Some dogs get along just fine with cats, but then other pups are the embodiment of the old maxim, “fighting like cats and dogs!” If you already have a cat and you’d like to add a dog to your household, you’re most likely wondering if it’s possible to teach a dog to love (or at least get along with) your cat.
In this article, we take a look at how you can train Fido to get along with Tibbles. Also, we check out the dog breeds that are cat-friendly and those that are not. So, if you’re buying a puppy or you’re thinking of rehoming a dog from a rescue shelter, you can avoid potential issues by choosing a cat-compatible breed.
First of all, let’s find out why some dogs don’t get along with cats.
Why Dogs Chase
Have you ever wondered why some dogs chase cats? Well, according to genetic studies, every modern dog breed can trace its roots back to a common, wolf-like ancestor that lived in Europe or Asia between 9,000 and 34,000 years ago.
Wolves sit at the top of the food chain, hunting prey animals for food. Although today’s domesticated pet dogs don’t need to go looking for a tasty squirrel for dinner, Fido still retains a basic, natural instinct to hunt. Also, some modern breeds were originally developed to work alongside their human owners as hunters, and these pups are hard-wired to chase and bring down prey.
Cats are natural-born killers too, often wreaking havoc on the rodent and bird population in your garden. Although they also have a strong prey drive, cats are cautious, and they’re very good at recognizing a threat such as a large dog. Some cats will run, triggering the dog’s innate instinct to pursue a quarry. Other, bolder cats will stand their ground, using their teeth and claws to face off their attacker.
So, you can see that cats and dogs have inbred compatibility issues, and individual personalities can compound the problem.
Animal behaviorists reckon that with patience and the right kind of training, you can teach a dog to get along with your cat, and vice versa.
With that in mind, here are a few training tips you might find helpful:
Young puppies are most receptive to new learning experiences during the first four months of their lives, so, if your dog and cat are to bond, or at least tolerate each other, you have more chance of success if you begin socializing Fido with Tibbles at a young age.
When your puppy is well-behaved around your cat, reward him with lots of cuddles, attention, and treats. The same goes for your cat!
A dog’s impulse to chase a cat is a tough habit to break. Barking at strange people and noises also happens because of a lack of impulse control. If you can teach your puppy to control his reflex impulses before you introduce him to your cat, you have more chance of success. You’ll be using the “leave it” command frequently, especially if your dog gets into the cat food, or has developed an affinity for kitty poop.
Desensitization is a simple and very effective way of training your dog to respect your cat and leave the kitty alone. The idea is to get your dog and cat used to seeing each other and being in the same area of your home together, peacefully and harmoniously!
One way of starting the desensitizing process is by confining your cat to a large crate and placing it up out of your dog’s reach in a spot where the two can see each other but not get too close. Cover the top and sides of the crate so that your cat feels secure and safe inside his “den.” Cats like to be up high in a dominant position, so giving your kitty control over the situation will help to keep her relaxed.
Reward your dog when he remains calm, but be ready to remove your pup to another area of the house if he begins barking or harassing your cat.
The next step involves moving the cat (still in her safe crate) to ground level. That way, both parties can “meet” and sniff each other with a physical barrier between them. You may need to repeat this exercise several times each day until your dog loses interest and accepts that the kitty is just another member of his new family.
Between desensitization sessions, keep your cat and dog separate. If, at any time, your cat becomes distressed, remove her from the situation, and begin again the following day.
Once peace has been achieved, you can carefully allow your dog and cat to share the same space, although you should never leave them together unsupervised, and always make sure that your cat has a clear path to safety, just in case things go wrong.
How Not To Do It
Never make the mistake of simply leaving your dog and cat alone in a room together and letting them “get on with it.” That’s a recipe for disaster, especially if your cat can’t escape.
Get The Chasing To Stop
Even if your pets get on fine inside the confines of your home, some dogs are just unable to help themselves; if they see a cat in your backyard, they immediately want to chase it, especially if the kitty does a runner when she sees a pooch approaching! And that can happen indoors too; it’s a dog thing!
Fortunately, you can train your dog not to chase your cat by using the following method.
What you’ll need:
- Your dog/puppy must already know the “sit” command and will give you eye contact.
- Four to six-foot leash
- Light rope or long line
- Dog training treats
What To Do
Throughout all your dog’s training sessions, keep your pet on his leash while your cat is in the vicinity. Attach the leash to your belt so that you have your hands free. Keep a supply of training treats handy.
2. Keep Your Dog’s Attention
Anytime your cat is in the same room as your dog, get your dog’s attention. Make eye contact with your dog, and ask him to sit. If your dog sits, give him a treat and praise him. If he pulls away from you toward the cat, walk away from the cat, and ask your dog to sit again.
Continue moving away from the cat until your dog does as you ask him and gives you his attention.
While the cat is near, carry on rewarding your dog. Try giving your dog a chew bone or toy and move away from the cat so that your dog settles and focuses on his chew.
- Repeat #1 through #3 consistently, and your dog will begin to look to you whenever he sees your cat, anticipating a treat. Be generous with your rewards for this behavior!
