Ever heard the expression “fight like cats and dogs”? Does it have to be true?
No, it doesn't. In fact, many households count both cats and dogs as family members that get along famously, play, cuddle, eat, and sleep together. But the cliche that dogs hate cats and love to chase them is fueled by the fact that dogs who have not been socialized or trained not to chase cats, do have a natural tendency to run after cats, especially if the cat will run away. Dogs are predators that are naturally inclined to run after anything smaller than them that runs away. After all, it might be good to eat. However, this can make you and your dog very unpopular with your neighbor and her cat!
Training your dog not to chase cats is important if you are introducing a cat into your home, to maintain good relations with your cat-owning neighbors, and to protect your dog from running into hazards while chasing a cat--hazards which include traffic or a cat that chooses to defend itself from unwanted attention. It is also important to protect the cat, who is doubtless someone else's beloved pet.
The best way to prevent your dog from chasing cats is to socialize your dog with cats at a young age, so he learns that cats are companions, not prey. If a more mature dog develops the habit of chasing cats, the habit can be harder to break, as it is a behavior that is fueled by natural instinct, and it can be difficult to control the opportunities your dog has to chase cats. You may need to enlist the support of your cat-owning friends to teach your dog that cats are friends, not chase objects. Your goal will be to have your dog either ignore cats, or approach them in a friendly manner, and not to run after a cat even if it flees the scene!
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 exercise. A restricted area that your dog can not run from, for example into traffic, is recommended. Also, if your dog has shown aggression to cats while running after them, you should consider making sure the dog can not hurt your feline helper by putting a basket muzzle on your dog for the training session. You can also use a crate to keep your feline assistant safe and give the cat a feeling of protection during training. A long leash to maintain control and treats will be required for some exercises.