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. You should consider making sure the dog cannot hurt your feline helper, by putting on a basket muzzle, 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 drug training may be useful.

The Desensitizing Method

Effective
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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.
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 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.
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The Alternative Behavior Method

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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 dog is muzzled and 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.
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The Consequences Method

Effective
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Step
1
Prepare negative consequence
This method may be required if the dog is aggressive towards cats in the neighborhood and there is little opportunity to achieve socialization or controlled behavior and the dog is posing a danger to himself and the cat. Fit your dog with a shock collar and have a whistle on hand. Muzzle the dog, and put the dog on a leash to maintain control and keep the cat safe.
Step
2
Approach cat
Approach cat with your dog on a leash.
Step
3
Warn and shock
When your dog lunges toward the cat, let out a blast on the whistle. If the dog continues towards the cat, engage the shock collar. Pull or signal your dog back to you. When your dog returns, carry on in another direction.
Step
4
Reward leaving the cat
Repeat this exercise multiple times over a period of several days. If the dog responds to the whistle alone, call him and give him a treat for returning to you without chasing the cat. If the dog lunges at the cat after hearing the whistle, engage the shock collar.
Step
5
Establish
Increase length of leash, then practice off leash with a muzzle to protect the cat. Repeat until your dog does not approach the cat, as he has come to associate cats with negative consequences.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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