Showing posts with label Stop Your Dog from Chasing Cats and Other Animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stop Your Dog from Chasing Cats and Other Animals. Show all posts

Monday, 19 December 2011


So, you would like to introduce your dog to a cat or another non-canine animal, maybe a rabbit!

As pack leader our role in a dog-to-other animal meeting is to coach and mentor, not to stress and panic! 
Teaching your dog good social manners with other animals starts with training yourself. 
My smaller cat 'Callie' waiting for the dogs to go by -
as the dogs walk by she plays with their tails!

Make the future different than the past. You must let the past go - you must not anticipate that the past will and must repeat itself - let it go from your mind (to all intents and purposes...respect it but leave it|). This allows the human and the dog to leave the past behind and its associations and move forward. Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog's 'bad habits' than it is a human's. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not, dogs form associations with places, situations and animate and inanimate objects. 
Dogs are very forgiving and treat each day, each experience as a new beginning. It is only with difficulty that we are able to convince, permit and allow ourselves to do the same.
Tibby, my larger cat with Robbie the Boxer and
Sarah the German Shepherd x Siberian Husky

ONE - Not having a basic understanding of what they themselves are communicating to their dog!
TWO - Being nervous, anxious, fearful or expecting / anticipating problems. 
When people do not have a complete understanding of all of the ways we communicate (and most people do not understand this!) create this situation, which gets exponentially worse if allowed to continue and then results in aggression. When you are nervous of your cat around a dog...the dog learns that when a cat is near, people are nervous, anxious and/or fearful. Dogs look to their humans for leadership…if you are uncomfortable you are telling your dog to associate a cat with nervousness, tension and fear and eventually this turns to reactivity - chasing and aggression. The dog does not create the situation - people do!  

This has nothing to do with training your dog - it has everything to do with training yourself. This is about is the psychology of humans and the psychology of dogs.



Before you answer ‘yes, of course I know how to communicate' please read on. If greetings have not always gone well in the past and you anticipate that this new greeting will also go badly - I assure you, you are right - it will not go well! 
Dogs are very sensitive and use their senses (sight, scent, sound) more keenly and consciously than people do. Dogs read stress & emotion in people before a person is even aware of how they themselves feel. They do look at our face to read our reactions. A little tension in a persons shoulder, clinching of a hand, tightness of the lips, narrowing or widening of the eyes, change in breathing, sweating. They know what you are thinking, what you are feeling! The affect of our state-of-being on our dogs is profound. If you anticipate trouble you create trouble! You create tension and sometimes that is all that is required to trigger reactivity in your dog. This tells your dog that you are not in control and therefore it cannot trust you or the situation. Your dog becomes insecure and nervous, even fearful. This is the trigger for reactivity - what you see as aggression.

Make sure you are not tense, stressed or anticipating reactive (what you probably think of as aggressive) behaviour from your dog. To lead by example you must be without any such emotions. You must be (calm) and have confidence in yourself and in your dog. Your state of calm, confidence will set the framework for your dog’s state. If your thoughts and body language are relaxed and confident you indicate to your dog that you are confident with the situation - this allows your dog to relax and normalize the experience of meeting another animal.

I am going to give you a few articles to read. Please read them as it is critical that you understand how dogs communicate and how we unintentionally communicate the wrong message to them.

How Dogs Communicate

How Dogs Assign Respect

So train yourself to control your thoughts, your emotion and direct your focus. Only then can you properly support your dog. Remember you communicate with your state-of-mind, and hence your body…not just by the words or the tone you use to speak.


Seems an impertinent question for me to ask but from working with my clients, I know many people do not realize that they only give their dog the beginning of an instruction. Then the poor dog is vilified for not doing what the human thinks they told the dog to do!

To direct properly you must be calm, confident and provide a full set of instructions. A full set of instructions consists of:

1. Getting your dogs attention;
2. Letting your dog know what you do not what him to do;
3. Letting your dog what you do want him to do instead, and;
4. Following through to correct your dog if he backslides into the unwanted behaviour.

The leadership role is one of coaching and mentoring with fair, firm, clear direction. Never match your dog’s state but you do have to match the intensity of his behaviour. I see a lot of people doing only step 2. Then the poor dog gets in trouble as it goes back to doing the unwanted behaviour as its human has not provided a full set of instructions! Blame yourself, not your dog!

Here are some articles you can read to understand leadership and help you hone your Leadership skills...

Be Your Dog’s Pack Leader

De-Bunking the Alpha Myth

Dogs and Affection

The Golden Rule


I always say that dogs have two types of energy;

A - their daily quota of energy, and;
B - if they have not had enough exercise on a regular daily basis they can have stored energy in addition to daily energy;

They can also have a third type of energy - anxious energy! If your dog has anxiety issues it may also have nervous energy which results in chewing objects or itself, scratching itself, etc.

Dogs need to expend their energy to feel relaxed and calm. You cannot expect a dog with unspent energy to be focused and ‘reasonable’, happy or balanced. Dogs need to expend their energy on a regular (daily) basis.

