Cat Chasing

by Olivia Young
(Troy, PA)

How hard is it to break a pup of cat chasing?

I have a 7 month old pit bull. He chases the chickens and cats and we cant get him to stop. He also has been getting protective of his food and eats our other dogs' food and then if they try to get it back he will fight with them. Our dogs are a pug and a beagle/cocker spaniel mix. Are we doing something wrong by yelling at him when he does it? Please help.

Gale's Reply:

Hi Olivia:

Yelling is usually not that effective and depending on your dog's personality, it can erode the trust between you. There are better ways to deal with unwanted behavior.

First of all, prey drive--cat chasing, chicken chasing, etc--is pretty much hard-wired into the canine brain. Some dogs have a higher prey drive than others. And, not all dogs can be trained out of it.

Acclimating a dog to cats and other household animals is easiest when done before the chasing habit is established. So, I'd say you have your work cut out for you. But, it never hurts to try.

Generally, I recommend that owners train the dog in house manners and then bring their cats indoors as described in this article from Bully for You! Barring that you'll need to teach your dog a reliable recall so that he comes to you when called every time. For teaching obedience at home, the program I recommend
is Canis Clicker Training.

It's not easy to call a dog off a chase once he's developed the habit. With patience and consistency, you may be able to do it most of the time. But, in the end, you may decide it's easier and safer to manage the environment to keep cats and chickens out of harm's way.

As to fighting over food with your other dogs, this is something you want to nip in the bud right away before it gets out of hand and someone gets hurt.

The keys to establishing harmony in a household with multiple dogs lie in:
1. Obedience training (which we've already mentioned.)
2. Human leadership--an excellent booklet on this topic is How to Be the Leader of the Pack - And Have Your Dog Love You for It!.

For now, and until your dogs respond reliably to at least a few commands and you've established your leadership role, I suggest you feed them separately. If you've been free feeding--stop.

Put them on a feeding schedule and take up the bowls when they are finished. Keep them separated from one another while they are eating. That way, you are interrupting the destructive behavior and allowing everyone to enjoy their meal in peace.

Good luck. Feel free to post back and let us know how things are going.

For more information on teaching commands, check out our Pit Bull Training page.

For help with behavioral problems, go to our Dog Behavior Training page.

Comments for Cat Chasing

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Jun 24, 2011
Sometimes it's all about management
by: Deb A

Gale is correct - prey drive is pretty much hard wired into dogs. Terriers usually have huge prey drives so getting your dog to stop chasing the chickens and cats could be difficult. The best thing to do is drill in obedience and make sure your dog is tired. Take him for walks, bike rides, use a flirt pole - anything to get him worn out so chasing the small animals is not as needed. Until you're sure that he won't continue chasing them though you MUST contain him and not allow it to happen. Keep him leashed, make a chain spot, keep him inside unless you're there to supervise.

For the food issue again, obedience work will help a LOT. Start working with him on food guarding and also stop feeding all the dogs together! If you are not staying in the room until they're all done eating then crate all the dogs and feed them in their crates. You're asking to have a dead dog if you continue to allow them to scrap over food. Your bully is not even an adult yet and he WILL finish a fight if one starts.

Jun 24, 2011
Obedience & DeSensitizing are the key!
by: Traci in Texas

It is assuming that basic obedience commands of "No" "Stop" and "Leave It" along with slack-leash are solidly in place. Take a Doggie 101 Class with her, if you haven't already!

"Our training method is similar to how a Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD) is trained. The difference is we are training to guard chickens not sheep. So, the demands of this training are a bit easier. All we need the dogs to do is guard a fenced area and to not eat or chase the chickens. Simple right?

