They fought like Cats & Dogs… is that why your puppy is chasing your cat?
Here at Rebarkable, I love cats too (not as much as dogs, but hey, can you blame me?) it’s not a situation we want to be allowing in our home, right?
Your cat’s stress levels are going up, your puppy is twitching ready to see when the cat is approaching, and the whole time, your pup is going to respond way quicker than you will.
It can feel like an insurmountable barrier in your house.
Do Cats & Dogs have an innate desire to not get along?
Simply put, no. But there are some biological factors that do get involved. We’ll get to that later.
The point being that you’ve brought home a puppy into your cats home and as puppy has grown more brave, they have begun to learn that chasing the cat is a great game (at least to them, and that’s what’s important).
Regardless of the current size of your puppy, this is not necessarily something you want them to be doing because this is going to stress out your cat, and likely you too.
I’m going to go through the what, why and how of solving this issue in your home so you can return to a house of blissful harmony!
What Is The Reason Your Puppy Is Chasing your Cat.
First, we always look at the why of a problem.
This most often occurs with high prey drive breeds of dog. They don’t see your cat as prey – but they do have a desire to chase, so as soon as your cat turns tail? The game begins.
This goes so badly wrong because humans have bred these dogs to feel rewarded for chasing, that that chase is a very important part of what makes that breed successful at their job.
So, it means that you have a bit of a task on your hands.
What Is A High Prey Drive?
A high prey drive dog is usually a dog who was designed (or selectively bred) by us humans to create a dog that would chase a thing. This is a hunting dog, a dog who is build to flush, retrieve, or similar. It covers about 70% of dogs.
That said? Sometimes even dogs of these breeds are often fine with cats and other small fluffies, and sometimes dogs deemed low prey drive are really interested in ‘prey’ type animals. So, it’s all about knowing your pup, once again.
So Are You Banished To Cat Vs Dog Forever?
The happy answer here is no!
You can do things about it. It will take time, patience and consistency, as well as a pinch of dedication (yes, even when you’re just home from work and exhausted) but it’s either you decide to step forward or you continue in this war of domesticated animals.
You’re ready to move forward? Great! Here it is.
Step 1 – Understand The Cycle Of Self Reward
The reasons dogs or puppies do anything is because they get a reward for doing so.
In some instances the reward is really obvious, like jumping on the kitchen counter means they can sometimes snag a steak – Score!
That reward is really obvious, but it’s less obvious with chasing the cat.
The reward? Is essentially fun. Your puppy finds it fun to chase the cat, and that releases happy-hormones and means that your puppy is more likely to do it again, and again, and again.
The big aim? Is to make that chase relatively less fun, by making ourselves more fun. And by not allowing instances for this to happen when we’re not there. Understanding this? Is the first step!
Step 2 – Find an appropriate outlet.
Typically, your puppy is chasing the cat because it enjoys the case. So we need to find an outlet for your dog to chase things that isn’t going to send your cat screeching across the house.
My best suggestions?
You know those cat teasers? This is the same but for dogs! Essentially, you’re going to go puppy fishing. The important thing with a flirt pole is to think like prey. If you can think like something that’s going to tease your pup’s prey drive, then you’re going to start a pretty engaging series of games that’s going to satisfy their need to hunt and chase.
Take it back to the basics with a ball. A ground ball can be really stimulating for your pup and allow them to use different eye skills, motor skills and responses than a thrown ball will. You can use a soccer ball or a regular tennis ball – but try stimulating this sense too. It’s really useful when trying to focus that attention into something that isn’t your feline friend.
Step 3 – Household management.
Baby gates, closed doors and play pens are what you will want to focus on here. The idea is that when you’re not able to predict what’s going to happen, that you create a barrier to prevent The Chase from beginning. If you can do this? Your minimises the losses or the effects that go against your training efforts.
Step 4 – Safe Spaces for Kitty
Cats love to climb – dogs? Not so much! So creating lofty spaces like cat highways and shelves, or similar, can really help to give your cat a space to be around you, without being in the reach of your puppy. This means they’re safe and puppy cannot chase (though they can bark), which means that you’re successfully managing the situation and getting the opportunity to desensitise and train a more appealing behaviour.
A great starter kit can be found on amazon, by the way!
Step 5 – Be more rewarding (aka, train)
Now! Once these four things are in place, we can actually begin to train.
First I want you to remember the 3D’s of Dog Training – these will give you a great insight as to how to gradually introduce them and make it successful.
But the core of it is: When your puppy is around your cat – pop pup on a leash.
Yep. They can’t chase the cat if they’re tethered to you, can they?
So, we begin there.
Note: it’s best to do this when your cat is settled somewhere and not moving around!
Manage Distance, Distraction & Duration
With pup on a leash, and a lot of treats, manage the interaction and try and keep your pup from barking or trying to chase, this often means create some distance, and try and encourage your pup to settle.
The goal is to get them to relax. Ask for a sit, or a lay down, and you can even give a kong to redirect their attention when they’re relaxed.
It make mean sitting on the floor with pup in a weird spot in your house – but the distance is something that is critical to the success of this.
Try short durations to start, reward frequently, praise often – but curb your excitement here, soft ‘goods,’ and ‘well dones’ will really help your pup to relax and know they’re doing the right thing.
This is teaching that we are calm in the presence of the cat and even better rewards will come.
And remember! Always high value treats when you start a training session like this!!
Repeat this every day and these are the only interactions pup and kitty are allowed whilst this training is going on.
As you progress, you can give pup a little more leash, you can give them a little less time between rewards, and a little less distance between them and the cat.
And The Balance Of Cat & Puppy Is Restored!
Your house is a happy house once again.
We want everyone in your home happy, and it can be that way. It’s not that hard, it just involved a lot of dedication to the cause.
One thing I can say? Is that this isn’t a problem that goes away, and if it begins to escalate? It’s much, much harder to deal with.
Train now, not later
Don’t let this fester on the bottom of the to do list. The more frustrated you are, the more stressed or anxious you are about it? The tougher it will be.
And if you don’t feel confident? Reach out! I’m happy to take an email, or book in a virtual consult and discuss your issues and help you find resolution that works for your furry family.