View Full Version : Why does he chase the cats?

6th February 2009, 02:56 PM
I need a little advice please everyone before I book a behaviourist. My dog Scooby is now 12 months old and every time he sees either of our cats he attacks them. He barks at them, chases them, jumps on top of them and licks and bites them. We did everything by the book when we first got him and the cats have never attacked him.
To discourage this behaviour I have him on the lead near the cats and if he ignores them he gets praise and treats. When he chases them he is put in the downstairs bathroom alone for three or four minutes and told leave very firmly. Outdoors we have tried water pistols but despite doing this for nine months he is still ridiculously excited by the cats. He shakes with excitement when he sees them and cannot help but chase them if they move past him.
Generally he is well behaved and although not an automaton, he listens when he is told leave - except with cats. Our cats are very gentle and tolerant but other cats have scratched his nose and even this has had no effect.
What can I do?

6th February 2009, 05:01 PM
Hello Tabby, There is light at the end of the tunnel. I have seen it done on Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer programme.

This is a very good link to help with the problem.

Let us know how you get on please.

[link deleted by admin -- sorry but this is a very harsh approach to training, full of jerking the dog around by the neck (a definite no no with any cavalier!), and could make this problem worse or destroy the dog's nature and confidence. :( ]

6th February 2009, 05:21 PM
Lucy had a huge thing for our cats for the first year or so. They mostly learned to get out of her way and seek higher ground when she was coming. Really what she wanted was for them to play with her. In her doggy mind they are dogs and they should play like dogs and she couldn't understand that when they would hiss and try to bite and scratch her that they were angry and not playing a game. Makes sense because dogs will use their front paws and will play bite when they are playing, so to her it was all a big game. What I can tell you is that now that she is 2, she rarely goes after the cats any more. As an aside, one of our cats (we had 4 when we got her but 2 have been put to sleep since) learned to play back w/ her and would actually chase Lucy down the hall. It was pretty funny to witness.

One suggestion I do have is to make sure to keep your cats nails clipped short so that if they do get a swipe at your dog he doesn't get serioulsy hurt.

I have heard of dog trainers who have used a technique where they sytematically desensitize the dog to the cats. Something like putting the cat in a crate and slowly nearing the crate w/ the dog and then rewarding the dog when he/she doesn't react to the cat. Your cats would have to be fairly tolerant though I would think to put up w/ sitting in a crate while the dog gets closer and closer. I can't remember where I read about that...it might have been on the Sirius dog training site. If I find it again I will post the link.

10th February 2009, 11:50 PM
There's a whole thread on cats and cavaliers in the Library section. You are generally taking the road I'd recommend excepting the water pistols outside. I think perhaps he is being overexposed to them and not really getting the time to digest that it is a change in behaviour that is desired...

The most important thing is the dog MUST be restrained at all times around cats if he is this overexcited and is lunging at them. You could easily end up with either a maimed or dead cat, or a maimed or blind cavalier. Also this type of behaviour is extremely stressful to cats. Training sessions must be careful and infrequent, not a constant daily exposure -- he sounds like he needs things to go more slowly perhaps?

Not all dogs accept cats and some will always be a danger to cats. I'd use some of the links I have on the cats thread in the Library or try bringing in a trainer but just be aware that this may be a lifelong management issue for your household. Some dogs just have a very high prey drive and can never, ever be considered safe around cats.

13th February 2009, 08:46 AM
Thanks everyone for the replies. When I can I will post some more here but I am sincerely grateful you have taken the time to try to help.
I am certainly happier with the reward based training and gentle approach. I am resolved to try very hard to give my poor cats back some quality to their home lives and to give Scooby some way of channeling his hunting drive. I belive that agility training is available for dogs of 18 months and over so it is an option I'm considering for him.

21st March 2009, 12:25 PM
I think we will keep trying with gentle training and we won't overexpose Scooby to the Cats. I am not complacent about the possibility of injury to any of my lovely animals.
Nothing really seems to be working but we will keep to the routines and who knows - maybe one day Scooby will ignore the Cats.
We have a small house but the cats have their own place in the utility room, well away from Scooby's bed in the dining room. Cats are allowed upstairs in our house and dogs are not so the stairgate will be a permanent feature. The only area Scooby can approach the cats at will is in the garden. Hence the water pistol - we tried to use treats to get him to come back to us but the cats are just too exciting! Luckily my cats have lots of escape routes from the garden that Scooby can't use. I accept that using a squirt of water doesn't work either but we thought it might distract him for long enough for us to regain his attention.
In the meantime I look at pictures of all the Cavs here snuggling with cats slightly enviously!

21st March 2009, 03:40 PM
Keep working on the small controlled introductions, where he is on a lead and cannot go for them, and give lots of treats and praise for ignoring the cats. The links in the section on cats are really good -- I have been in all sorts of dog/cat situations -- with a dog that loves to chase cats but is happy to live with them inside; another that was raised from puppyhood with cats and is fine, another who was wary of them but is fine, and one who would really try to go for them and had to be managed and trained over time to ignore them. Very good recall, a very good 'look' command so the dog will stop and focus just on you, both go a long long way when training too. But you always have to have the welfare of both cats and dog foremost -- don't put either into a situation where they can be terrified or hurt or cause hurt. It sounds like you have a good management set-up; I'd also consider a cat tree if you don;t have one as this also lets the cats be in the room when the dog is there and may help make him more indifferent to them. In training, I constantly reward and acknowledge desired behaviour even if just given for a moment. Clicker training can be really good as you can reward the right behaviour at the right instant. Just some further thoughts! :)

Mom of Jato
22nd March 2009, 01:26 AM
I feel your pain. :( We have a 7 year old cat that wants no part of being friendly with the dogs. So, she stays upstairs, and the dogs have the downstairs part of the house. Every once in a while the cat will peek down the stairs and get the dogs all excited, and then she runs right back up. I too wish they would play and snuggle together, but I don't see that ever happening. Oh well.:winkct:

22nd March 2009, 04:42 PM
We recently introduced our new cav rescue to our 6 cats. They all adapted at different rates - some better than others. One thing he has had to learn is that it was THEIR house first!
I do think it's down to personalities. He wanted to play at first, and I spent a couple of days spending up to an hour sitting with him on a lead, restraining him, and allowing THEM to inspect HIM at their own pace. 2 weeks on, some will eat alongside him, others will sit within 2ft, but one still keeps well clear. Now and again he still gets the urge to bounce about around them, but a swipe across the nose soon puts him straight. We still keep them apart when we're not around.
You might try Feliway cat calming pheromone plugins??