Well, as one might imagine, puppies like to chase feathery objects that make interesting sounds, run, flap wings and fly a mere three feet off the ground; what fun. A key factor in the training is to break the association of chicken with fun. It is a sort of socialization process. Here’s how it goes:

Level 1
1. Once house broken, the puppy sleeps in a crate in the chicken coop.
2. The puppy eats meals near the chickens. We do this by feeding the dog next to the chicken coop with the birds near.
3. Chicken chores are done with the puppy tethered to you.
4. No playing is allowed. All other dogs or playmates (children, etc) are not allowed in the area when the puppy is “working” with the chickens.
5. The puppy is not allowed to chase the chickens. Any attempts are corrected with a snap of the leash and a bark-like “NO”.
6. Closely watched bird introductions are done. With the puppy on a leash, we hold a bird and allow the puppy to calmly sniff the bird. Excited attempts to “play” with the bird are reprimanded. We are trying to desensitize the dog to the birds, so this is done a several times.

Once Level 1 is working well – this can take a few weeks - we move to Level 2:

Level 2
Most of Level 1 still applies, except now we try some limited “off leash” interaction with the puppy and birds. All contact must be closely supervised. It is important that the dog is responding to your commands to not pursue the birds. Commands like “NO” and “Leave It” should be understood by the dog. We believe obedience from the dog is the critical factor.

If a chase does begin, one technique used to show your disapproval is to bark a “NO”, take the dog by the scruff of the neck and roll the dog on its side, now glare at the dog. This is similar to how an adult dog reprimands a puppy. As you might notice, for this to work you must be close and watchful of the dog.

Level 2 progresses with more time with the dog with the birds. The goal is for the dog to ignore the birds. No stalking, no excited lunges as birds dart around or fly to a roost, no staring imagining how tasty they might be, nothing. By the end, the dog shouldn’t even look at the birds and it she does she should be reprimanded, LEAVE IT!

So, that’s it. That’s the plan. I think if one can train their dogs along these lines, the dogs can be expect to behave whether the birds are fenced off or free range with the dogs.

Jun 24, 2011
by: Anonymous

I have two pits who are good around all farm animals, but they were never allowed to develop their prey drive. I didn't play tug of war or any game that encouraged them to "Kill" their toys. If they have something and I reach for it, I want them to drop it immediately, not start shaking it and growling.

Also, work on a "leave it" command using the most delicious treats you can come up with. put some treats on the ground (you'll need a leash for this) then when he goes to eat them, pull him away with the leash saying, "leave it" and then give him treats from your hand. work on that with lots of different items until you are able to throw a toy and have him stop mid-way to it and come back to you when you say "leave it". Hopefully, you will reach the point where when he's chasing chickens/cats you can tell him "Leave it" and put a stop to it.

I know it might be controversial and I'm sure there are people on here that think it is abuse, but for the sake of your chickens you might want to put them behind an electric fence. Garden/farm supply centers sell small animal electric fence kits for use around garden plots etc. You will need to have a physical fence (I use 5ft welded wire mesh)to keep the chickens in, then run several strands of electric around the outside perimeter. The fence I use uses the big D batteries and it is really simple to set up. It will only take one or two zaps before he realizes chickens aren't a fun game. If you can't fence the chickens and if all else fails, you could try a remote e-collar, but I would only advise you use that under the supervision of a professional trainer, because you can really screw them up if your timing isn't perfect and consistent. He should think that the chickens are shocking him, not you or the collar itself.

Jun 24, 2011
feeding time
by: Anonymous

When feeding, I make my dogs sit, then I put their bowls down across the room.(in your case feed separately as was mentioned above.)They are not allowed to begin eating until I give them their release command. I can walk out of the kitchen, be gone for a minute and come back and they will still be waiting quietly for their release. The goal is that he never takes anything without permission. You should do this with toys and treats too using a "take it" command.

If he moves towards the bowl, block him with your body and make him sit again (you can use a doorway to help block him if he wants to go around you). Repeat this until he turns his focus from the food bowl to you. Usually you get this exasperated look of "What is your problem?!" That's when you say "ok." or whatever your release word is going to be. You can even sit down with his bowl and feed him one kernal at a time, each time asking him to sit quietly and when he focuses on you (not the food or the bowl), say "okay" and giving him a bite. If he tries to take it without permission, then it goes away and he doesn't get any. This is teaching him self-restraint and that you control the food, making him less focused on the food itself and more focused on you. Right now the food comes from the bowl, so he is highly protective of that bowl. You want him think that the only way to the bowl is through you. If you feel confident that he won't try to bite you, while he's eating you can place a hand over his bowl and drop some treats into it. He should not stiffen up or raise his hackles when you approach his bowl. If he's food aggressive with you, then you need a professional trainer immediately.

