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

Most Recommended
1 Vote
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.
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 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.
Recommend training method?

The Consequences Method

Effective
0 Votes
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bodie
Boxer
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bodie
Boxer
1 Year

We just adopted Bodie and he attacked our cat this morning. After getting them apart, neither appears to have serious injuries. We don’t want to have to choose between the two, but Can’t allow him to hurt the cat. Help?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennie, While this is a serious issue, the good news is that your dog did not seriously injure or kill your cat during the interaction, that shows a certain level of control on your dog's part. Is Bodie bothering your cat in general or does your cat initiate the confrontations? If your dog is bothering your cat, then the easiest thing to do is to teach your dog to avoid your cat altogether. You can do this in a couple of ways. The first way to teach this, is to heavily reward your dog for going to a certain location whenever your cat is present. You can teach your dog the "Place" command, and have your dog's place be somewhere like a dog bed set out in your living room. Whenever your cat approaches, send your dog to his "Place" and insist that he stay there by taking him back if he gets up, then reward him whenever he remains there. When you start this, reward him when he first goes there and also every two minutes.. Overtime, gradually increase the amount of time between rewards. For example, at first reward him every two minutes, then every three minutes, then every five, every seven, every ten, and so forth, until he must remain there for thirty minutes before receiving a reward. Do not let him up until you have told him "OK" or your cat has left. This will help him to control his urge to chase your cat by giving him something else to do and by improving his self-control, but it will also help him to enjoy the presence of your cat. Another option is to train him using a remote electronic training collar to avoid your cat. For this you will need to purchase a high quality electric collar such as a collar made by: E-Collar Technologies, Garmin, SportDog, or Dogtra. Do not go with less expensive brands that only have a handful of electric stimulation levels. A good quality collar will have at least sixty levels, so that you can use the lowest level needed and adjust the collar very gradually when needed. Other brands can be faulty, overly sensitive, and downright dangerous. Other brands are the ones you will hear horror stories of if you look online. Of the brands mentions, the E-Collar Technologies Mini Educator is the most versatile for the price. To properly use an electric collar, find an experienced trainer in your area to help you. Electric collars are fabulous tools when used correctly, and they are one of the only ways to effectively stop a dog from chasing prey, but when used wrong they can also cause serious issues, so get help from someone who knows how to use one correctly. A lot of things go into using an electric collar properly, including proper understanding of training principles, proper understanding of canine body language, proper fitting of the collar, proper understanding of basic collar training, such as how to find your dog's appropriate stimulation level and how to keep your dog from becoming collar wise, as well as timing, communication, and awareness of the pitfalls, so that you can avoid them. With that said, if you have the right experience and knowledge or help, they do work incredibly well. If your cat is initiating the confrontations, then your best option is to either confine your cat or to find someone who is experienced in training cats to work with your cat, to teach him to leave your dog alone. Many cats are the initiators of confrontation with dog's so do not assume that your dog is the problem until you have watched the two together for a bit. The problem also might be both your cat and your dog, which means that both need to learn to avoid each other. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Steve
pit bull terrier
Three Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Steve
pit bull terrier
Three Years

We adopted a 6 year old cat from a shelter we are all in love with him so I pray I can make this work Smaller pit on the left has been around small animals and did not show aggression to our new cat but was only introduced shortly
We tried to introduce Steve our 3 yr old and he’s so lovable I did not foresee his aggressiveness and I lost my hold on him he lunged at the now running trying to hide cat I broke it up before the worse happened and the cat was not harmed just traumatized 😪
Is it possible with veterinary training to train the aggressive kill prey my beloved dog obviously has or do I admit we can’t and give up our new very beloved cat
Please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christina, When a cat does not live with a dog it is possible to train the dog to avoid cats, and when a dog is a puppy still the puppy can often be trained to get along with cats, and when a dog is simply chasing or afraid of a cat but does not intend to kill the cat, that dog can often be trained, but because your dog is an adult and the attack was likely based on a predatory instinct, it is very unlikely that the two animals will ever be able to safely live in the same house as each other. With a lot of work it is probably possible to get Steve to the point where he would avoid the cat most of the time and become more tolerant of it in general, but it would only take one wrong interaction to lead to the worst outcome, so it is probably much safer to avoid that possibility altogether. Essentially you could manage the aggression but probably not get rid of it. There is a very small chance that the aggression is based on something other than predatory instinct, in which case you might be able to successfully use behavioral modification to address it. You would need a professional trainer very familiar with different types of aggression to do an evaluation though in order to tell. Honestly, it is very unlikely that it the aggression is caused by something else though, so the chance of success is very small, and it would not be a simple solution. Addressing aggression like what you described, in any form, takes a lot of time and work. I am so sorry that the animals do not get along. I know that must be heart breaking. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Sophia
pit mix
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sophia
pit mix
4 Years

