The following is an excerpt from Petfinder.com’s FurKeeps Kickoff live Facebook Q&A.
Q: We have two adult cats (ages 13 and 4 — both adopted) and recently adopted an adult dog from our local shelter who seems to be about 2-3 years old. The dog just can’t seem to break that dog/cat stereotype and loves to chase the cats! We have the cats in our bedroom behind a gate but ultimately would love to have them all together. Can’t we all just get along?
A: It is not unusual for a dog to want to chase another moving animal, no matter what kind it is. A basic obedience class will be your best bet, or a couple of in-home sessions with a private trainer. Your dog needs to learn to sit and down or “emergency drop” on cue, as well as “leave it” (break eye contact with) for the safety and comfort of your cats.
During the learning period, he should probably wear a house lead, so you can ensure your cats’ safety and help increase compliance. Also, make sure to click and treat your dog when he’s in the room and a cat moves, but he doesn’t take chase. Always remember: Rewarded behavior increases in frequency. If it is more rewarding to watch than it is to chase, you should see watching increase and chasing decrease. This will probably happen over time to a certain degree as the cats’ novelty wears off.
Also remember that until you really know who this dog is, do not leave the three of them alone in the same space together. The dog’s arousal could go over the top to aggression and you don’t want to come home to a deadly scenario.
I am assuming that your dog is just chasing in a playful manner and not trying to grab, shake and kill. If the latter is the case, you have a very dangerous situation on your hands. You then definitely need to work with an experienced professional trainer or behaviorist, and even then you may have no other choice but to re-home the dog into a cat-free environment.
Jacque Schultz, MA CPDT-KA
ASPCA Community Initiatives
New York, NY