Just as we would find it difficult to settle down if we were revved up, so to do dogs - even more so. Unspent energy can lead to frustration making a dog more reactive and less attentive!

Before the introduction - give your dog a chance to expend its energy.
Shanny and Benjamen

I have worked with many clients’ who love their dog very much, but they think that their dog is a bad dog as the dog exhibits unwanted behaviour. I notice that the dog makes good eye contract, constantly looking at its people…but the people don’t see. The dog is trying to be positively opportunistic, but its attempts fail time and time again, because the humans are not aware and don’t see that their dog is asking for direction.

After providing direction to the dog once or twice, the dog quickly understands that it can look at me for direction and I will provide the coaching and mentoring it is seeking - the dog is a positive opportunist. It always was it’s just that no one was paying attention.

Just imagine how upsetting and frustrating this is for the dog. Yet the dog has never stopped trying…even though it was often reviled by its humans for being bad!

In the absence of direction the dog has little choice but to make up its own rules. Take advantage of the fact that your dog looks to you for direction - direct! I will show you how to really direct below.

Jordie my German Shepherd x Alaskan Malamute and April

You have to set the framework before you move forward with the meeting. How your dog approaches the cat matters! You must have control of your dog at every step of the way. This sets the framework for behaviour once the dog and cat are face to face.

A - Your dog needs to be, calm and quiet before you get up to the cat. Do not allow your dog to move forward in an excited state. If you are attaching a leash to your dog they need to be calm and quite before you attach the leash to their collar.

B - Once your dog is calm make sure you are standing up straight - your posture should be upright, confident, not tense - check your shoulders, arms and if you are using a leash make sure there is no tension in the way you are holding the leash. If you are gripping the leash with tension, if your arms and shoulders are stiff with apprehension and tension you are giving your dog a message - you are communicating that you are not in control of yourself and therefore you cannot be in a leadership position with your dog. You are enabling stress, anxiety, insecurity on your dog.

C - Your dog is behind you or beside you as you approach the cat, you are calm, confident, your dog is calm and is not in front of you. Remember, don’t engage in an argument with your dog, don't complain & whine! Tugging and pulling, yelling, frustration, anger - it’s all part of engaging in an argument.  If you are trying to provide direction to your dog - who is excited, anxious, reactive and you are also excited, frustrated, angry, reactive you are matching your dog’s state. You are most definitely leading by example - the wrong example. Dogs don’t like hypocrisy any more than humans do - would you

If you or your dog is not calm - STOP. I see so many people keep moving forward when their dog is not calm, when they (the person) are not calm. Stop, get your dog calm and then continue moving. If your dog is reacting and you keep walking you are telling your dog it’s OK to behave as you are. Stop regain control and then move forward.

Stevie my Sheltie, with Ginger and Benjamen
Encourage your dog to use its noise to greet your cat. A dog’s sense of smell is acute. In its natural state, dogs greet each other by smelling each other - not by jumping all over each other in an excited state. Excited greetings occur because the human has taught the dog that greeting (a human - child or adult, another animal) requires excitement. This is not a dog’s way. It is a human’s way. To teach this type of greeting de-normalizes the experience for a dog. Make the greeting normal and comfortable.


Remember it is your job to coach and mentor your dog - if you want your dog to give space and not crowd you have to tell it. If your dog is a little to eager / pushy you need to disagree with your dogs' behaviour. For instance your dog places his paws on the cat with a little too much energy or wants to lick the cat's face too much. Touch your dog and say 'no' and then say 'gentle'. Touch gets his attention, 'no' to indicate the behaviour is not appropriate and 'gentle' to provide the right direction. This is coaching / mentoring.

Dogs also claim space by moving into the space - by taking it over. If they crowd the cat too much you need to claim the space back.

Think for a moment about the tools and strategy that your dog uses to take over your space and your cat's space - your dog uses its body. You need to use the same tool he does - use your body to herd him out of the space while using your calm, confident state of being to support what you do with your body.

While working with your dog on this issue avoid looking, touching and talking as much as possible. You do not want to engage with him - you do not want to argue or debate with him - you want to direct him...there is a vast difference!

Use your body to herd your dog out of the space - back it out of your space by walk into the space it occupies or use your body by just leaning in or toward your dog, or use your hand/arm to point them away.

The technique you choose just depends on what works well for you and your dog and how committed your dog is to taking over the space.

When you are herding and directing move calmly and deliberately - not frantically. Frantic is what your dog is - you have to be the polar opposite. Firm, in-control movement. This is very important.

Persist with patience - also very important. Remember it may take a little effort to get your dogs' to stop being pushy - you need to have a stronger will than they do - just persistent with calm, confident patience.

Please read this article - it will help as well.

To Stop Your Dog From Chasing Your Cat

I cannot state enough how important it is to be relaxed, calm, confident and patient - it is everything!

This meeting should be enjoyed, it should be beautiful - and not infused with stress, tension and nightmare scenarios in your mind. 
Remember it is the human who creates the situation good and bad!

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld