Cats and dogs have been rivals since they started competing for people’s attention. While any dog lover will argue that dogs should get the lion’s share of the attention, treats and rewards, everyone agrees that cats and dogs have to get along when they live in the same house.
If you’re having issues with dog aggression toward your cat, try the following.
Teach your dog a reliable leave it or no command. Any time he starts taking too much of an interest in the cat, instruct him to leave it.
No Free Lunch
Work on leadership exercises to ensure that your dog is earning all the treats and attention he gets. Make him do something good before he gets a reward.
Be prepared with tasty treats and reward your dog any time he is calm when the cat’s around. So if you’re sitting in the living room with him and the cat comes in, give him a treat if he stays cool.
Doing this builds positive connections in his mind toward the cat, which makes it more likely in the future that he’ll be turning to you and looking for a reward rather than terrorizing the cat.
Establish the Pack Hierarchy
Set clear, consistent rules and then enforce them all the time. Claim the top spot for yourself and correct any behavior by your dog or cat that is unwanted.
So if your cat likes to hiss at the dog and then hide behind you, use a squirt bottle to spray him with water. Likewise if your dog likes to hover around the cat’s dish, keeping him away from dinner, intervene and tell your dog to go away. Clear, fair rules are appreciated by pets (well, by dogs…) as it lets them know what’s expected.
If your dog’s aggression level is high, you should enlist the aid of a local trainer that specializes in aggression. A trainer can set you up with an effective counter-conditioning plan that will help you train your dog to tolerate your cat. This is a gradual process that involves rewarding him for calm behavior near the cat, while steadily moving closer and closer.
It’s normal for cats and dogs to fight a little. But if they are fighting all the time or the aggression level is too high, it’s up to you to intervene and remind them both who’s the boss.