Dog Aggression Toward The Cat

A friend was lamenting about her Corgi’s sudden assertiveness and aggression towards the cats in the house. This is a very capable dog guardian, and this is what I told her…….

Susie, you are “one of those” that will solve the problem if doable. You are the top dog of your pack, and you do have some control over how they interact with each other, at least while in your presence.

Of course, as you correctly stated, medical issues for the behavior change have been ruled out.

Corgis are often very hardy, active, highly intelligent, obedient, protective and devoted dogs. The same characteristic that make them devoted and protective can make them assume pack authority if they sense a gap that needs to be filled.

Behavior toward the cats and aggressiveness towards you can be one of the same or different issues. You may have to reclaim some territorial and hierarchy authority so that your cues are respected, if E (the dog’s name) is sensing a need to exert his own authority.

Depending how much time you spend with the cats, there could be a jealousy component as well, or E is deciding to give in to the instinctual prey dive.

As a member of the Herding breeds, the instinct to chase and catch animals has been modified to chase and gather them together by nipping at their heels and barking. Corgis still maintain that habit when chasing each other. So you might have some of that at play.

It’s altogether best to prevent the pursuit, once the chase sequence starts. The dog will not only be likely to be deaf to instructions, but the driven mental state can make a dog bite or threaten.

There are different ways to train a dog with prey drive to coexist peacefully with cats and other small pets. I believe it is best to teach dogs that cats are off limits and are not to be disturbed. With the help of another person like a friend or family member you can have several short daily training sessions.

Have the dog wear a training collar and leash and direct him to assume a sit/stay next to you. Have the other person hold the cat on the other side of the room. For reasons of getting a training lesson across, hopefully your dog will be very curious and on the way to building excitement at seeing the cat, but insist that he remain in the sit/stay position. Praise your dog for sitting calmly. You must judge almost instantly if the dog is going to stay within a balanced state of mind or you have to apply correction. A sit/stay now needs to be turned into a “down on its side” to get composure.

Have your assistant bring the cat a few steps closer. If your dog’s composure is stable and can maintain quietly at your side, wonderful! Offer praise for the right behavior and a high quality snack reward (optional, but helpful) like meat, chicken or cheese. If he tries to lunge at the cat, administer a stern and fierce-sounding “NO! LEAVE IT!” along with a short, sharp jerk tug with the lead in an effort to put him back in a more balanced state and in the sit/stay position.

As soon as control is established again, issue praise, and maybe give another treat. Continue bringing the cat closer by a few feet, and repeat the corrections as needed and make sure to praise when corrections are not needed.

Patience will be needed depending on the dog’s level of intensity with the issue. You might only be able to gain a few feet each session. Or you can gain control in very short order. It all depends on variables that you are more familiar with.

When the dog is able to calmly accept the cat next to or near him, you proceed with the next step. With the collar and leash remaining on so if necessary you can easily take control in an instant to give the necessary correction should any sign of wanting to chase the cat develops.

In order to be effective, you must be able to correct the dog almost instantly each and every time he even thinks about going after the cat. Release the dog from the sit/stay and let him have free roam of the room with the cat present. Your supervision is critical – If an attempted chase goes uncorrected even once, you’ll have to start your training over from the beginning.

When you are in the beginning stages of coexistence cooperation, when the cats come into the room, issue another high end treat. Eventually, the dog may welcome the cats’ entrance as being associated with a welcome reward.

Susie, that is the picture as I can see it, hope some of the info fits your problem and is able to bring the order back. You will solve this.

…..I later learned that Susie’s cats were arguing among themselves and that seemed to start E, the Corgi, into an aggressive mode. So, Ahhh, the plot thickens. I told Susie that E might be objecting to the pack having an unbalanced environment and it is his instinct to help achieve order.

And, this was her response to me…………
Hi, Jay.
I wrote a response a few minutes ago, and it must have gone off into oblivion. So, I’ll post again. Darn those cranky servers!
Eli is everything you have said of Corgis, except obedient. Well, he’s obedient most of the time, and tests his limits the rest of the time. He has gotten better over time, and is not nearly as testy as he used to be. And, I have gotten better at asserting myself.
That said, the cats have been fighting amongst themselves. Eli has been attempting to police these incidents as much as possible. Other times he’ll trap a cat in a corner, and not let them by. I know this is part of herding behavior, but, trying to eat the “herdee” is not, and this is where the trouble starts. If I happen to walk into the situation, then his mind is set, just as you said. Breaking the mindset is what’s hard. I have been using his training collar with a 4 foot lead to give corrections. He gets corrected for even looking like he wants to look at a cat. Last night he was extremely difficult, and I had to get a bit rough and put him in a submission position. This is always difficult. I don’t know if it’s due to his body dynamics or my lack of strength. Either way, he is contrite this evening.
I haven’t been using treats for when the cats enter the room, so will give that a try, along with all the techniques you have outlined.
Thanks for all of your advice and confidence.
Have a great night.
Susie

I think she has it handled.

