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Your little dog is a family favorite. He charges around the house, entertaining the kids. On the whole, he’s pretty well behaved and friendly. However, he does have one bad habit that is proving difficult to shake. He loves chasing cats. Because he’s a small dog, he may feel threatened by cats who aren’t too different in size. The problem is, it’s making life rough for your resident cat. Not to mention, the neighbors with cats aren’t your biggest fans either.
Training him not to chase cats could prevent serious problems. If he catches a cat and does serious harm, then you could be looking at hefty vet bills. Even worse though, if he develops a taste for biting cats, that could then progress to attacking humans. Dogs that attack humans often have to be put down.
Once a dog has developed a habit of chasing cats it isn’t always easy to stop. If your dog is small, you at least have the advantage that he won’t be as strong or fast as some bigger dogs. He could be just as stubborn though. You’ll need to take a number of deterrence measures to start with. You’ll also have to use obedience commands to reinforce your control and position as pack leader. Finally, you’ll need to encourage positive play between your small dog and cats.
If he’s a puppy he should be receptive. You could see results in just a week or two. If he’s older and this habit has been years in the making then you may need a little while longer. Training could take up to two months. Succeed and you’ll never have to panic when you hear the sound of the cat screech again.
Before you can start training you’ll need to collect a few bits. A water spray bottle and baby gates will be needed for one of the methods. You’ll also need food puzzles and other toys.
Stock up on hard to resist treats, or break your dog's favorite food into small pieces. Try and set aside a few minutes every day for training. Consistency is key for swift results.
The only other things you need to bring are patience and a positive attitude. Once you have all that, it’s time to get to work!
The Focus Method
Concentrate on sit and stay
Spend a few minutes each day to continue training your dog to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. This will increase your control. Then when he gives chase to a cat, you can instruct him to ‘stay’. These commands will also prove useful in a range of other situations.
Some dogs chase cats out of boredom. He may be small, but he will still have a lot of energy to use up. So, give him an extra walk or throw a ball as you go for your daily walk. The short sprinting will see him napping at home, instead of terrorizing cats.
Channel his energy into something more productive with food puzzles. These can keep him occupied for hours and he will soon lose interest in the cats.
Whenever you see your pooch approach a cat, tempt him away with a treat, and by calling his name. Do this every time and he will soon associate retreating from cats with tasty treats.
Until the chasing is under control, you may want to consider keeping him on a leash while the cat is out and about. This will prevent him doing any damage to a cat. Once the chasing subsides, you can stop using the leash indoors. This is particularly useful if a cat lives under your roof.
The Socialization Method
It’s important you socialize your small dog with cats from an early age. Puppies that grow up with cats often see them as part of the family and not as the enemy. So, the earlier you can introduce him to cats the better.
Encourage him to play gently with cats. You can put a toy in the middle for them to play with. Try and stay relatively quiet as they play, you don’t want to get him too worked up.
It’s important you keep a close eye on your dog during socialization. If you see any signs that tension is climbing, remove him for a few minutes until he’s calmed down. Also, keep play time to just a couple of minutes to start with. You need to build up their contact slowly.
While they play gently, give him the odd treat. It’s important he has an incentive to play with the cat, instead of chasing it. Once the behavior turns aggressive, cut out the treats and remove him.
Never punish him
It is important you don’t terrify your dog with punishments. Not only could this make him more aggressive, but he could end up resenting the cat further. This can lead to even more serious problems. So, remain calm and controlled at all times.
The Deterrence Method
Whenever you see your little dog give chase to a cat, rush over and issue a firm ‘NO’. Don’t scare him too much, but make sure he knows you are displeased. Then take him by the collar and pull him away.
Water spray bottle
If the firm ‘NO’ doesn’t do the job, then use a water spray bottle. Keep one with you at all times, then give him a quick spray near the face if he displays aggressive behavior towards a cat. This will get him associating cats with negative consequences.
Try using gates to separate him from cats. This is particularly effective if you have a cat in your house, as cats can usually get around the gates. Once he realizes he can’t get to the cat, he will give up chasing it.
Secure the yard
Because your dog is small, he may be escaping from the yard to chase local cats. So, make sure your yard is properly secured with fences. Doing this will help remove the temptation. Use all the measures above and he will soon give up.
Obedience brush up
Take your dog to a session of obedience classes to reinforce his knowledge of commands. The refresher course will help him listen to you when you instruct him to stay or leave it.
By James Barra
Published: 01/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021