- Now you can begin to use a light rope or long line. Attach the rope to your dog’s collar and fix the other end to an object that won’t move. Allow eight to ten feet of rope, gradually increasing the length if your dog remains calm. Immediately your dog tries to chase the cat, shorten the line, and reel Fido to you. Reward your dog generously if he comes to you when he sees the cat.
- Once your dog is calm and gives you his attention whenever he sees the cat, you can take the long line off. It’s now likely that your dog will be more interested in you and his reward than in your cat, but you should be prepared to go back a step if he wavers.
Throughout the training process, you must NOT allow your dog to chase the cat! Chasing the cat is rewarding for your dog, and allowing this behavior is essentially rewarding him for getting it wrong!
Cat-Friendly Dog Breeds
If you’re thinking of buying a puppy or rehoming a dog from a shelter and you already have a cat, you may be wondering if there are any cat-friendly dog breeds. Although there are always exceptions to every rule, the following five breeds generally do get on pretty well with cats.
The beagle is a small hound that was bred for hunting hares, small deer, and rabbits. However, despite that, beagles usually get on surprisingly well with cats inside the home.
On the downside, it’s worth noting that Beagles aren’t the easiest dogs to train and they do have a habit of howling which could be a problem if you have near neighbors. Also, beagles do have a strong instinct to hunt, and your cat might not have such a peaceful life when he’s outside in your backyard with your beagle!
The Bichon Frisé is a happy, sociable breed that will probably regard your cat as just another member of the family. However, the Bichon is a playful breed that also loves to cuddle. So, if your cat doesn’t like to play or snuggle, you may need to keep the two apart once in a while so that your cat gets some peace and quiet!
Bottom line: if you want a tiny canine companion who will make a fun, loving family pet and will also keep your playful kitty entertained, the Bichon Frisé could be the perfect choice for you.
The Golden retriever has been a favorite choice of pet for families for many years. Brilliant with kids and tolerant with other pets, the Golden retriever will most likely regard your cat as just another family member.
Goldens are highly trainable, and they make wonderful companions.
The lazy Maltese is a chilled-out dude who gets on fine with cats. Usually, a Maltese is happy to lie around and just ignore your cat. The Maltese make a perfect family pet that’s great with both young and older cats; he won’t bother a senior cat but will also be tolerant of a more playful kitten.
Pomeranians are small, fluffy pooches that weigh from three to seven pounds, most of which is hair! Pomeranians are very affectionate, confident little pups that will happily share your lap with your cat.
Something to bear in mind is that, although a kitty may love grooming a Pomeranian’s luxuriant, puffball coat, you might find the brushing required to keep your dog matt-free and in good condition a little onerous if you have a busy lifestyle.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The jolly Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a quiet, tolerant type who will love to snuggle up with you and your cat. Cavaliers are trainable, generally obedient, and they don’t require a massive amount of grooming to keep them looking good.
Breeds that Don’t Like Cats
There are quite a few breeds that don’t mix well with cats. Although there are exceptions to every rule, it’s generally advisable to avoid buying one of these pups if you want a harmonious home.
Avoid any dogs that are bred to hunt and kill vermin or larger animals. Dogs in this category include:
- Alaskan Malamute
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Siberian Husky
Terriers were initially used to dig out and kill animals such as rabbits, badgers, and groundhogs. There have been many reported incidents of terriers catching and killing cats, so you really don’t want one of these pups if you already have a cat in your household. Terrier breeds include:
- Jack Russell
- Scottish Terrier
- Bedlington Terrier
- Fox Terrier
- Rat Terrier
Sighthounds are hard-wired to chase anything that moves, especially if that thing is small and furry. A cat that runs away is always considered fair game by a dog of this type. Sighthound breeds include:
- Italian Greyhound
- Afghan Hound
Herding dogs are not typically aggressive, but they will herd anything, including your kids; after all, that’s the herder’s job! Although your family might find that habit amusing, you can be sure that your cat won’t appreciate it one bit!
Herding breeds include:
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Bearded Collie
- Belgian Sheepdog
- Welsh Corgi
- German Shepherd
- Old English Sheepdog
This list of cat-unfriendly breeds is not exhaustive. So, before you buy a puppy or choose a rescue dog from a shelter, speak to your vet for advice. Often, shelters will be able to tell you whether a particular dog has been “tested” with cats or not, which will give you a heads-up on potential problems. However, it should be stressed that no dog is entirely trustworthy when left unsupervised with a cat.
It’s best to introduce a dog and cat when they are both babies so that they grow up together. However, it is possible to teach a new dog to get along with your cat, provided you’re prepared to put the time and effort into training your pup to behave when the kitty’s around.
Avoid buying a puppy or rehoming an adult dog from a breed that doesn’t historically get along with cats; that’s just asking for trouble. Never assume that your cat will be able to defend herself if necessary, and always ensure that there’s an escape route for your cat that the dog can’t follow.
Follow the simple dog and cat introduction and socialization rules we’ve laid out for you in this article, and your home should be a harmonious place for everyone!