How to Train Your Dog to Not Kill Cats

Hard
1-2 Months
Behavior

Introduction

A large German Shepherd, Duchess, has decided that the neighborhood cats should not be in her yard. That may be the case and she may have a valid point, however, those cats are your neighbor's beloved pets. One day, Duchess manages to catch and kill the tabby cat that lives next door, who happens to belong to a 6-year-old girl, who is now devastated by the loss of her pet. You feel awful, and now your neighbors hate you and your cat-killing dog. If you want to get along with your neighbors, and your dog is aggressive towards cats, you are going to have to teach her not to kill cats before something like this occurs!

If you have a cat or live in an area where your dog is regularly exposed to cats, having a dog that is aggressive towards cats is an accident waiting to happen, and steps to correct this behavioral tendency are required immediately to prevent tragedy.  While cats and dogs have often traditionally been thought of as enemies, this does not have to be the case. Many thousands of dogs and cats share homes together quite happily, play together, and develop close friendships.

Defining Tasks

Because cats are smaller than most dogs, there is a tendency for dogs to see cats as prey. Teaching your dog not to attack cats will mean making sure that your dog sees cats as members of the household, or companions, not prey. Because the consequences of unsuccessful training are so severe, you will need to take special precautions during training to ensure that a cat is not injured during the process. During the training period, you will need to make sure that your dog never has uncontrolled access to a cat. If you have a cat in your household, this may mean providing separate quarters for the dog and the cat during training. Some dogs with a high prey drive may need continued supervision over a very extended period of time when in the presence of a cat, to ensure that they do not harm the cat even after initial training success.  

A dog that is socialized from a young age with cats is far less likely to develop cat killing behavior. An older dog that has been aggressive to cats and has developed aggressive tendencies towards cats will be more difficult to train. There are some steps prior to training that you can take which will reduce aggression towards cats and other animals; spay or neuter your dog, ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise and attention, and provide him his own toys to keep himself occupied, so he is not as likely to become bored or frustrated and turn aggression to other small animals. Teaching your dog not to view cats as prey is key to training him not to kill cats and is vitally important to the safety of our feline friends.

Getting Started

Before training your dog to stop chasing cats, you will need to make sure that there is a safe, controlled environment for your dog and any cats involved in the training exercises. Make sure the dog cannot hurt your feline helper by using a short leash and working in an enclosed area with a safe retreat for the cat. A crate to keep your feline assistant safe and give the cat a feeling of protection during training may be useful. Don't put the cat under duress at any time.

The Desensitizing Method

Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
1
Contain cat
Put your “volunteer cat” in a hard-sided carrier for protection. You can give the cat a toy or catnip to keep her happy during the training time. It is important though, to practice with a docile cat who will not be stressed through the process.
Step
2
Introduce dog
Introduce the dog or puppy into the room. Give the dog lots of treats and attention to keep him focused on you. Play with the dog and practice obedience commands in the presence of the cat in the carrier.
Step
3
Claim cat space
If the dog lunges towards the cat or pays attention to the cat, firmly say “no” and insert your body between the cat and the dog to regain his attention.
Step
4
Reinforce ignoring the cat
As soon as the dog pays attention to you and not the cat, resume giving attention, play, and treats. Wait until your dog learns to ignore the presence of the cat in the carrier.
Step
5
Use leash
Start allowing the cat in the room, out of the carrier. Put your dog on a leash and repeat previous steps until your dog learns that ignoring the cat means rewards, while paying attention to the cat means no reward.
Recommend training method?

The Alternative Behavior Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Control dog
Find a safe place, such as inside a house or in an enclosed yard. Attach a leash to your belt with your dog fastened, and have treats available in your hand. Your dog should already have mastered the 'sit' command.
Step
2
Introduce cat and ask for alternative
Have your cat, or a friend's cat, present. When the cat appears, ask your dog to sit and look at you. If your dog sits and give you his attention, give him a treat. If he does not pay attention to your command but lunges toward the cat, pull the dog away from the cat and repeat the 'sit' command. Repeat this until you are far enough away from the cat that your dog obeys your sit command and ignores the cat, then give a reward.
Step
3
Increase proximity
Repeat this process, until your dog can be close to the cat and obey the 'sit' and 'look at me' commands appropriately. When the dog starts sitting and looking at you automatically in response to seeing the cat, you can put your dog on a longer leash, 8-10 feet in length.
Step
4
Move away from dog
Attach the long leash to a fixed point and move away from your dog. When the cat comes into view, your dog should sit and look at you. Give your dog a treat. If he lunges at or pull towards the cat, go back to previous step.
Step
5
Establish off leash
Take your dog off leash and allow your dog to be present with the cat. If your dog sits and looks for his treat, reward him. If he runs to the cat, go back to step 4. Make sure the cat has an escape route so the cat is not in danger. During the training period, make sure your dog never has access to chase the cat. This may mean separating them physically to different parts of the house if they live together.
Recommend training method?

