It’s common for dogs and cats to clash, but it can become a serious problem if your dog shows true aggressive behavior towards your own cats or any other animals that wander into your backyard. As a responsible pet parent, it’s essential to tackle the problem if your dog is aggressive towards cats because it could cause a lot of distress or even serious injury. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to promote harmony between cats and dogs. Below are some tips to stop a dog from being aggressive towards cats below.

Portrait of a husky dog looking at a green lawn

What Does Aggression Towards Cats Look Like?

It’s often obvious that your dog is aggressive towards cats if it chases or attacks any feline crossing its path. However, there are other, subtler signs that aggression towards cats could become a problem. If you notice any of the following behavioral differences, it’s time for some obedience training to teach your dog how to live with a cat. While you work on giving your dog proper training, supervise your two pets closely when they’re together to avoid an unpleasant incident.

  • Barking, growling or staring when a cat catches your dog’s attention
  • Trying to physically separate you and the cat
  • Stopping eating when a cat appears
  • A high prey drive to chase small objects or animals
  • Refusal to share sleeping or living areas with cats

Before You Start

Before you start obedience training to stop dog aggression towards cats or introduce a new cat to your household, there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your dog chasing or being aggressive towards a cat.  It’s important to make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and playtime. A bored or under-stimulated dog is more likely to become easily frustrated by cats in its living space.

If you’re introducing dogs and cats for the first time, getting the initial meeting right is one of the most effective ways to reduce the chances of aggression developing. Suddenly bringing a cat into your home without a proper introduction could cause your dog to feel threatened and become aggressive.

Instead of immediately allowing your two pets to mingle in the same area, try putting one in a different room with a gate or other barrier keeping your dog and cat apart. Doing this will allow your dog to get used to the cat’s scent and how it looks, moves and behaves so it understands that the cat doesn’t pose a threat. Once your dog seems relaxed in the cat’s presence, you can try letting them into the same room while observing your dog for signs of it becoming anxious or stressed. If you notice any early signs of aggression from your dog, separate the animals immediately and give your dog a little longer time observing the cat through the barrier before trying again.  Also, it is just as important to allow your cat time to get comfortable since your cat’s behavior can contribute to your dog’s prey drive, so remember to watch your cat’s comfort level just as closely as your dog’s before moving forward with face to face introductions.

Dog and cat best friends playing together outdoors

Understanding Your Dog’s Aggression Towards Cats

Understanding why dog aggression towards cats happens is an important step toward solving the problem. Unfortunately, some dogs are just naturally dominant towards cats, but there’s almost always a reason for dog aggression. Your dogs may see your cat as prey, and some breeds have a naturally high prey drive.

Sometimes, aggression is a fear-based response in dogs following an unpleasant experience involving a cat or when a cat was present. Other dogs may become jealous if they feel a cat is taking too much of your attention. You can often tell if jealousy is the root cause if you notice your dog becoming aggressive towards your cat when you pet or speak to it. Making sure you give both pets equal attention could help stop dog aggression towards cats.

Aggressive dogs sometimes display behaviors such as biting or growling because they’re sick or in pain especially if it’s a sudden change in aggressive tendencies. Because this scenario is far less common it is far more overlooked, so if the behavior is sudden a sudden change, consider seeking veterinary guidance. Treating your dog’s illness or injury may be all that’s needed to bring peace and a return to your cat and dog living happily under one roof.

Strategies for Preventing Cat Aggression in Dogs

If your dog is showing signs of aggression towards your cat, proper training can help your pets learn to live together peacefully.  Creating a positive relationship through obedience training will help show your dog how to show appropriate behavior.  Many dogs just do not understand what is appropriate behavior around a cat, so once shown and practiced it becomes easy to create good habits and get positive attention for the right behavior and your cat will relax and settle into a real relationship versus avoid and hide behavior.

Another useful obedience training strategy is to establish a command that you use to tell your dog to leave a cat alone. Many owners use the command “leave it,” but the most important thing is that your dog understands what “leave it” means before applying it in an aggressive situation.  The reward for “leaving it” must outweigh their desire to interact with the cat, which should be tested with barriers before face to face interactions.

Safety is paramount when you’re training your aggressive dog to behave around cats and other pets. Otherwise, your training sessions could lead to a frightened or injured cat. Keeping your dog on a leash can stop it physically reaching the cat, and you could consider using a gate or crate to create a safe space for your cat and keep your pets separated. Keep your dog on a leash when you’re out and about to prevent dog aggression towards cats if you know your dog is likely to react or has a high prey drive.

Even if your dog has never shown any signs of aggression toward your cat before and they’re best friends, you should always keep an eye on your pets’ interactions and be prepared to separate them at the first signs of trouble. Even the calmest dog could be aggressive towards a cat if the cat is allowed to bother it or if something changes in your home to make it feel threatened.

Most pet owners can tell the difference between their dog’s behavior when they’re play-fighting and true dog aggression. As soon as you notice signs of stress in your dog’s body language, separate the cat from the dog immediately and give them time to calm down. Growling, stiff body posture, still eye glares, lip licking, and shaking are all warning signs that your dog could react in an aggressive manner.  It’s much easier and safer to intervene early and separate the two animals for a few minutes than to try to stop dog aggression towards cats once it’s started. Remaining vigilant can also avert a nasty injury to your cat and prevent the development of hard-to-tackle animosity between dogs and cats.

Get Expert Help from The Dog Wizard

Tackling cat aggression in your dog may appear impossible, but most dogs can learn to live to coexist under the same roof with feline friends and other pets if you use the correct training strategies. Getting support from an expert dog training school like The Dog Wizard can help you handle unwanted behaviors like cat aggression and transform your aggressive dog into a well-behaved canine. A professional dog trainer will work with your dog’s natural temperament to design an effective training program and teach you how to reinforce good behavior at home. No magic involved — just proven, positive training strategies based on dog psychology.