How to Train Your Dog to Not Run After Cats

Hard
2-4 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

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.

Defining Tasks

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!

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 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.

The Reinforce Ignore Method

Effective
0 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 him happy during the training time. Try to find a brave cat that will not become unduly frightened by an excited dog trying to reach him.
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
Discourage unwanted attention
If the dog lunges towards the cat or pays attention to the cat say “no”. You can insert your body between the cat and the dog to regain his attention.
Step
4
Reinforce ignore
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
Increase access
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 reward, running to the cat means no reward.
Recommend training method?

The Desensitize to Cat Method

Effective
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Step
1
Set up scenario
Find a safe place, such as inside a house or in an enclosed yard. Attach a leash to your belt with your dog, and have treats available in your hand. Your dog should already have mastered the 'sit' command.
Step
2
Provide distraction
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 gives you his attention, give him the treat. If he does not, pull the dog away from the cat and repeat the 'sit' command. Repeat until you are far enough away from the cat that your dog obeys your 'sit' command, then give a reward.
Step
3
Close the distance
Repeat this until you can be close to the cat, give the 'sit' and 'look at me' commands and the dog responds 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, lighter leash 8-10 feet in length.
Step
4
Provide distance from handler
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 remains focused on you. If he charges for the cat, go back to the previous step.
Step
5
Practice off-leash
Take your dog off the leash and allow him to be free in the room with the cat. If your dog sits and looks for his treat, reward him. If he goes back to chasing the cat, go back to the previous step and practice. During the training period, make sure your dog never has the opportunity to chase the cat. This may mean separating them if they live together.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Reinforcement Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Set up consequences
If your dog is aggressive towards cats in the neighborhood and there is little opportunity to work on socialization in a controlled environment, you may need to use negative consequences to deter your dog from chasing cats. Fit your dog with a remote training collar and use a whistle.
Step
2
Set up
Supervise your dog while off leash and near a cat in a controlled, fenced area. The dog should be muzzled and the cat should have an escape route so that the dog can not chase him.
Step
3
Warn
When your dog approaches the cat, let out a blast on the whistle.
Step
4
Trigger
As the dog continues towards the cat, engage the shock collar at its lowest effective setting.
Step
5
Move away
Call your dog back to you. When he returns, walk off in another direction with him. You may need to attach a leash to get your dog to retreat.
Step
6
Continue negative consequences as required
Repeat this exercise several times, over a period of many 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 chases the cat after hearing the whistle, engage the shock collar. Repeat until your dog does not approach cats, indicating he has come to associate cats with negative consequences.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 11/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Rumor
1/2 german shepard 1/2 siberian husky
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rumor
1/2 german shepard 1/2 siberian husky
1 Year

We have a 15.5 year old cat. The dog chases the cat if we let her. The cat doesn't fight only hisses and runs. We have a baby gate up and sometimes they will get within 3-4 feet of each other calmly through the gate. Through the gate the dog will either ignore the cat or just lay down and stare at him. Although when we say "leave it" she usually turns away. Any time the cat is at a higher level (in our arms off the floor) the doog gets excited and may lunge. Not aggressively though. May or may not bark. Will they ever get along?? Is there hope?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
227 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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