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

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
5 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

ribbon-method-3
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

ribbon-method-2
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?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Biscuit/manna
Greyhound
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Biscuit/manna
Greyhound
10 Years

Want to desensitise 2 greyhounds to a very scared kitten

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1101 Dog owners recommended

Hello Corrine, How you train depends a lot on their level of prey drive around the kitten. Check out the videos I have linked below. 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 pups, 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 pups 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 herself. 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/ Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Prada
German Shepherd x belgian malinois
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Prada
German Shepherd x belgian malinois
4 Years

Prada has been attacked once in our yard by a cat and twice out in the community by two different dogs.
Prada is now extremely fearful of cats and dogs larger than her and has most recently lunged at a cat and injured it.
I will now be walking her with a muzzle however will also need to re-train her behaiour.
She is generally not aggressive as the other night out neighbours dog snuck in for a sleepover and she was not concerned.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1101 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, I recommend working with a professional training group that has access to other well mannered dogs, to practice desensitizing pup to others. There should be safety measures in place during a lot of that training such as the muzzle you have started with pup, and the training started at a distance pup can stay calm around the other dogs from, and gradually decrease distance and interaction over time and with practice, until pup's external response hasn't just improved, but their emotional response also improves. Check out this trainer's youtube channel. She has a lot of videos of desensitization and counter conditioning, and personal experience with what you have been through with your dog too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbhM4oKZjsE&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=15 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jemma
Olde English Bulldogge
9 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Jemma
Olde English Bulldogge
9 Years

Recently got a cat , and the dog hates it. I can’t have the cat and the dog in the same room as I fear the dog will kill the kitten.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1101 Dog owners recommended

Hello Taylor, Check out the videos I have linked below. How you train this will depend a lot on pup's level of aggression or curiosity toward the cats. If pup is just curious and overly playful, the mild cat issue video instructions might be all you need to set some boundaries between the animals and establish expectations. I would also crate or confine pup in a room away from the cats when you are away, at least for the first few months until you are confident how they are together at all times. If pup's interest is more intense or there is prey drive, there are additional resources I have linked below for training video examples as well. I would consider hiring a trainer experienced in this area to help you train for anything severe though. 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 cat in the same room. I would also recommend back tying 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 herself. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo 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

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Question
Sammy
German Shepherd
12 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sammy
German Shepherd
12 Years

We have two grow cats that Sammy will chase around the house but hasn’t hurt them. I recently took in a kitten to foster.
Sammy is very aggressive and obsessed with trying to attack it. I am scared to leave the house because of this. Sammy was never neutered, I rescued him. He was tortured as a puppy and taught to kill cats so they say.
He ignores the other two cats now. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1101 Dog owners recommended

Hello Missy, With pup's past, I would consider hiring a professional trainer to work with you in person on this. A kitten is smaller and often more easily viewed as prey by many dogs, the kitten is also new so pup may be acting territorial toward the kitten. Check out James Penrith, who specializes in dogs who chase and kill other animals. I HIGHLY recommend finding a trainer with the type of experience you need to oversee the training in person. If not, this is one situation where I would consider re-homing the kitten for their own safety. I don't often recommend re-homing any animals, but without professional help I would consider that. In the meantime keep 2-3 closed doors or crates between the animals when not supervising. This may look like pup in a crate in one closed room, a den between, kitten in the bathroom with den between, so you have crate door, bedroom door, and bathroom door, with space between to help pup stay calmer, not hearing or strongly smelling the kitten on the other side of just one door. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Snowbelle
Labrador Retriever
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Snowbelle
Labrador Retriever
8 Years

We took in a kitten(Domestic Short Hair) that my mom found outside. It's been around 6 months since then, but Snowbelle still wants to bite our kitten, our other dog, a Shih Tzu is doesn't fight with the 6-month-old kitten though. A note, Snowbelle was raised around cats for 5 years, though we moved houses meaning we had to leave our outdoor cats; she doesn't have training, meaning no tricks, no commands; she's usually very loving to strangers and to family, but she sometimes gets aggressive to other animals.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1101 Dog owners recommended

Hello Inigo, As far as the cats, check out the videos I have linked below. How you train this will depend a lot on pup's level of aggression or curiosity toward the cats. If pup is just curious and overly playful, the mild cat issue video instructions might be all you need to set some boundaries between the animals and establish expectations. I would also crate or confine pup in a room away from the cats when you are away, at least for the first few months until you are confident how they are together at all times. If pup's interest is more intense or there is prey drive, there are additional resources I have linked below for training video examples as well. I would consider hiring a trainer experienced in this area to help you train for anything severe though. 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 cat in the same room. I would also recommend back tying 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 herself. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo 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

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