Cats and dogs have a rivalry as old as time. Despite what is portrayed in the media, however, cohabitating cats and dogs can get along just fine. Tensions often escalate when dogs begin to chase cats, inspiring fear in the cat and laying the foundation for a very unhealthy pattern between the two.
Fortunately, there are ways pet parents can stop their dogs from chasing cats. Here are a few helpful tips:
If it Runs, I’ll Chase it
Most dogs, even the most domesticated Chihuahuas, have a deep, instinctual prey drive. This prey drive tells them to chase things that run and can often be overwhelming, even for the most obedient dog. Most dogs do not even fully understand their prey drive and may not have a specific goal in mind when they begin chasing a small animal, such as a cat. They only know that they want to chase and catch it.
Unfortunately, this is dangerous for the cat and the dog alike. If the dog catches the cat, he may injure her as a result of adrenaline and excitement; therefore, the cat may become fearful of the dog, inflicting injuries and laying the foundation for a destructive relationship to begin.
A dog that chases cats can very easily injure or kill the cat, even if he never meant to. A cat scratch could hurt a dog, especially in the eye. Obviously, it is important to do everything you can in order to nip cat-chasing behavior in the bud.
Stopping Your Dog from Chasing Cats
In order to put an end to this dangerous behavior, it is important to start from the ground and work your way up.
Start around the Home: Put your dog on a leash in the household and introduce him to the cat in a room where the cat has plenty of hiding places, such as objects on which she can climb out of reach or under which she can hide. Keep a loose hold on the leash and, if the dog goes after the cat, stop the dog with gentle pressure and a forceful “no.” Do not ever yank a leash or beat the dog in instances like these as this will only promote negative associations and may, in fact, solidify the behavior.
Work on Recall: The problem most poorly behaved dogs have is that they lack a strong recall. These dogs do not know the commands “stay” or “no” well enough to heed them in the midst of excitement or stimulation and, thus, they get into trouble. To remedy this, spend several weeks of dedicated time teaching your dog a powerful recall. Enlist the help of an obedience class or certified trainer, if necessary, but ensure that your dog knows the commands well enough that he will heed them in any situation.
Keep the Dog Contained When Supervision is not Possible: Many dogs chase cats out of boredom or lack of stimulation. In order to prevent this from happening and avoid unfortunate, unsupervised accidents, make sure to confine the dog when you are not available to supervise his interactions with the cat. This will help keep both animals safe and will also stop the pattern of reinforcing the behavior inadvertently.
It is possible to put an end to the behavior through constant reinforcement of learned skills, like recalls, and careful planning. When pet parents utilize these simple tips, these beasties may not become besties, but cats and dogs will get along so much better.