Since the early days of cartoons, the dynamic between cats and dogs has always been illustrated as bitter rivals. The dog chases the cat, the cat chases the mouse, and the mouse looks for the cheese. Unfortunately for many pet owners, there is some truth to the fiction. Just like cats are sometimes driven to chase and kill mice, many dogs are also compelled to chase, and sometimes kill, their feline roommates. These are, of course, extreme cases, but preventing your cat from facing unnecessary stress is important. This issue is prominent especially with owners of Huskies, who are well known for having a high prey drive.
A “prey drive” is what compels a Husky to chase small animals in and around the home, which can include birds, mice, insects, squirrels, and even the household cat. This behavior can easily put your cat in danger and should be addressed as soon as it is recognized in any dog, but Huskies especially require plenty of care and training to help catch this behavior early on and prevent an unfortunate incident.
There are many ways to help your Husky get along with your cat, but an important thing to remember is that prey drive is instinctual. This drive to chase and sometimes kill can overpower obedience if the training foundation is not strong enough. The importance of keeping an eye on both your Husky and your cat cannot be stressed enough in these cases and your dog’s success will heavily depend on your consistency and ability to maintain any and all training that you put in place for him.
It’s important to not wait until after your dog has already developed a habit of chasing cats to push for this training, as then the instinct may be too ingrained. However, there are still ways to manage both of your pets even if this is the case. Regardless, start training as early as possible when your Husky is still a puppy and be prepared to maintain this training throughout his lifetime.
Before beginning, ensure that your Husky has basic obedience under his belt. Important commands will be ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘leave it’. Any other commands are a plus, but these can come in handy if you find yourself in a situation where you need to maintain control over your dog.
Be prepared with a leash for more control and some treats for positive reinforcement. Set up barriers between your two animals if necessary or use a soft muzzle on your Husky for short periods of time during training to ensure your cat’s safety. Prevention is a large component when it comes to training a predator around potential prey.
We adopted Mona about 3 weeks ago. I have been working with training her. We have mastered sit and stay she will do as long as there aren't any distractions. Our cat has been confined to our bedroom which has Glass doors out to the back yard. So mona has seen the cat through the doors and has had a few short leashed visits with the cat. The problem is when she sees the cat she is completely focused in the cat. I have tried everything to try and change her focus (treats, toys, cheese, even turkey!) and none of it is as good as the cat. How do I get her to focus on me, or something else when the cat is so enthralling to her!? Thank you for your help!
Hello Lindsay, First of all I would work on getting Mona used to wearing a soft, silicone, basket muzzle in preparation for future up-close introductions. You can do this by giving her lots of treats while you get her used to the muzzle. Give her a treat whenever you show her the muzzle, she sniffs the muzzle, you touch the muzzle to her, and eventually, you put the muzzle on, and then leave the muzzle on. Do this gradually over the next several days or weeks. A basket muzzle will have holes so that you can feed her small treats through while she is wearing it. You can also dip a straw in a bit of peanut butter and poke the straw through the muzzle for her to lick as a reward. If her fixation is really strong, then you need to seek professional help because it might be prey drive. If it is prey drive, then management may be your only option. If the fixation is simply curiosity and playful interest, then spending a lot of time around the cat, with the cat in a safe location, should help the cat to become boring. You probably need to use a form of correction to snap her out of her fixation. A prong collar correction might do the trick, but you want to be careful not to cause a negative association with the cat while doing this. Teach her the "Watch Me" or "Attention" command. When she is fixated on the cat tell her to "Watch Me", if she does not, then give a correction. As soon as her attention is off of the cat and back onto you, then give her another command and heavily reward her to paying attention to you and obeying. You want to correct her for disobedience instead of randomly correcting her in her mind. You also want to reward her for proper behavior at least as much as you correct her. If she does not want the treats that is fine, but continue to praise her and at least offer them. Look into how to properly fit and use a prong collar. A prong collar should be worn high on the neck, without slack in it. The prongs should gently touch the skin all the way around but should not poke into the skin at all unless the dog is being corrected. A correction should not take a lot of force if it is being done correctly. Two fingers on the leash should provide enough force for a good correction in most cases. I would also suggest hiring a trainer for this part too since it can be delicate. The trainer can assess her prey drive also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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