23rd March 2009, 03:06 PM
I have a similar problem with Ollie, our youngest Cavalier. We have two cats, one is very calm and the other is more feral. He only chases the crazy cat and it's because she runs! I wish I could stop it, but Pebbles (the cat) actually seems to enjoy riling him up. She can usually outrun him, jumps up on a counter and torments him from up there. I just make sure the cats have areas where the dogs are not allowed. I use baby gates that the cats can jump over and they have their own "cat room".

20th May 2009, 07:40 PM
I'm still really struggling with this issue. Although Scooby is calmer around the cats and we are controlling his contact with them, Rosie has started to pee when she sees him :(. I feel so sad for her because she is clearly not adapting to having him in the house.
It is difficult having a cat peeing in the house and tonight when she was on my knee and he came into the room I got peed on.
I may have to go right back to step 1 with Rosie and Scooby and restrict both of them to parts of the house where they won't meet until I can calm Rosie enough to stop her panicking. She has always been nervous but she is an absolute darling and must be very distressed to be doing this.
I have read about a herbal remedy for pets to calm them in stressful situations - please can anyone here recall what it is?

20th May 2009, 08:59 PM
I am sorry your cat is so stressed...sunshine was horrible with our cat for the first year, now she is two and generally ignores her unless the cat is moving. I think just having basic obedience helped our situation, but for you I almost wonder if you should consider rehoming the cat into a less stressful environment.

Our cat is very good about standing her ground and letting the dog know she won't have it. She will bop them with her paw if they get to close. So I really don't know how to deal with a scared cat.

20th May 2009, 10:21 PM
After spending some time reading up tonight I will be taking Rosie to the Vet tomorrow to be checked out for a Urinary infection/blockage. On the Vets advice I changed her diet to entirely dry food in January as she has some tartar. Now I read how it can cause cats to have problems.
I'm hoping some treatment and a change back to wet food will halt the peeing problem and I am going to try absolutely everything to ease her tension.
I do hope I will be able to keep all my lovely pets. Thanks for the reply sunshinekisses and any other help and advice will be welcome.

21st May 2009, 01:01 AM
Id vet check her, definitely, but I think as she does this when the dog comes in, it is probably behavioural and yes, it would be a sign of extreme stress for a cat to be urinating like this.

I would keep them totally separate and view that as a permanent situation if and until Rosie decides she will venture further of her own accord. Gate the dog from having access to her parts of the house. Get her a couple of cat trees in different rooms so she can climb high and out of the way -- cats are MUCH happier and feel safer when they can get up high. Also if you work with Scooby so that he has excellent sit and downstays, you won;t have an overexcited dog lunging for Rosie. Part of this is training him to be responsive and obedient in all contexts, not just trying to keep him calm when the cat is there. If he has good self control when she isn't there, then you will have a calm and stationary dog when she is there. He needs the foundation of excellent downstays and excellent recall before he can be expected to have any level of self control and calm in a highly excitable situation like having a cat walk in.

You don't want a herbal remedy, you want to get Feliway which is a calming cat hormone. It can be very effective. Vets sell it either as a spray or as a plug in. I'd get a couple of the plug ins. You can get them in packs of 3; I order from petedge.com. They are cheaper online generally.

Many cats and dogs will never get along. It is very important to accommodate the cat as a priority, as she is the one who is being heavily stressed and cats can have their health badly affected by stress.

The issue with dry food is really more to do with male cats -- they can be prone to UTIs of fed only dry food but this doesn't generally matter for females. I fed my cats a mix of dry and wet (wet in the morning, free-feed dry (up high where the dogs have no access).

21st May 2009, 01:03 AM
Here is the pheremone/ hormone stuff you asked about. I personally don't have it, but know people who do and they swear by it!


It's quite expensive, but you can purchase at most nicer pet supply stores.

21st May 2009, 01:05 AM
Just read your post Karlin, I had no idea that male cats shouldn't be fed dry food alone. Will have to research this...

21st May 2009, 01:16 AM
Thanks for the Feliway link! It is widely recommended by all the cat rescue people I know.

Many vets feel dry food alone means males don't drink enough water and can therefore be more prone to forming crystals and getting blockages. Males can die very quickly and painfully from a urinary tract blockage. There's a fair amount out there online on the dry food issue.

This is a great cat resource site:


21st May 2009, 05:09 PM
I took rosie to the Vet (she had some blood in the urine last night) and he was very helpful. Rosie has stress induced cystitis and is otherwise generally well.
The Vet prescribed some Zylkene for Rosie to reduce her stress while we increase our efforts with training Scooby.
I have already started reinforcing the recall and stay down commands Karlin - you have been most helpful in your posts thankyou :). Training has not been my top priority recently as Scooby has had bouts of colitis and some sore spots on his head so I've avoided treats and liver cake etc. and just fed James wellbeloved cereal free kibble.
Back to the training then - thanks for the support.