Zeke to be more playful.

Feb. 9, 2022

Zeke's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nithra, 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

Feb. 10, 2022


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