Hi i need help. My dog Sophia has killed 10 cats with in a half of a year and the last one I could not stop her. Is there a way that I can have her and a cat? She is an outdoor farm dog and she has killed all our barn cats and one that was a stray. I love her and I adopted her after she was abandoned on a road side and don’t want her to feel abandoned again if I sell her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mya, Unfortunately the answer is no. Because she has killed such a large number of cats, she cannot ever safely live in close contact with a cat. She had almost certainly killed the cats due to a predatory instinct, and although you can manage that instinct with the right tools and training, you cannot remove it, and if she lived with a cat managing that instinct would be too hard to guarantee safety for the cat. It may be possible to teach her to avoid future neighborhood cats who are very far away by hiring a competent local dog trainer who has extensive experience using Electric Collars. Using an Electric Collar and proper avoidance training she likely could be taught to avoid cats who are far away, but she will never be safe in the same household as a cat, and her desire to kill them will never make her completely safe without supervision. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Elvis
Mix
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Elvis
Mix
4 Years

Hi Caitlin, I have a 5 year old lab/pit/hound mix that is a foster failure. I've owned him for 2 years.

He's a big loveable goofball but protective and has been aggressive towards other dogs. He's bit 2 other dogs that needed vet trips. Seems if the dog he's introduced to shows any aggression, he attacks. He has gotten significantly better since I've had him but I still proceed with great caution when introducing him to new dogs.

Most concerning is he killed one of my mom's cats this morning. I have 3 cats and another dog, they are not scared of him and don't run when he approaches, they even "groom" him and he licks them so he obviously considers them part of his pack.

I don't think he set out to attack mom's cat this morning, I think he just chased her as if it were a game, but no doubt when cornered the cat got defensive. His muzzle is scratched up so he didn't come away unscathed.

He is a very submissive dog when corrected so I feel like he can be trained to leave strange cats alone, just like any suggestions you can offer on how to proceed.

I'm heartbroken over what's happened this morning. At the moment all I can do is apologize to my mom and promise never to bring him over there again.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Benjamin, It sounds like Elivis has an extremely low bite threshold and a lack of self-control in adrenaline inducing situations. In other words when he gets into a confrontational situation he lacks self-control emotionally and physically. What this means is that he cannot be trusted around other dogs and cats he does not have a history with period. He may be fine one moment and lashing out the next, and it will often be with only slight warnings. With that said, get him used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle for dog introductions. A soft silicone basket muzzle will be more comfortable, will allow him to open his mouth while wearing it, and will have larger holes that you can pass treats through to him. He shouldn't be meeting any dogs without it. That is not to say don't have him meet dogs though, but use this tool when doing it. To get him used to wearing a muzzle, show him the muzzle and give him a treat every time that you show it to him, he touches it, sniff it, or looks at it. When he is comfortable with that, then touch it to his face, immediately remove it, and give him a treat. Practice that until he is comfortable with that. After that, hold the muzzle onto his face without attaching it, and feed him treats through the muzzle holes while you hold it. Practice that until he is comfortable with that. When he is comfortable with that, then put the muzzle on him and feed him treats through the holes for five minutes, then take it off again. Repeat this and gradually increase the amount of time that he wears the muzzle for and how long he goes between treat rewards, until he can wear the muzzle for an hour without treats, and is relaxed. When Elvis can wear a muzzle, then put the muzzle on him while you are teaching him to avoid cats. For the next part, honestly you should hire a trainer with extensive experience using Electric Collars. You will need to teach him to avoid cats even when they are running or being antagonistic. You can somewhat teach him using positive reinforcement only, but you will need an Electric remote training collar to ensure consistent obedience and in the case of the cats, this is life or death so you need consistency. Look up Jamie Penrith from TakeTheLeadDogTraining on Youtube. He has videos where he talks about ending livestock chasing behaviors in dogs. He is also a great resource for learning more about electric collars. First, spend time getting Elvis used to wearing a muzzle, then purchase a high quality electric collar, such as Dogtra, Sportdog, or e-collar technologies. Don't buy a cheap one. cheap ones can be dangerous. Cheap ones are what you hear horror stories about. Garmin also makes a good one but you will need one with a dial that controls the stimulation levels and theirs only has buttons for adjusting the levels. Have your dog wear this collar for at least two weeks around the house and outside during the day without turning it on. You need your dog to get used to the collar and forget that he is wearing it before you use it for training, or your dog will associate the training with the collar and will only be obedient consistently while he is wearing the collar. You need for him to first get used to the collar on his neck without it being essentially. When you have done that, then hire a trainer with electric collar experience and tell them that you want to teach your dog to avoid cats. This trainer should help you determine what stimulation level the collar should be set at your dog, set up multiple scenarios with cats to do the training, and teach you what you need to do to maintain the training. The stimulation collar settings are unique to every dog. Some dogs are more sensitive than others and each collars levels work slightly different, so a 10 on one collar might not even be a tingle and a 10 on another level might be way too high. The collar also needs to be fitted high on your dogs neck so that it does not slide down, and tight enough for both metal pieces to be touching his skin without constricting breathing at all. This is important because looser can cause your dog not to feel the sensation every time, which might cause you to go up too high a level to get a response. It will also give inconsistent responses which is bad for training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Brinks
German Shepherd
2 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Brinks
German Shepherd
2 Years