The Exercise and Obedience Method

Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Obedience refresher
There is no such things as taking too many obedience classes. If it has been a while since your dog went to school, enroll him again. It's a great way to practice socialization skills and fine-tune obedience commands like down, stay, and leave it, essential to your cat's safety.
Step
2
Extracurricular activity
Along with the obedience class, take your dog to activities like agility and flyball. These are not only a lot of fun but will mentally and physically tire your dog out, leaving them too tired to chase cats.
Step
3
Run
Get both you and your curious dog in shape by taking up a sport like running or intense hiking. You may find a group that includes dogs for large pack hikes.
Step
4
Puzzle toys
Give your dog an interactive toy to play with when the cat is close by. If your dog is engaged in the toy and not minding the cat, consider a meet and greet in the near future.
Step
5
Reintroduction
Now that you have a dog that is exhausted and content from so much exercise, try a gentle reintroduction by having the cat in close proximity, behind a gate or in a crate.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Ganj
Shar-Pei Pitbull Terrier
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ganj
Shar-Pei Pitbull Terrier
2 Years

I have a cat, and just rescued a dog from my worksite that I've known for 3 months after he was injured. The dog was a melow, free beach dog, that lived with other cats, his caretaker said he is good with cats, but I can't count on that. He also has heartworms. I have to keep him calm, and immune system strong, and he is not neutered. He just had his tail removed because of an accident with another dog. He has been at my house for 8 days, in his corner tied to a post 10 foot diameter, on the terrace. Instead of crating him like suggested for heart worm treatment. There were no accidents while he was recovering. Today, as he is getting healthier, out of no where he tried to pull toward the cat/ 3 times. The cat gets to be inside the house. I would love to go on runs with him, but its not recommended with his condition. I have not been able to give him chew toys because of the cone around his neck. He has just learned to sit, and seems to pick up things quickly. He has a big lifestyle changeup, specially because he is very limited now. Please let me know what my neck steps should be to speed up the development of love between them and make it most efficient. He has a long road to recovery, and if I left him at the beach, He would surely, slowly die. I am building a fenced area for him, but I am worried now with the cats of the neighborhood and my pouch and sweet cat that loves to go outside. Thank you.

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

Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the cats. Nika 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
? We're calling him Joe
Pit Bull terrior
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
? We're calling him Joe
Pit Bull terrior
3 Years

He's very afraid of other dogs but is very, very aggressive towards our 8 year old cat.

The cat's bonded buddy was a large pit bull/lab mix, so the cat keeps expecting to be able to interact. Dog's not showing any sign of letting up.

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

Hello, I apologize for the delay in reply. I would call in a trainer used to working with these types of situations. I can give you a few guides to read but I really think that hands-on training is necessary. As I am sure you are doing, keep Joe away from the cat and make sure that the cat always has a safe and secure, easily reached retreat. Sometimes, it takes a long time before a dog will behave around a cat and there have been many instances where it never happens. So be prepared to keep the cat safe long term. Look online for a trainer, you may be able to speak with someone virtually as well. In the meantime, you can try tips from here: https://wagwalking.com/training/get-along-with-cats and here: https://wagwalking.com/training/accept-a-kitten. Read both guides through for advice. Be patient, and please seek out a trainer in your area for help. Even one private session can make a difference and perhaps bring peace to the home. But a very aggressive dog may never accept a cat, so please keep the cat safe. All the best to Joe and the cat!

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Question
Kako
Collie Blue Heeler
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kako
Collie Blue Heeler
9 Weeks

I am about to bring our new pup home, however, I have a 3 year old cat that was attacked by a dog about 6 months ago, how do I get my cat comfortable around the puppy after she has been attacked

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexis, First, know that I am a dog trainer and not a cat trainer, so you may want to contact someone who specializes in that area. With that said, I would try rewarding your cat whenever your dog is present with cat treats and things like fish, chicken, or liver paste, to help the cat associate the puppy's presence with good things, especially when the cat is being calm and tolerant of pup in the room. Allow the cat to be where puppy can't reach at first - like higher areas. I would crate train, tether pup to yourself, or use an exercise pen when you can't supervise the puppy. I would teach pup some directional commands to also help with calmness and management around the cat, like Place, Leave It, Out, and Quiet. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nika
Siberian Husky
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Nika
Siberian Husky
3 Years

So my husky met my cats for the first time and of course I used a leash and it worked, but I opened my door and she followed me out and noticed my cat and grabbed her by the throat and started shaking her like a toy and when I tried to stop her she accidentally bit me in the process since the cat landed on my foot

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

Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the cats. Nika 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
Digger
Dachshund
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Digger
Dachshund
9 Years

Digger and my new kitten were slowly introduced and everything seemed fine and dandy, however he was never able to get close enough to grab her before, they were both on the couch, but then after an hour or so, for no particular reason, he goes up to sniff her, which we thought was normal, then all of a sudden tries to grab her back, I wouldn’t say bite or snap, just tried to grab her, but I’m afraid it could have led to something more serious?? What can I do? Am I just being overprotective or paranoid?

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

Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the kitten. Digger 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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