by Olivia Young
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.
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
For help with behavioral problems, go to our Dog Behavior Training