Dogs chase cats for two basic reasons: a response to prey drive and the desire to play. Many dogs see cats as prey and will try to catch them. Others simply want to play, although even a playful dog is scary to most cats.
Keep a collar and leash on the dog at all times. This offers you an extra measure of control in case the dog dashes off after your cat.
Teach the dog to ignore your cat. Ask the dog to sit by your side, and wait for the cat to walk by. As soon as the dog turns to look at the cat, tell him “leave it” in a loud, firm voice. When the dog turns to look at you, push down on the clicker and immediately give the dog a treat. The clicker acts as a cue to show the dog that looking away from the cat results in a tasty treat.
Ask a helper to hold the cat, and take a few steps toward the dog. If the dog ignores that cat and sits quietly, praise him with a good scratch. If the dog starts to whine or focus on the cat, tell him to “leave it” again and click and treat him as soon as he refocuses on you. The key to using a training aid such as the clicker is to use it the instant the dog performs the proper behavior. Even a slight delay renders the clicker useless.
Tell the helper to bring the cat directly in front of the dog and turn her loose. Let the cat sniff the dog, and give him the “leave it” command if he starts to bother the cat. Click and praise the dog lavishly when he ignores the cat.
Drop the leash and let the dog wander under supervision. Watch him carefully, and tell him to “leave it” if he starts to follow the cat. Click as soon as he turns away from the cat and give him a treat when he comes to you. Repeat the command and click routine until the dog no longer tries to chase the cat.
- Keep the animals in separate rooms while you’re away from home. Even the best of furry friends may injure each other without supervision.
- Be patient during the training process. Dogs with low prey drive may stop chasing in just a few sessions, while more determined chasers may take weeks of consistent training to ignore the cat.
Louise Lawson has been a published author and editor for more than 10 years. Lawson specializes in pet and food-related articles, utilizing her 15 years as a sous chef and as a dog breeder, handler and trainer to produce pieces for online and print publications.