Working with a Dog with a High Prey Drive

One of the main obstacles to cats and dogs living together in harmony is the dog’s prey drive. Basically, that’s the instinctive urge to chase things. Especially moving things. After all, wild dogs need to be good hunters in order to survive. Our domesticated pups still have that instinct.

Training will be your greatest asset if your dog(s) and cat(s) don’t get along. Basics you’ll want your dog to know are:

You may want to teach your dog that the cat is completely off limits — especially if your dog has an extremely high prey drive. If your dog can learn to leave the cat alone under all circumstances, you’ll at least have some peace in the house (if not the harmony part).

Don’t expect an overnight success — training a dog takes time, patience, and love. Here is one way to train your dog to leave your cat alone.

  1. Have the dog sit beside you. Have a friend or family member hold the cat on the other side of the room.
  2. Keep your dog in a sit/stay — praise him when he sits calmly.
  3. Have your friend bring the cat a few steps closer.
  4. Keep your dog in a sit/stay — praise him if he sits calmly. If he tries to lunge at the cat, sternly say LEAVE IT (or whatever command you’ve chosen for the times when you want your dog to leave it).
  5. Once the dog is sitting calmly, have the friend bring the cat a few more steps closer.

This may not all happen in one session. You may spend a week just teaching your dog to sit calmly while the cat is on the other side of the room. Be patient! You’re working against a very strong instinct here. Eventually, your dog will learn to sit calmly even when the cat is right next to him. Then, you can work on having the friend play with the cat while the dog sits and stays. The goal is to teach your dog to ignore the cat entirely.

Be gentle, but be firm. If your dog is allowed to chase the cat just once in all this, you’re back at square one. Don’t leave your cat and dog together unsupervised until you are 110% certain that the dog isn’t going to give chase.

You can also try creating a positive association — give the dog extra attention and treats when he’s being good around the cat. This way, he’ll start to connect good stuff with ignoring the cat.