It is interesting how most dogs love to “torture” their cats, usually in a non-violent way. It’s all done in good fun, kind of like siblings torturing each other. No harm meant. It is just a power struggle.
The reason most dogs do not hurt their cats is that for the dog, their cat is a member of their pack. This same way of thinking is why dogs, cats, birds, and fish can usually peacefully coexist under one roof, they are family. They may not like each other; however, they respect each other.
Remove that same dog from the house, and now your dog has a quandary. It may chase an unfamiliar cat for sport, it may chase an unknown cat for the kill, or it may ignore it. What usually determines their decision is how the cat reacts. If the cat stands its ground, often the dog will ignore it. If the cat runs, then the rules of the game change. The cat now becomes prey.
This holds true in the house, too. Cats being the drama queens they are, will often entice the dog to chase it, by slinking around or running. A cat that holds its ground is no fun to chase. A cat that holds its ground and hisses can be very intimidating, those claws and teeth are formidable weapons.
Focus on the dogs, not the cats
Forget about training the cat. Remember, neither the dog nor the cat can read the house rulebook. Besides that, your cat believes she wrote the book. It will be easier to train the dog than the cat. But it will be helpful to learn as much as possible about cats.
That leaves one option, train your puppy/dog as soon as possible. You can begin with basic obedience training. By training your dog to “sit,” “come,” “stay,” “down,” “focus” and “leave it,” you have plenty of options to distract your dog before the chase begins.
Sign up for positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten classes. It doesn’t matter if your puppy is eight weeks old, or if your dog is eight years old, Puppy Kindergarten teaches them the ground rules and fundamentals of appropriate behavior. It’s a beautiful experience for both you and your dog. YOU will learn the leadership skills you will need, and your puppy/dog learns the basic commands, and socialization skills they will need to be well-mannered, well-adjusted dogs. It is a fun way to launch your puppy’s positive responses and instill self-confidence to try new experiences.
Teach your dog simple commands
If your puppy/dog does not obey your off-leash commands in the house, put him on a leash or make sure your cat has a safe place to retreat to, should the exercise no longer be “fun.” Forbid your puppy or dog, from intruding in that space. They must learn there are boundaries in life. They must learn to respect their cat’s “safe zone.”
If they are new together, supervise, but leave them alone. Most often, they will eventually mutually agree to what degree the chase game will level off. Should you believe it is getting out of hand, then immediately step in, and give your puppy/dog a simple correction and command. That should be enough of a distraction, so the cat can safely escape.
Dogs learn by association and repetition. Remember to praise them for their appropriate behaviors, so they will learn to make the association of what pleases you.
Get out of the house
Get your puppy or dog out of the house. Slowly, in a positive way, introduce them to the sights, sounds, and smells of the real world. Reinforce their good behavior around outdoor cats and squirrels, with lots of praise, and if so inclined a yummy treat or favorite toy, to further motivate appropriate behavior.
The “focus” and “leave it” command will come in handy here.
Eventually, most dogs catch on. Some may take longer than others, especially those with high energy and high prey drives. This holds especially true for terriers, sporting and herding breeds. However, by being fair, firm, and consistent, you can all live calmly under one roof.
If you do not have the situation under control of the cat and the dog together, while you are home, never leave the animals unsupervised. Before leaving the house, by taking the simple precaution of crating your puppy/dog, or putting your cat in their safe place, you may save yourself a lot of heartache and cleanup.
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.