How to Stop a Dog From Chasing Cats
How to get your dog to love your cat through clicker training
Owning a dog equipped with a very strong prey drive may make it almost impossible for it to successfully co-habitat with cats. This is where human intervention is the key to stop this unpleasant and unwanted behavior. Chasing cats indeed is a very undesirable hobby that may cause a cat to become terrorized, injured and even potentially killed. However, more often than not, humans may be clueless on how to redirect the dog's behavior and stop him from chasing poor kitty in the tracks. The answer to such plea, may be as simple as clicker training.
Clicker training is basically what the words suggest: training with a clicker. A clicker is a small device that produces a distinct clicking sound to which dogs appear to instinctively respond to. Unlike several other aversive training methods, clicker training mainly focuses on positive reinforcement. Basically, there is no pain, fear, or stress in clicker training and best of all dogs appear to respond quickly and with enthusiasm.
Initially introduced by marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor, the main advantage of clicker training is that this method of training works both to the the pet 's and owner's advantage. By using rewards, dogs enjoy the training and look forward to it, whereas the owners will get their pet's attention putting them up for success.
It is in a dog's nature and animals in general to have an instinct to associate actions with pleasant or unpleasant consequences. When clicker training a dog, these actions are recorded in the pet's mind, and depending on the consequence, the pet may be more likely or unlikely to perform the action.
Applying clicker training in dog with a strong prey drive that causes him or her to chase cats, the dog learns to redirect his attention to something else whilst being rewarded for the attention. It is very easy to start clicker training a dog, all that is needed is a dog, a clicker and some tasty rewards.
One important factor to consider is that dogs appear to respond better when they are on an empty stomach and are offered high value rewards. This is why dog trainers often advise their clients to bring their dogs to the training ring on an empty stomach. With the feeling of an empty stomach more likely than not comes a strong desire to please the owner when the dog is lured with tasty treats.
High value treats are not your ordinary treats, this is why they are called high value. A very popular treat used by dog trainers world wide are freeze dried liver treats. These can be ordered online or they may be found in some large pet retail stores. As an alternative something the dog is not fed on a daily basis but that the dog may crave greatly will be helpful. Some of these high value treats may be slices of cooked hot dogs, cheese, pieces of steak or slices of grilled chicken.
It all starts by introducing the dog to the clicker. You will allow the dog to sniff the clicker. Then you will click it, every time you get the dog's attention you may praise and give a treat. Soon the dog will learn to associate the clicking sound with a prize so it will be eager to look at you for the treat. After allowing the dog to respond to the clicker in more and more distracting situations, the dog is ready to be clicker trained to avoid the cat.
A quiet area usually works best and the dog should be leashed. The cat should be released from a room but it should not be allowed to escape as of yet. You want to put up the dog for success so you do not want to expose him right away to the cat running and have him fail by chasing. Rather, let the cat come out of the room and have somebody try to keep the cat calm.
As soon as the dog starts staring at the cat, you should click and the dog should be praised and given a treat. In order to work, the praise and treat should come right as soon as the dog focuses on the click. Let too many seconds pass by and the dog no longer knows why you are praising him or her for.
If the dog does not respond to the click it could be because the cat is too close. Try to repeat with the cat at a farther distance. Then as the dog appears to respond to the click, try to allow the cat to get closer. After several days, the dog should have learned that the clicker is a much more interesting device than paying attention to the cat. Success occurs when the dog is no longer interested in chasing the cat and no longer stares at the cat as prey.
The great part of clicker training, is that the dog will be gradually conditioned to repeat a determined action (in this case, refraining from chasing the cat) in order to get a reward. The dog's collaboration, in intentionally making this decision in exchange for a reward, is known as ''operant conditioning''. The dog will be basically avoiding the cat because he or she has a specific purpose in mind: obtaining the reward. Your dog at this point will become very collaborative, confident and even enthusiastic because it is at his advantage whereas you will have successfully solved the problem. It is ultimately overall a win win situation where, dog, owner and the cats get to succeed.
*Disclaimer: not all dogs will respond well to clicker training as some dogs have very strong prey drives. Generally, these are breeds that have been bred throughout the years to hunt prey, therefore prey drive is inherited deep in their genes. While clcker training may reduce prey drive, it always recommended to always supervise dogs and cats when left alone.
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