AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Breanne Long gives us a positive protocol for addressing the age-old question – “How Can I Get My Dog to Stop Chasing My Cat?” Many dogs and cats even become the best of friends.
Tradition tells us that cats and dogs cannot coexist peacefully in the same household, but thousands of multi-species pet owners will tell you it can be done! Teaching your dog not to chase your cat takes time and consistency, but the reward of not having to constantly worry about Fido chasing Fluffy is more than worth it!
Things you’ll need:
- Your dog (preferably your dog will already know sit and/or to give you eye contact. If not, it helps if you can teach these skills).
- 4 to 6-foot leash
- Long line or light rope
- Small, high value treats (see our article on dog training treats)
1. Keep your dog on leash at all times while loose in the house with your cat. Use a hands-free type leash or attach your leash to your belt. Keep your training treats on hand, either in your pocket or a nearby container.
2. Anytime your cat is in the vicinity of your dog, stop whatever you’re doing and ask your dog to sit and give you his attention. If he sits, reward him! If he instead strains toward the cat, take a few steps away from the cat and ask again. Keep moving away from the cat until your dog is able to sit and give his attention.
3. Continue to reward your dog until the cat moves away. If the cat sticks around, provide your dog with a high value chew treat/toy and move just far enough away from the cat that your dog can focus on his chew.
4. Repeat the above steps consistently, and you’ll start to see your dog automatically look to you and sit when he sees the cat. Reward this!
5. When your dog is automatically looking to you in the presence of the cat, you’re ready to use the long line or light rope. Attach this to your dog’s collar and attach the other end to you or some stationary object. Be sure your dog is ready for this step as you could be injured, or your property damaged, if he decides to start chasing at this point. Start by giving your dog 8-10-feet of line and gradually increase the length as he proves trustworthy. If your dog tries to chase, reel him in on the long line and repeat step 2. If he comes to you when he sees the cat, reward heavily!
6. Finally, take the long line off and allow your dog to be loose in the house with the cat. By this time your dog has been rewarded so many times for looking at you when he sees the cat, he will likely make the right choice even when off leash. However, if he doesn’t, go back to step 5. You may even want to use a light-weight string so it’s a more similar feeling to being off-leash.
Consistently rewarding your dog for making the right choice, even if you have to help him by moving him away from the cat, will lead to a dog that can happily coexist with your cat.
- During this process you cannot allow your dog to chase your cat, ever! Even if it only happens once or twice, your dog is practicing the ‘wrong’ behavior and getting rewarded for it because dogs intrinsically find chasing rewarding. Every time your dog is able to chase your cat, you undo all the prior work you did by getting his attention around the cat.
- Give your dog an outlet to chase something appropriate! Practice restrained recalls and let your dog ‘catch’ you by catching a toy you’re dragging beside you (like a tug rope). Throw a favorite ball or other toy that your dog can chase down and bring back to you.
- Start young! If you never allow your puppy to chase your cat (even though it may be cute when your dog is small) he will never know that cat chasing is an option. Refrain from laughing or smiling when your puppy chases your cat and instead direct him to a more appropriate game of chasing a toy or ball.
For more training help and to develop an individual training plan for your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline. Experienced trainers are available seven days a week to answer your questions – www.akcgooddoghelpline.org