Working out how to stop a puppy from chasing the cat is a common training priority for new puppy parents.
Puppies can be encouraged to ‘lose interest’ in a cat by controlling how they are introduced, and rewarding them for alternative behaviors.
In this article, dog trainer Liz London explains how to achieve that, step by step.
How To Stop A Puppy From Chasing the Cat
It’s typical for pet parents to get nervous at the idea of introducing a puppy to a cat.
The old saying about “fighting like cats and dogs” isn’t without merit, after all.
So if you’re bringing a new puppy into a home that already has a kitty, you’re probably wondering how to stop a puppy from chasing the cat.
Not all puppies put a target on your cat’s back. You might get lucky.
Some dogs don’t seem to notice their feline friends at all.
After all, cats are pretty good at hiding and avoiding unfamiliar situations.
Most puppies, however, are likely to see the cat as a possible playmate.
They’ll want to tromp and chase, romp and roll with their new friend.
And most likely, your cat won’t take kindly to this type of meet-and-greet.
The Pros And Cons Of Leaving Them To It
Depending on how your cat reacts, your puppy may get bored with the cat and learn to leave her alone.
If he doesn’t, your cat might give him a quick swipe of the claw to the nose.
That will probably teach your puppy to walk away, but it could also lead to a bigger fight that could get one or both of your babies hurt.
So, that’s not ideal either.
Another possibility is if your cat dashes quickly away during the first meeting, it could trigger your puppy’s instinct to chase and hunt!
Another chaotic clash that could lead to months of misery for all three of you.
So, before you take a chance and wing it, start by considering some of our tips and tricks for introducing your puppy to your cat for the first time.
The right introduction just may stop your puppy from chasing your cat every day.
The First Impression Is Critical
The overall goal is for the first impression to be a good one.
We don’t want to introduce our pets in a way that will set them up for a bad experience and a lasting hatred or fear!
If your pets get into a fight the first time they meet, then you can expect the next few weeks to be tense around the house.
Your goal is to prevent that from happening.
How We Do That
Start thinking a few steps ahead of any situations in which problems are most likely to arise.
This way, you can prevent a lot of the common difficulties of introducing a puppy to a cat.
The biggest challenge will likely be the difference between the high energy of a new puppy who likes to wrestle, with the typically calm, aloof, and independent nature of most cats.
You’ll need to become a bit of an expert at reading your pets’ body language.
When your cat shows the signs of fear and posturing for defense, you’re better off intervening to nip any potential fights in the bud.
Of course, all of this assumes that the puppy’s energy has the upper hand.
You may, in contrast, have a puppy who is shy and fearful. Or, you might have a cat that is energetic and quick to nip and claw, too.
So, pay close attention to each pet’s behavior.
Always keep an eye on the behavior of both pets to prevent tension from mounting too high.
Strategies for Introducing a Puppy to a Cat
Here are some tried and tested techniques for helping canines and felines get off on the right paw.
1. Swap Scents
If you know you’re getting a new puppy soon, try to obtain an item that has the new puppy’s scent on it.
Ask the shelter, breeder, or friend from which you’re getting the puppy to give you a blanket or towel the puppy has slept on.
Bring the item home and lay it in an area you expect will be where your new puppy will make its bed.
Let your cat smell it back at home to start making a mental map of the new family member coming his way.
Set up the new puppy’s crate, food and water bowls, and toys around the house, too.
This will allow the cat a chance to explore all the new stuff at the house without a puppy chasing her at the same time.
2. Meet & Greets On Neutral Territory
Consider taking your cat in a safe carrier or kennel to meet your puppy outside of the home for the first time.
Keep the interaction short, though, as your cat will likely already be a bit nervous being outside of the house.
Let the puppy and cat sniff each other through the crate doors, using a “howdy crate” technique, described below.
3. Use a Howdy Crate
A ‘howdy crate’ is a term that zookeepers use when introducing a new animal into an exhibit with other animals for the first time.
By putting the new animal in a crate in the exhibit, the animals can all say “howdy” to one another through the safety of the crate walls.
