Posted by Amy Shojai on 9/28/2007 in Training Tips Articles
Does your dog chase your cat? More than 40 percent of pet lovers keep multiple pets. While they often get along famously, some dogs treat the family feline like a windup toy. Constant chasing turns even easy-going cats into nervous wrecks, and even dogs who mean no harm may accidentally injure a cat or kitten.
Personalities predict success. Some dog breeds are naturally less predatory than others while some cats may be more tolerant of pestering canines. However, terrier and sight hound breeds are genetically hard-wired to chase scurrying critters. Fleeing by a cat can trigger predatory aggression in some dogs of these breeds.
It’s vital that owners educate their dogs on the rules of the house to maintain harmony. To successfully achieve this, all members of the house must be consistent in reinforcing good doggy manners. Here, we offer a five-point plan to put the brakes on your cat-chasing dog. Before each training session, make sure you have a leash, plenty of treats and, of course, lots of patience.
1. Ensure your cat’s safety by keeping your dog under leash control inside your house during “canine class” time. Prevent ANY chase from taking place. Use a long leash so that you can quickly step on it at the first sign that your dog is about to dash after your cat. Even if your cat instigates the session (some cats tease dogs unmercifully), don’t allow any chase or tag games until after your dog has learned proper manners.
2. Keep an abundant supply of aromatic-beckoning, tasty treats handy so that you are ready to reinforce no chasing by your dog at the presence of a cat. These special treats should only be used for cat-proofing lessons and should be small enough that your dog needs only a chew or two to enjoy and swallow and be ready to heed your next treat-dispensing cue.
3. Give your dog a treat every time your cat makes an appearance. Reinforce good behavior by coming up with an easy-to-remember phrase, such as, “Cookie, cat!” and when your dog stays sitting – without chasing your cat – deliver a treat. Offer this payday whether your dog acts calm, excited, merely looks at your cat, barks, or anything else. The goal is to have your dog comprehend this cause-and-effect equation: a cat’s presence equals tasty treats.
4. Use a leash to keep your dog a safe distance from your cat – but do not use the leash to force your dog’s attention or behavior into what you want him to do. Let his brain process the equation in his own time. Some dogs “get it” right away, and others take longer. Within a few sessions, nearly every dog should start looking to you for a treat each time they hear, “Cookie, cat!” or your cat appears. Rather than lunging and chasing instinctively, your dog should be learning to stay and expect a reward.
5. Reinforce this behavior for at least a week or two in mini-sessions a few times a day. The sessions need only to be a few minutes in duration – but no more than 10 minutes – because it’s difficult for some dogs, especially young ones, to maintain attention. Brush up with more training sessions as needed.
Final advice: Make sure your dog stays leashed or separated from your cat when you are not able to supervise their interactions until you are confident that your dog’s desire to give chase has definitely been stopped in its tracks.