The American bulldog is a tenacious, intelligent breed that requires lots of exercise. Left unsocialized, these dogs can become aggressive with other animals, particularly cats. However, with proper socialization, your American bulldog will be extremely gentle with cats and other animals.
Socialize your dog to cats as early in his life as possible. The socialization window for puppies closes between 16 and 20 weeks. Thereafter, it is very difficult to socialize dogs to new animals. Because the American bulldog tends to be aggressive toward cats, early socialization is especially important. Expose your puppy to cats in a variety of contexts, and make these experiences as positive as possible by giving your dog treats and lots of praise every time he sees or interacts with a cat.
Expose adult dogs to cats from a distance. You may need to enlist a friend or several friends who own cats to help with this endeavor. Determine the distance at which your dog reacts aggressively to cats. Begin socialization at 1 foot greater than this distance. For example, if your dog becomes aggressive when a cat is 20 feet away, start out with a cat 21 feet away from your dog. Click the training clicker and give your dog a treat. Repeat the exercise as frequently as possible every day for a week.
Decrease the distance by 1 foot. If your dog does not react, click the training clicker and give her a treat, repeating the exercise regularly every day for a week. Gradually decrease the distance by 1 foot every week until your dog is close enough to touch the cat. Then place the cat in a crate and allow your dog to approach the cat, clicking the training clicker and giving him a treat if he does not react aggressively.
Put a muzzle on your dog and allow him to approach the cat. Continue praising him regularly. If your dog does not react aggressively, take off the muzzle after several days of this exercise and allow your dog to interact with the cat. Continue giving your dog treats and praise.
- Your Pure Bred Puppy: American Bulldog Temperament
- Click to Calm: Healing the Aggressive Dog; Emma Parsons
- The Power of Positive Dog Training; Pat Miller
- If your dog has previously been aggressive to cats, never leave him unattended with a cat, even if you think you've eliminated the aggression.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.