Aggression toward pet cats

Posted by Slinky
Nov 20, 2007

My parents have two cats aged 1 and 2 and they have lived happily with their 6 year old labradore cross. They have recently purchased a 1 year old beagle X cockerspanial from the shelter who gets along well with the other dog, but not with the cats. At the shelter they told them he was good with cats. Since having him home he continues to chase and lunge at the cats in a very aggressive manner. I am worried that if he corners one or catches one he may hurt it badly. The cats are now concerned about coming inside. Can you please help me. I don't want them to have to get rid of the dog, can they all live under the same roof?
Posted by MartyEd
Dec 13, 2007
Hi there Slinky,

Thank you for your post regarding your 1 year old Beagle x Cocker spaniel you have recently adopted. Cat chasing is a particularly common problem among our clients and must be approached with care to ensure the cat's safety!! First and foremost, I would encourage you and your family to undertake the alpha dog techniques as per SitStayFetch.

Please ensure you undertake the following techniques to reinforce your status as alpha dog over your dog:

If you come across your dog while he is sleeping or lying on the floor then you can reinforce your position as alpha dog by making her move so that you can pass by.
Generally I do not recommend people give their dogs bones as this encourages the aggression, because in the wild the alpha dog would be the only one to have the privilege of chewing the bones. The reason your dog growls at you when you approach it with a bone is because it believes that it has the right to the bone and is trying to discipline you for challenging your dog for its dominant role.
Make sure that you always go through doorways first. A good method to reinforce your position as alpha dog is to walk your dog around the house on the leash, making your dog wait while you walk through doorways first.
At mealtimes make sure that your dog or dogs eat after all of the humans have.
Do not feed your dog tidbits or let it pester you at the table. Save the morsels and tidbits for training sessions instead.
Do not greet your dog straightaway when you arrive home. Make it wait until you are ready and then call it to you.
When your dog wants to go outside for a walk, make it sit and wait until you are ready to go. Note that this technique doesn't apply when house breaking.
When you give a command make sure that you are in a position to enforce the action that you require from your dog, especially in the initial stages of Alpha Dog training. Also, use the Alarm-No-Command technique as described in the Alpha Dog bonus book to reprimand your dog if it does not obey your command.
It is vitally important that your dog has good all-round obedience skills. Regular training sessions are key to improving your dog's obedience responses and keeping it used to answering your commands. Concentrate on the sit and stay, down and stay, heel and wait commands.
Do not inadvertently reinforce poor behavior from your dog. You must be consistent in your attitude to your dog. For example, if your dog is allowed to jump on you when you are playing with it but is not allowed to jump up at any other time then how is it meant to know the difference?

By undertaking these techniques with your dog, you will notice that he becomes a lot more responsive to your commands, which will be very important in enforcing to him that he is less dominant than both your family and your two cats. Be sure to undertake the above techniques and if possible spend two periods of 10 - 15 minutes per day training him some basic obedience commands.

In order to get your dog used to the cats and so that he can understand that he is less dominant than them, you need to undertake the above 'alpha techniques' on behalf of each cat. This means that the cats should be given attention first, they should be fed first, they should get more attention than your dog, they should be let through doors first and they should be allowed in areas, or on objects that your dog is not allowed to. By combining these techniques with reprimands whenever your dog acts aggressively or inappropriately towards either cat (via a guttural growl of "AAAAAH!" combined with a clap of the hands, spraying him with water via a water pistol, or by shaking a tin can filled with pebbles) you will slowly notice a change in him current behavior towards them. In addition to reprimanding where appropriate, you should also reward your dog when he does act appropriately around cats. A combination of rewarding and reprimanding will be of utmost importance in overcoming your dog's current behavior towards the cats.

If your dog has been chasing the cats there are a few things you can undertake. Cats often will run away fearfully from dogs which then of course causes the dog to want to chase them. You have to be consistent and vigilant, so that the dog is not given an opportunity to chase the cats, at least not without being reprimanded strongly for it.
Practice training with your cats and your dog everyday for about ten minutes.
Have your dog on a lead and allow the cats to roam around (maybe picking a little cat treats in front of your dog).

Then cut your dog some slack with the leash and wait for the cats to run away in fear of the dog.

When the dog tries to chase the cats, give the lead a few short sharp tugs and growl the guttural growl, ("AAHH!" is better then "NO" for this).

Turn your dog towards you by the lead and ask it to sit. If the dog listens then praise the dog, otherwise continue to ask (the use of a food reward will probably come in handy with this).

Practice this as often as possible, leave no room for error, the dog should not given the chance to chase your cats. This way, your dog will soon understand that chasing the cats is undesirable.

Again, the alpha techniques will be key for your particular situation, so be sure to undertake them and make sure the whole family knows what to do and why. With time, I am sure that you will have every success in getting all of your animals to interact appropriately.

Best of luck and please let us know how you get on.

Kind Regards,

Mark Edwards
Kingdom of Pets Team