How to stop a dog chasing a cat 

In this article is a discussion on how to stop a dog chasing a cat.  For as long as cats have been, dogs have been chasing them. So, you have a dog that does not get along with your cat. This brief article will talk about how you can get your dog comfortable and relaxed around your cat, therefore desensitizing your dog and its reactive behavior towards your cat.

How to stop a dog from chasing a cat

Before we can do behavior modification and the necessary counterconditioning and desensitization, we need to teach your dog some alternative behaviors that would be incompatible with its ability to go after your cat. For example, if we taught your dog a very reliable down stay command, and we asked your dog to go into the down stay command, for your dog to go after your cat he or she would have to give up the behavior of down stay.  Your dog cannot be committed to a down stay command and going after your cat at the same time. Teaching your dog an alternate incompatible behavior is call differential reinforcement.

Once you have worked on your differential reinforcement with your dog training, and you have that command and behavior very reliable, especially with distractions, you are ready to begin the process of behavior modification that is called counterconditioning and Desensitization. One of the most important things that you need to make sure you are doing with counterconditioning and desensitization is to make sure you are not going faster than the dog’s pace and ability to handle the exposure and desensitization.  There is a term in this type of training called threshold. A dog’s threshold is where they can handle stressors without being reactive. If a dog is reactive, they are over threshold.

If a dog has a lot of concern when exposed to the trigger, the dog is at threshold. A dog that is below threshold knows that the trigger is there, but they are relaxed, able to focus on their handler, have the ability to do obedience training, and is happily taking food rewards from you. Once we have identified where the distance is from the cat that your dog is below threshold, we can begin to start the process of counterconditioning and gradual systematic desensitization.  The way that the counterconditioning and Desensitization works is as follows:

Give your dog a command at a distance where your dog is below threshold when exposed to the cat.  Have someone create the scenario where suddenly, the cat appears.  As soon as the cat appears in the dog’s eyesight, you want to begin the process of feeding high value food rewards continuously and constantly for about two to three seconds. The next thing that happens after two to three seconds of feeding is the cat is taken out of sight from your dog. As soon as the cat is out of your dog’s view, all feeding must stop.  

What we are doing, is creating a very black and white cause and effect association and relationship between the cat and high value food rewards, something your dog likes.  This type of behavior modification changes the emotional state of your dog. We also want to be rewarding calm and relaxed behavior. We would never reward dog that is anxious or reactive. In those instances, we would re-command our dog into the down stay. We would not reward your dog for a re command, however we would reward your dog for not coming out of the down stay.

How stop a dog chasing a cat using counterconditioning and desensitization

In learning how to stop a dog chasing a cat, there is nothing too difficult about this type of work. This type of work is just time consuming and may be inconvenient for your lifestyle. Nonetheless, this is what needs to be done to get your dog relaxed and behaving calmly around your cat. This type of behavior modification, this counter conditioning and desensitization needs to be practiced at least three to five times a week for it to be effective period training sessions should be relatively short no more than 15 minutes long.

When you can see your dog anticipating the cat coming into view and then looking to you for high value food rewards, that may be an indicator that at that distance your dog is fully desensitized. That may be our signal that we can move closer to the cat and begin this process all over again.  There are no quick fixes when it comes to teaching your dog to be relaxed around your cat and to not want to chase prey and be aggressive.

Training a dog to not chase a cat

Gradually, and systematically, over a period of time, you will be able to get your dog closer to your cat gradually with each step along the way helping your dog to be relaxed and calm.  If you find you are struggling with how to stop a dog from chasing a cat, and need professional help, you can contact us and work with our Harvard Educated Dog Behaviorist and Trainer who specialized in difficult dog training and behavior modification cases.

By Will Bangura: Will Bangura received his Bachelorette of Science in Psychology from the University of Kentucky, along with a Master’s in Science in Psychology from University of Maryland. Will Bangura also did post graduate work through Harvard University in Canine Cognition.  Will Bangura is one of the world’s leading dog behaviorist experts in Canine Aggression and Dog Anxiety.  Questions and comments can be sent to info@phoenixdogtraining.com

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