Kane: Cat Aggression Case Study
Dogs and cats are not known to be instant best friends. The personalities of these two species are very distinct and different: dogs are very loyal, companion-based, and thrive from affection and attention, whereas cats are much more independent and aloof. Still, dogs and cats can get along just fine, and can have very loving relationships.
This isn’t to say that dogs and cats are meant to be best friends. With some dogs and cats, the relationship is based more on tolerance and respect, rather than companionship and love. There’s nothing wrong with this. As a dog trainer in St. Louis that has worked with many inter-species families, the only issue I would see if there was a lack of boundaries between the dog and cat, or if there was some aggression occurring.
Aggression is always a serious matter, and even though cartoons might have taught us that a dog viciously chasing after a cat is normal, this is not something we should allow. Many people’s perspectives on this cat/dog dynamic change often times when it’s THEIR cat and/or dog in question!
Back in October, a woman named Gretchen called about her dog, Kane, who attacked her new cat. The cat, Ollie, was in his third day of adoption and acclimating into his new home. At first, Kane displayed natural curiosity for his new feline sibling, and like most cats, Ollie avoided the dog and would hiss or swat if Kane approached to closely. Then after too many hisses and swats, Kane went after Ollie. Luckily, the damage was minimal, but that was a wake up call for Gretchen as a pet owner.
Kane was known for having a high prey drive, but in the past it seemed limited to squirrels and rodents. Kane’s behavior to Ollie was linked to his prey drive, but the main issue was his lack of obedience and respect for boundaries. When I met the family at their initial in-home consultation, I saw that Kane was basically king of the home. Along with his cat aggression, he had a myriad of other behavioral issues, and Gretchen had very little control of her dog.
When a dog shows aggression toward cats, it is not something we should just accept. Dogs that have cat aggression can be trained to show impulse control and to not act out violently. A dog’s prey drive is part of their instinct, and as a trainer, it is not my job to take their instinct away. Instead, it is about instilling consistent leadership within the owner, and also setting the dog up for success and learning what is appropriate behavior.
Aggression is a tricky issue, but it change can be achieved! In Kane’s case, we had to get back to the basics and show him that his owner was in charge, not him. Once he understood that and understood what Gretchen needed him to do, he began to calm down. Subsequently, we also worked on Kane’s impulse control and desensitization training, which when applied consistently, helped Kane to improve on his cat behavior. Today, Kane and Ollie aren’t BFF’s, but there is peace in the household, and there’s more of a bond between compared to before. Better yet, Gretchen also felt closer to her pets, as the training helped build a relationship based on love and trust!
If your dog is showing cat aggression, or any aggression problems, check out my aggressive dog training programs here in St. Louis, and give me a call at 314.627.5544 to get training started ASAP!