Jun 24, 2011
by: Olivia Young

thank you guys for all the comments i will take all of these in consideration

Jun 24, 2011
Ooooh, I like the bowl-guarding tip!
by: Traci in Texas

I love the hand-feeding him from the bowl tip! I have one dog that is a bowl-guarder and she just ended up crated for her meals.

This gives me something to work her with...

I'd never thought about it this way!


Jul 01, 2011
food guarding
by: Anonymous

I have 4 pits, I have a male(5+ yrs old) a 4+ yr old female & then 2 of their pups(the parents were my daughters & when she moved back home with them I told her NOT to let them together EVER while she was in heat but...she didn't listen) so there is a pecking order established MOST of the time & I make sure they KNOW I am the top with love & control. I have always trained all of them that they are being fed by me & that they have to wait til I release the food to them. They wait til their bowl is down & I say OK. I make sure that EVERYONE knows that the others food bowls are off limits to the other & they are to stay away until the other has left the bowl. While they were growing up I'd rub on them & put my hands in their bowls to let them know I can & will mess around with it or them & even take it or just touch it & there is to be no aggression or they don't get it. I still off & on now that the pups are 3 yrs old put my hands in while they eat & mess around with them to make sure there is no guarding or aggression. Sometimes if one finishes 1st they will get near the other to see if there are stray pieces that got out & I reprimand them that they are NOT allowed there. Very rarely do I let them eat without supervision just in case because I don't ever want to have to break up a real battle. As of yet I've only had verbal or little arguments & they will listen to verbal commands to STOP!! They understand what that means & will back off & so far it's never gotten out of hand. I also kind of keep an eye on them when they have bones since one may think the other has one they'd rather have & I make sure they all go to separate parts of the yard to enjoy their treats. But the same with the food I will go & take it or pull it away & mess with it & then give it back to let them know I control what they have & when I say let it go they MUST. When they release whatever I let them know how pleased I am & how good they were & give it back unless I think it's time to keep it for another day of chewing. So far it's worked. I'd start ASAP working on that as the more aggressive at guarding the harder it is to break that. ALWAYS let them know YOU are the boss NOT them. Go before then in & out of the house, yard ect & they not go in until YOU say. THis establishes you as the alpha & lets them know there are boundaries & that YOU control them!! I hope this helps a bit!

Apr 24, 2013
Rescued Cat Chaser
by: Chris F.

I rescued a 9 month old pure bred blue nose pit, from being trained to fight, and beat, and starved everyday; the first night, she tried to attack everything, and eat the cats. What I did is "WITH A LOOSE NEWSPAPER" pop the dogs bottom 3 times when they chase or try to attack the other animals, then kennel the dog for about 15 minutes so that they understand they did something wrong, and that you are mad at them. Then slowly introduce them, by holding the dogs scruff, "gently pull the skin behind their head, WITH 2 FINGERS, this is so that they do not bite you because that is ONE of the pitbull's trigger points; lead their heads to the animal and gently shake if they try to pull from you, again GENTLY. If the pit's JAW QUIVERS, its ok, it means one of 2 things. The PIT is excited about a smell, or its a dental problem, and needs to see a vet, nothing bad for the other animals. Repeat as needed, from step one with the newspaper, and remeber, the PITBULL is a SEMI-dangerous breed, depending on the training, that means nothing bad, but if you YELL, OR SMACK, OR SHOW ANY AGGRESSION, PREPARE TO BE ATTACKED. IF and thats IF you train the right way, for this, its like an older brother thing, if i pick on them its ok, (meaning playing) but if someone else does, such as an outside dog, then the PIT will protect any of your animals

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