HELP:

Ok it’s been a month now since we got boy and he still can’t control himself to try to get my cats! We’ve made headway, the cats attempt to come out but he’s bolted at them and he’ll stop when I tell him but it’s a close call! Today we had one come out and I held his collar then she went back and I let him go to the gate. He did great! Then... I sat at the gate with both of them, stuck my arm threw the gate to pet the cat then as she got close he bolted and went to snap at her! It was very very close this time. I told him no and to go outside. Is this a losing battle am I being realistic that they will ever be able to coexist?! I can’t afford a trainer just need advice!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Samantha, First of all, before trying anything else have Brinks wear a soft silicone basket muzzle whenever the cats are anywhere where he might get to them, even if you are present. The silicone will be more comfortable and the muzzle's basket shape will let him open his mouth and also receive treats through the holes. Be cautious still while he is wearing this because he could squish the cat still, but this will remove part of the danger of having the animals under the same roof. Many dogs get used to the muzzles and do not mind them after a while if you introduce it properly. To get him used to wearing a muzzle, show him the muzzle and give him a treat. Practice that until he likes it's presence. Next, touch the muzzle to him and give him a treat. Practice that until he does not mind being touched. Next, hold the muzzle against his face briefly and give him a treat. practice that until he is comfortable with it. Next, hold the muzzle against his face for longer and feed him treats through the muzzle's holes while you hold it against him. When he is comfortable with that last step, then strap the muzzle on him and feed him treats while he is wearing it. After a few minutes of being given occasional treats, take it off again. Gradually increase how long he wears it for until he can wear it for long periods of time without being given treats and act normally. Space the treats out gradually while he is wearing the muzzle to phase them out overtime. Expect it to take him a couple of weeks to get to the point where he can wear the muzzle for long periods of time. Whether or not he will get used to the cat depends a lot on why he is going after them. If he simply finds it interesting and fun to chase, the you can likely train him to leave the cat alone. If he is going after the cat because of prey drive, then you will always have to keep them separate. You can teach a prey driven dog to leave cats outside alone using an e-collar and aversion training but you can never ensure that your own cat will be one-hundred percent safe under the safe roof all of the time. The dog will not be able to avoid the cat well enough. Using the muzzle should help you assess that better. Does your dog act happy and excited around the cat and have playful body language or does he fixate on the cat and stare it down intently. The later is more likely prey drive. The former can be playfulness. The playfulness can be dangerous because even a playful dog might get too excited and hurt or kill a cat, but it is not that dog's intention and can be more easily trained. Look into E-collar training. Look up Jamie Penrith from taketheleaddogtraining on Youtube. He does electric, AKA e-collar, training and works on breaking dogs of livestock chasing habits. He also has general videos on how to properly fit and use electric collars. Also, look up videos of dogs in prey drive mode and play mode and watch the dog's body language to gain insight into whether your dog is trying to play or kill the cats. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cookie
Dachshund
5 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Cookie
Dachshund
5 Years

Hello! My Cookie is a female dachshund that never got pregnant, but had episodes of false pregnancy (including swollen breasts and being protective over plush toys). She has a prey drive instinct, she killed a few birds and a baby possum before. She never had contact with a cat, only passers by in the street and she barks at them. I found this stray kitten, he's not with me right now because I wanted to know if is safe for them to live together. Do you think that maybe my dog would care for the kitten because is a baby and she never had a puppy?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainier
78 Dog owners recommended

Hello Luiza, Because she has killed several small animals before there is a food chance that she would attack a kitten. The only way to know for sure is to introduce them carefully and decide based on her reaction. To introduce you could get Cookie used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle ahead of time and introduce them while she is wearing the muzzle and on a leash for the kitten's safety. If she fixates on it or stalks it, then that is a predatory response. If she seems caring or excited but not at all aggressive towards it, then she might be able to get used to it. To get her used to wearing a muzzle show her the muzzle and feed her a treat everytime you show her it. Repeat until she is comfortable looking at it. Next, touch it to her and give her a treat each time you do so. Repeat until she is happy and relaxed with that. Next, hold it against her muzzle briefly and give her a treat through the muzzle's holes. Repeat that until she is comfortable with that. Next, hold it against her muzzle for longer and feed her treats through the muzzle's holes while you do so. Finally, put the muzzle on her and give her the treats through the holes. Start by having her wear it just for a couple of minutes. Gradually work up to an hour over time and space the treats further and further apart as she improves. Use a soft silicone basket muzzle because the silicone will be more comfortable and the basket shape will allow her to open her mouth in it and the holes will let you pass small treats to her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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