You’ve probably heard the term, “fighting like cats and dogs”. It is possible for dogs and cats to get along, but it’s also possible for the dog to bark, and even chase the cat.
Your dog may bark at cats in the neighborhood, or they may bark at your cat. Either of these situations can have you reaching for ear plugs. It’s a bit like a toddler throwing a tantrum. You just want it to stop so you can have some quiet. If you want to get your dog to stop barking at cats, you’ll need to understand why they do it in the first place.
Why does my dog bark at cats?
Some dogs seem unphased by cats. I have a cat and a dog. I think they are convinced they are the same species, because they get along so well. However, many dogs do bark at cats. They have legitimate reasons for doing so, but that doesn’t mean it has to continue.
Barking is actually one of the things dogs have been bred to do. You’ll never find a wolf or a coyote barking at anything in sight. Both animals do bark, but it occurs much less often than it does with the average dog.
When people began breeding dogs, their bark was very useful. It would alert them to danger. If there was an intruder, either animal or human, the dog barking would act as a warning bell.
It also alerted them to prey. In those days, lives depended on the ability to hunt, as well as defend oneself. Dogs originated from wolves. Over time, owners would breed the wolves and dogs with desirable traits.
This is why our beloved canines have their affectionate personalities and a desire to please. It’s also why they love to bark.
All dogs will have some type of prey drive instinct. However, the intensity varies based on the breed and individual dog. The parts of prey drive that are strongest also vary.
There are 5 components to the prey drive. These are searching, stalking, chasing, biting to grab, and biting to kill. Different breeds of dogs will have strong urges in some of these areas.
Herding dogs, for example, have a strong desire to chase and search. This has been honed so that they instinctively chase and herd their prey (livestock). Their instinct to bite has also been modified to prevent them from biting to harm. Instead, they nip to guide the animals.
Dogs with a strong prey drive will often bark and chase cats because they view them as prey. Cats are small animals, and have a resemblance to other small animals that dogs see as prey.
You train your dog through positive and negative association. When they do something desirable, like following a command, they get a reward. They associate the reward with the behavior, so they want to continue it. This is known as a positive association.
Positive association is a great training method. The problem is that you can inadvertently encourage bad behavior.
If you attempt to redirect your dog by giving them a treat or a toy, this creates a positive association. They will continue the behavior, because you are rewarding it.
Dogs can be territorial. Again, part of this depends on your dog’s personality. Some dogs are more territorial than others. Your dog may bark at cats because they are guarding their territory.
This also goes back to instinct. In the wild, dogs must look out for each other. When something comes into their territory, they will bark to alert other members of the pack.
If you own a cat and a dog, your dog may be jealous. If they don’t typically bark at cats, this is likely the reason why. A jealous dog may resent you spending time and attention on the cat.
How can I stop my dog from barking at cats?
It can be maddening when your dog constantly barks at cats. The good news is, there are a few steps you can take to get your dog to stop barking at cats.
Identify Trigger Areas
Watch your dog’s behavior, and when they bark at cats. Do they bark at a cat inside the home, or cats outside? Do the cats have to be near them before they begin to bark? Do they bark when a cat is near their territory, their food, or toys?
Identifying trigger areas can help you figure out the cause, and what to do about it.
Your dog may be barking at cats because you have inadvertently trained the to do so. If this is the case, you’ll need to use the same concept to train them not to bark at cats.
Even if you haven’t been accidentally rewarding them for the behavior, training should be used to curb the barking.
To train your dog not to bark at cats, you’ll need to encourage the behavior you want to see. When your dog doesn’t bark at cats, give them a treat or verbal praise.
The other side of the coin is disciplining negative behavior. The best way to do this is often with a simple time out. You can also use an air horn as a correction method. The loud noise and hiss of air should startle your dog and make them stop barking. They won’t enjoy these outcomes, so they should eventually stop barking.
You’ll also want to set your dog up for success. If you’ve identified problem areas where or when your dog is more likely to bark, try to avoid these during the training phase.
The more success your dog has, the more rewards and positive interaction they receive. This encourages them to keep up the behavior. Start with limited interaction with cats. Over time, increase the interaction.