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8 Responses to “Dog Aggression Toward The Cat”


  1. 1 Drake The Trainer August 5, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Awesome post. Its nice to see writers who are passionate about the things they write about dogs. Its rare to see that nowadays

  2. 3 Paulette Delahoussaye March 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I have a real problem with my fox terrier type young dog and two cats. The dog is not aggressive with any other creatures but hates my cats. However, I can’t imagine my cats would let me hold them while I tried to train the dog not to be aggressive.

    • 4 callofthedog March 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Hi, Paulette. With some confidence and the proper disciplined steps you can likely solve this problem. If we can take you literally, you cannot hold the cats while you train your terrier. You will need assistance and, depending on the dog, a lot of patience. You did not say if the dog can be in the same room at some distance or not but it is important to begin with teaching the terrier to maintain a calm balanced state of mind. If the cats are introduced to the dog’s attention and he/she starts to go into a heightened state the correction must begin then even if it means putting the dog into a down position with some restraint until calm is again achieved. Again, this might have to be done in gradual steps but is very do-able. Please read again the instruction for clarity and with the needed effort you will be pleased with the progress you will achieve.

  3. 5 Courtney August 2, 2012 at 12:33 am

    I’ve been having trouble with my female Great Pyrenees. I’ve had cats before, I foster them a lot of times. And she has never made an attempt to harm one, she loves them and loves to roll onto her back when they are around. But just now, I was feeding her peanut butter and when I was finished the cat walked in and she became a completely different dog. She was snarling, growling and lunged at the cat more than once. Luckily she was in her kennel so she couldn’t get him. As I said before, she has never shown this kind of behavior and I am worried. Any ideas?

    • 6 callofthedog August 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

      Greetings to you, Courtney.

      So sorry for you experience but when such a behavior happens be sure not to respond with punishment or you will risk creating more aggression. Correction is not punishment. It sounds like you ran into a territorial/food aggression issue. Your otherwise wonderful Great Pyrenees should not be allowed to eat with visitors in the same room such as the cats or children or anyone else unless you are sure things will be peaceful without incident. If necessary continue to feed her in the crate. Sometimes problems occur because of communication problems between species. There are different reasons for aggression by a dog and can be caused by fear, protection or their perceived social standing in the pack. You see your Pyrenees as family, they see you as a member of their pack and hopefully as a lead member. Dogs do not want to be aggressive; it is an excited state that they would prefer not to engage in and that is the good news. However as you already know because that is what sparked your question, aggression is a very serious matter that should be addressed quickly. Pet owners are usually not well equipped to solve aggression problems on their own. It would be wrong to offer step by step solutions to the problem without being able to know the dog first hand and be a substitute for a qualified professional behaviorist. It would not hurt for you to first talk with your veterinarian and discuss possible underlying health issues which is probably not the case but you can then ask for a referral to a Certified Dog Trainer/ Behaviorist should you feel it necessary.

      Hope this helps.

      • 7 Courtney August 4, 2012 at 1:40 am

        Well that’s the thing. I’ve gone through all the dog training with her. She is my service dog. Her dog trainer and I are best friends and even she is shocked by the behavior. Bunny, my dog, doesn’t seem to have any food aggression. I have other dogs and they rotate from bowl to bowl, they even eat out of the same bowl on occasions and I can grab her food without any problem. I don’t know if she was just being protective of me or not, but I’m very concerned.

  4. 8 sarah higgins May 3, 2013 at 4:54 am

    Hi there, I am in a similar position.. We have a shiba who is around 10 yrs old.. has lived with cats for years with no food problems.. even eats With the cats sometimes and lets them eat out of her bowl.. i have seen her wait whilst the cat takes a nibble first… But lately i have noticed that if i am eating lunch or just a biscuit (we have been naughty and given her little bits in the past so this might be the problem) and a cat wonders up to her for its usual fuss, she jumps on and and tries to bite it.. she is fine in every other way, still they can eat her food, but anything she really likes or wants she defends… We stopped giving her treats whilst we are eating a while back but she still hopes for some.. is that why.. is she guarding it with aggression because she is getting less do you think? I have started shutting the door if i have any food and let her back in when i finish.. is that the right thing to do or am i making it worse?
    Regards
    Sarah


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