Sometimes a dog becomes fixated on a cat and practically obsesses over her. He might start by growling and barking, but then it can escalate to lunging and chasing. This is very stressful for your cat. If you're wondering how to train your dog not to chase cats, the process takes time and patience—but it can be done. You can often stop a dog from being aggressive towards cats with positive reinforcement and redirection training.
If you haven't adopted your cat or dog yet, try to match their personalities first.1 Some dogs have a high prey drive, and they'll always try to chase and corner a cat. If that's your dog, you'll both be happier if you don't try to adopt a cat. But cats can have issues too. If a cat swats and hisses at dogs all the time, then your cat might not be a "dog person," so to speak.
An energetic, playful cat does best with a playful dog, as long as neither sees the other as prey or competition. A relaxed, older cat might get along better with an easy-going, older dog. Don't try to force two personalities that just don't mix well.
Teach Basic Commands
To cut down on your dog's prey behavior, you may need to teach some basic commands to your pup again. This includes stay, sit, come, and leave it. Next, test your dog's obedience in distracting situations and with things that entice him. Your ultimate goal is for him to obey these commands when he's around your cat. Make sure he's on a leash when you first test his obedience with the cat present.
If you need to bring in a trainer or dog behaviorist, that's okay. Some dogs with high prey drives need professional intervention before they can learn to leave a cat alone.
Redirect the Behavior
You'll have the best shot at curbing aggressive behavior if you catch it early and redirect it.2 Once dogs discover that they love chasing cats, the behavior can be tough to unlearn. So try to catch it early. If he tries to lunge or chase your cat, tell him "no" and put him in a room by himself for a few minutes.
As soon as you notice your dog fixating on your cat, redirect his attention immediately. Tell him to come or leave it. When he turns and obeys you, praise him and give him treats. If he's calm around your cat from the beginning, reward that behavior too. Over time, give him a longer leash to work with. Make sure your cat always has a way to escape, just in case. Consider using cat trees, cat condos, tall furniture, and cat shelves as escape routes.
Some trainers suggest trying a slightly different version where you give your dog tiny bites of a treat every time he's around your cat. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash for your cat's safety.3 This will help your dog develop a positive association with being around your cat, and he won't be as interested in chasing her.
Keep Your Pets Entertained and Busy
A dog that has too much energy is more likely to chase a cat.4 Take your dog for walks every day and throw in some games of fetch, training sessions, and even agility courses. The more you engage his mind and body, the less likely he will expend his extra energy on your cat.
The same goes for your cat. A cat with too much energy is more likely to pounce on a dog and possibly trigger his prey drive. So play with your cat a lot and try clicker training or interactive toys to engage her mind.
Give your cat a safe space where she can relax away from your dog. Keep a Comfort Zone Calming Diffuser in the room to help her manage any stress she feels. This drug-free solution mimics a cat's natural pheromones helping her feel relaxed and happy.
Introduce Them All Over Again
In some cases, you may have to introduce your cat and dog all over again. This involves keeping them in separate rooms until they're not stressed out by the smell or sound of the other. Begin feeding them on opposite sides of a closed door until they can both eat calmly.
Next, replace the closed door with a closed gate or screen and feed them on either side of the gate. Does your dog still fixate on your cat? Can you distract your dog with a command or treat? Keep this up until both pets are calm while eating near each other.
After this, you can give them supervised visits in the same room while your dog is on a leash. The whole process could take weeks or more. In some cases, especially with dogs that have high prey drives, you might not ever be able to leave them alone without supervision. This doesn't mean you failed; it just means you're putting their safety first.
A dog that likes chasing cats might learn to get along with one cat in particular, but other cats may "trigger" his instinct. Sometimes, two pets' personalities never quite mesh. But often, with patient training and reintroduction, your dog and cat will learn to be friends.
1. American Humane. "Introducing Dogs to Cats." AmericanHumane.org, 25 August 2019, http://www.americanhumane.org/fact-sheet/introducing-dogs-to-cats.
2. Silvani, Pia. "My Dog Chases My Cat. How Do I Stop Him?" Petfinder, https://www.petfinder.com/dogs/dog-problems/dog-chases-cat/.
3. Shojai, Amy. "How to Train Your Puppy to Stop Chasing Cats." The Spruce Pets, 10 July 2019, https://www.thesprucepets.com/stopping-puppies-from-chasing-cats-2805087.
4. Paretts, Susan. "How Do I Stop a Dog from Attacking a Cat?" The Nest, https://pets.thenest.com/stop-dog-attacking-cat-3750.html.