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It is the nature of pet lovers to embrace all animals, not necessarily just dogs or just cats. When the love of four-leggers extends across two different species, such as cats and dogs, then there's potential for fur to fly. Sometimes things work out smoothly but other times, the breed of the dog can work against you.
This is certainly true of the Greyhound, with his roots as a dog trained to hunt by sight. A fast-moving cat streaking across the living room is the feline equivalent of a red rag to a bull. To create harmony in the household, it's vital that the Greyhound learns to inhibit his natural instinct to chase, because only then can peace break out and dog get along with cat.
Greyhounds hunt by sight and there's nothing quite so exciting as a fast-moving cat. The Greyhound's deep-rooted natural instinct is to give chase, which results in the fur-flying... literally. Teaching a Greyhound to look on a cat as a family member, and not prey to chase, is a difficult task and depends on introducing the two animals gradually and by training the dog to obey (and not chase) without a second thought.
In the meantime, be prepared to keep the two species separate and take steps to prevent the dog giving chase. This may take considerable time so be prepared to be patient, and make sure the cat's needs for safety and security are met in the meantime.
Training a Greyhound to be friends with a cat hinges on changing his behavior away from the natural instinct to give chase. This will take considerable time and patience, so be prepared for the long haul. In addition, you'll need:
- Separate rooms in order to keep the dog and cat apart
- A collar and leash to restrain the dog
- Blankets that you can swap between the cat and dog
- A treat pouch or bag to keep those rewards handy
- A friend to help with training.
The Obedience Training Method
Understand the aim
It's essential the dog doesn't chase the cat, which requires a high degree of obedience from the dog. Regularly training, especially with commands such as 'look', 'come', and 'leave it', will help put you in control and interrupt the dog's thoughts of chasing his fur-sister.
Teach a strong recall
Recall enables you to have the dog move toward you rather than chase the cat. Start out by calling the dog to you when he happens to move in your direction, praise and reward him. Then run away from the dog while calling him in an excited manner. Reward him when he comes to you. If necessary, keep the dog on a leash so that you can remain in control while he learns a strong recall.
Teach the dog to stay
Teach the dog to stay in one spot and you can prevent him from giving chase. To do this, start by standing beside the dog and have him stay in one spot for several seconds, then reward him. Then increase the time he's expected to stay still. Once he can stay for one minute, take a step away, have him stay, and then return to his side to reward him. Slowly increase the distance between you.
This is a great command for distracting the dog from a cat that's strolling across the room. Start by holding a treat by the dog's nose and then travel the treat up to the bridge of your nose. With the dog's focus on the treat, say "Look". Make him wait a few seconds before rewarding him with the treat. Gradually increase the length of time he's expected to look, before getting the reward.
Practice makes perfect
Train several times a day for short periods. Start out in a distraction-free environment to get things going. Once the dog has grasped the basic principle, then you can train in places with mild distractions. Ultimately the aim is to have the dog obey, even in the face of super-distracting things like a cat!
The Dos and Don'ts Method
Don't: Leave the dog and cat unsupervised
It's going to take a long, long time (if ever) before the Greyhound is reliable enough to be left unattended with the cat. Don't take that risk unless you are absolutely certain of a rock-solid relationship between them.
Don't: Forget the cat
There are two partners in this relationship. Don't forget to reward and fuss the cat for being bold and not turning tail when she sees the dog. You'll need to have a friend or family member help you with this; one person working with the dog and the other the cat.
Do: Manage the cat's stress
Be mindful of the cat's needs for safety and security. Provide a high perch for the cat that is out of reach of the dog, and plenty of hiding places so that she can go to high ground if she feels threatened.
Do: Be aware some Greyhounds are intractable cat chasers
Of all dog breeds, perhaps with the exception of some terriers, Greyhounds have a bad track record for getting along with cats. Although you are likely to succeed with patience and dedication, this is not guaranteed. If you don't feel confident about sparing the time needed, then a mixed species household is not for you.
Don't: Punish the dog
Don't physically punish the greyhound for chasing. Even if the dog becomes inhibited about chasing the cat when you are present, he will still chase when you aren't there. In addition, it will make him fearful of you and harm your relationship. Instead, give a brief verbal rebuke such as "No", and distract him.
The Polite Introductions Method
Divide and conquer
Keep the Greyhound and the cat separate, until you are certain of good behavior from the dog. This avoids chasing antics, which are hugely self-rewarding for the Greyhound and will quickly become his default behavior. Preventing this will make training easier in the long run and reduce stress on the cat.
Ultimately, the cat and dog will meet. To help smooth the path, introduce them remotely using scent handshakes. This involves mingling their scents back and forth so that they become familiar with each other's smell, which in turns helps them get used to one another. Ideas include swapping their bedding, stroking one and then the other, and giving them both a piece of your clothing (so your smell acts as an intermediary) and then swapping the items over.
First sight at a distance
When the dog first has sight of the cat, do so in a controlled manner. Have the dog on a collar and leash, and have the cat at the opposite side of the room. Continually interact with the dog, (now is the perfect time to obedience train) with an emphasis on praising and rewarding the dog for ignoring the cat. Remember, the 'look' command can distract the dog if he looks too interested in the cat.
Short but sweet encounters
Repeat these encounters regularly so that the dog gets into the habit of listening to you and ignoring the cat. Be liberal with praise and treats when the dog ignores the cat. This helps him realize there's more to be gained from ignoring the feline than from chasing her.
Zero tolerance of chasing
Once the dog shows little interest in the cat you can move gradually closer. Any interest in chasing should be met with a firm "No" and distract the dog with training.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021