Use the same concept at home by putting your new puppy in a crate in the living room, so that your cat can spend some time getting to know the new pup’s scent and sounds.
Then swap them out. Put the cat in a crate and let the puppy sniff and explore from outside the crate.
Here’s a step-by-step plan for using the howdy crate to introduce your dog and cat for the first time, starting from the moment you swap them around and put the cat in the crate.
Crate the cat and walk pup on a leash past the crate 4-5 times with no interaction.
In this way the cat will have a chance to observe from a safe place the puppy.
She can smell him, hear him, and see him without having to put up with a rough snout session from a curious pup.
Walk the pup past the crate again on leash.
This time allow them to sniff one another through the crate door for just about 30 seconds before continuing to walk the puppy away.
Now, the two get to really set eyes on each other, but not for long.
The longer two animals have to stare each other down, the more tension can build.
We want our kitty to be curious, too, rather than scared or defensive right from the start.
The more quick interactions they get, the more their curiosity will be piqued.
Continue this method, adding 5-10 more seconds to each amount of interaction before you walk the puppy away.
Repeat this a few times a day, for a week – keeping your cat well out of the puppy’s way in between.
4. Separate Corners (or Rooms)
Be sure to give each pet their own space within your home.
Dogs need a crate of their own that they can lie down in comfortably, and your cat will appreciate the break from needing to hide
She will prefer something perched up high, out of puppy’s reach.
Some people give their cats an entire room or area in the house that the dog isn’t allowed.
Use a pet gate or a cat door in a closed door.
Your cat can have a room to roam and be safe in, with access to food, water, toys, and a litter box.
5. Conditioning with Positive Association
Another technique to utilize while introducing your pets is to use training to help the puppy associate calm fun and rewards with the cat.
For the first couple of weeks, when you see your puppy sniffing around your cat, initiate a short training session.
Let the puppy sniff and greet the cat, then call the puppy over to you. When he walks away from the cat, praise (softly) and reward with a treat.
If you use a clicker, mark the moment the puppy looks away from the cat and toward you instead.
Repeat this training a few times in order for your puppy to start associating calm greetings of the cat with a treat from you.
Extend the training sessions to ask for a couple of other behaviors, such as “sit,” “target to hand” or “down.” Then let the puppy go back to sniffing the cat.
By keeping your puppy’s mind occupied with training and reward, he will be less likely to take out a surge of energy and play on your cat by chasing him around the house.
No Matter Which Techniques You Try, Stick to Positive Training
Any work you do with your puppy should be fun for both of you. Stick to positive training methods to keep your interactions with your pets positive.
Modern, positive training methods aren’t just more pleasant for everyone involved, they’re supported by contemporary animal behavior and training research.
In the past, it was traditional for trainers to use punishment or dominance to establish a “respect hierarchy for the pack.”
So, you might be tempted to try creating a pack hierarchy between yourself, your puppy, and your kitten by using force or dominant techniques and punishment during interactions.
But the recent research is in favor of a style of training called positive reinforcement.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Don’t let the big words fool you – positive reinforcement is simply when you reward your dog for doing something you deem “good,” while ignoring behaviors you don’t want him to continue.
Rewards can include food, special treats, praise and petting, playing with a favorite toy, etc.
So, any time you notice your puppy take notice of your cat without chasing her, show your puppy that you notice!
Tell him what a good boy he is, give him a nice calm pet and snuggle, and then toss his favorite toy (away from the cat!)
I wouldn’t recommend riling him up with a roughhouse session right away, or he might get so excited that he’ll start chasing the cat after all!
Have fun, be careful, and never hesitate to ask a professional trainer for help!
Do You Have Experience Introducing A Puppy To A Cat?
How did you prevent the puppy engaging in chasing games?
Let us know in the comments box!
McConnell, The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, Ballantine Books, 2003.
Coe, Increasing Affiliative Behavior Between Zoo Animals and Zoo Visitors, AZA Convention Proceedings, 1999.
Bonanni et al, Effect of affiliative and agonistic relationships on leadership behaviour in free-ranging dogs, Animal Behaviour, 2010.
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