If jealousy seems to be the issue, you’ll need to take a different approach. Spend extra time with your dog, away from the cat. Feed them in separate areas to avoid them fighting over resources or food guarding.
Have you ever heard the phrase good fences make good neighbors? This also applies to your dog. If you have a cat and dog in the home, they should both have private areas away from the other.
How can I get my dog to be calm around cats?
To get your dog to be calm around cats, begin with the tips listed above. Training is an essential component of keeping your dog calm.
Meet and Greet
This method isn’t for the faint of heart. If you are introducing a cat and dog for the first time, this is the quickest way to get them accustomed to each other. However, it isn’t always effective.
You’ll need a partner for this introduction. You or your partner will be holding your dog on a lead. The other will monitor the cat. Place the cat in the room with the dog. Keep the dog still if possible.
You can try a command like sit or stay if your dog knows these. The cat shouldn’t have its back raised. It should not hiss or growl. It’s unlikely the cat will injure your dog in an attack, but it can prompt aggression from the dog.
You’ll also need to keep a close eye on your dog. They should be sitting or standing calmly. It’s natural for them to be interested in the cat, but they should not be fixated on them.
When a dog is fixated, it will stare intently. Their body will be stiff. They may bark or growl, or stare quietly. Dogs fixate on prey before they attack, so it’s important to recognize the difference between interest and fixation.
The aspects of prey drive that are prominent vary from dog to dog. Your dog may only want to chase the cat, or they may want to catch and release it. However, if the cat feels threatened, they will attack. This can lead the dog to attacking, causing injury or death to the cat.
If your dog is aggressive or you don’t have someone to help, you may want to try a slow introduction. You’ll need a baby gate for this. Place the cat in a room and put the baby gate up. The cat and dog can get to know each other, without being able to reach each other to fight.
If you notice either of them getting aggressive, move the dog and try again later. Once they are hanging out without aggressiveness, feed them. You’ll feed the cat on one side of the gate, and the dog on the other.
Food is a positive thing, so feeding them together can help them feel positive about each other. It’s a way to create positive association. Once they begin to feel comfortable around each other, you can allow them to meet without the gate.
Clicker training is another method you can use to teach your dog to get along with a cat. You’ll need treats, and a clicker. You can also use a voice cue, like yes or good girl in place of the clicker.
The first step is learning your dog’s threshold. How far away is the cat when the dog notices them, but will still respond to you? This is their threshold.
The object is to teach your dog to look at the cat and then back to you. Begin with your dog on a leash, and the cat at threshold distance. When the dog looks at the cat, you use the clicker or your verbal command. Then give them a treat.
They should soon learn to look at you after looking at the cat, expecting a treat. Once they are doing this consistently, you’ll need to move your dog closer to the cat. Keep going until the dog can be near the cat, and still look at you.
How long does it take for a dog to get used to a cat?
How long it takes a dog to get used to the cat depends on many factors. The age and temperament of both animals plays a critical role. The way you introduce them is also a factor.
Some dogs will get used to a cat in a few hours, while others may need months. Some dogs will never get used to a cat. In these situations, you may have to surrender one of the animals for their own safety. Most dogs can get used to a cat within a few days to a few weeks.
Why does my dog hate cats?
Some dogs love cats, and some can be taught to tolerate them. However, there are some dogs that simply hate cats.
Predator and Prey
In many cases, the problem isn’t the dog hating the cat. They simply see them as prey. Dogs and cats are both natural predators, but cats are also prey for dogs and wolves.
So when the two meet, the dog may attack or chase the cat because they see them as prey. The cat, aware that the dog is a natural predator, may run or attack the dog preemptively. Either of these can trigger a reaction in the dog, even if they weren’t acting aggressively beforehand.
When I introduced my cat to my dog, the miscommunication was very interesting. After a quick getting to know each other, the dog wanted to play. She would bark, lowering herself into a bow. Another dog would immediately take this as an invitation to play. The cat, however, was bewildered and maybe even scared.
Miscommunication causes many heated arguments between humans. It’s no surprise that two different species, with different methods of communication, can have some ill will due to the language barrier.