You haven’t got a good sleep since the day when you adopted a dog in your family. It seems that he keeps barking at your poor cat every now and then and this is driving you nuts.
When your dog barks at your cat, it could only be 2 possibilities. He finds the cat interesting and wants to play with him, or he finds the cat to be of threat to him (who will steal your attention from him or invade his territories).
Of course, you can certainly use your dog’s barking tone and body language to determine his reaction – excitement or aggressiveness.
To stop your dog from barking at your cat, you will need to address his triggers, such as being too excited, bored or dominant. Work on helping him to release his pent-up energy and redirect his attention to you when he is barking through obedience training. Also, make your dog get used to the cat’s scent.
Looking for ways to make your dog and cat LIVE in HARMONY is certainly a MUST.
Your Dog Is Too Excited Or Bored
Your dog is getting too excited and wants to make friends with your cat, or he simply wants the cat to play with him as he is too bored!
Barking is his way to say “Hello” to the cat since that’s the usual communication channel for him.
The way to address his over excitement or boredom is to make him engage in some physical and mental simulation exercise to help him release his pent-up energy.
There is a saying that “A tired dog is a GOOD dog” and that couldn’t be truer.
Your Dog Is Too Dominant
Your dog sees the cat as a potential threat, invading his territory. This is usually a sign of territorial behavior.
He might also feel that the cat is getting more affection and attention from you and he is getting jealous of that.
The way to address this is to start your dog on socialization training.
Socialization will help your dog to interact and react well to various stimuli (such as seeing a cat) in a calm manner.
Help Him Release His Pent-Up Energy
You see, dogs like to bark and chase after small furry animals such as cats, in particular if they are full of pent-up energy.
So do make sure that you provide an outlet for your dog to let off that excessive energy in his body and that would certainly help to calm him down.
I would suggest that you plan for some physical exercises and mental simulation games for your dog daily. The goal is to make him tired so that he will no longer be interested in the cat that is right in front of him.
Some common physical games ideal for dogs (especially those hyperactive ones) are Tug Of War, Frisbee and Flirt Pole. You can go for either one to play with your dog to help him release his energy.
For me, I actually love playing bubble games with my dog as he loves chasing those small bubbles floating in the air and that can really drain out lots of his energy. You can consider playing this game as well with your dog.
Do not overlook the needs for mental simulation as well. Any activity that needs to utilize brain power can make your dog get tired easily.
Think of the time when you are learning new things. Do you feel extremely tired after trying to “absorb” all the new theories into your brain?
This applies to your dog as well. Getting him to engage in games that need his thinking will make him tired.
So plan for some mental simulation games for your dog such as Puzzle games, playing Hide and Seek with you or giving him a KONG toy stuffed with some treats for him to figure out how to get the treats out from the toys.
For me, I would also love to perform some obedience training for my dog as part of his mental simulation exercise.
This training will require my dog to make use of his brain power to learn and execute my commands.
Redirect His Attention To You
Your dog is barking at your cat because he wants to play with her. What you can do is to distract his attention from the cat to YOU.
You would want him to associate that it is going to be much more rewarding focusing his attention on you than barking at the cat.
And the way to do this is to entice him with some irresistible high value treats that he would not be getting in his normal meals.
Go for some meat type of treats such as chicken, salmon or turkey as they are certainly going to be very tempting for your dog.
This is how you can train your dog to react CALMLY when facing your cat:
1. Get your cat to be about 3 meters away from your dog and is within his sight of view.
2. As your dog starts to bark at your cat, use your hand to divert his attention to you.
3. The very moment he looks at you, mark that action using a clicker and offer him the high value treat.
4. This is to let him feel that you are much more rewarding than barking at the cat and help him to associate that action with a positive experience.
5. Keep repeating this training till your dog at his own will, looks at you when he sees the cat. This will be the behavior that you hope to achieve from your dog, that is, to ignore the cat.
6. To increase the challenge, bring the cat closer to your dog (about 1 meter) and carry out the training again.
7. As the stimuli (cat) gets closer to your dog, you would find that it’s going to be much more difficult getting him to focus on you as the lovely moving cat is just too tempting.
8. What you can do is to stand in between the cat and your dog and hold the high value treat near his nose and as he stops his barking and looks at you, press the clicker and give him the treat.
9. You would need to carry out this training for quite some time before you can move away and let your dog face the cat in a very short distance without him getting over excited.
Through positive reinforcement, your dog will gradually learn that it’s going to be more fun and rewarding focusing on you than the cat.
It’s all DRILL down to Obedience Training
You see, just like you can’t tell a fish not to swim, it’s part of the natural instinct for a dog to bark and give chase to his prey. There is certainly NO way that you can take away that prey drive from your dog.
However, what you can do is to go over some key fundamental principles of obedience training with your dog to help him behave himself.
The training is to manage the situation such as when your dog is barking at the cat and you tell him “Hey, stop that, this is NOT allowed!” and he follows your instructions obediently.
Of course, you would have to associate something GOOD will happen when he follows your instruction.
In the initial training, you can make use of some high value treats and to slowly replace it with just praise and petting him as a form of reward.
Some useful obedience commands that you should train your dog include “leave it” and “place”.
Use the “leave it” command when you want your dog to stop engaging in anything that he is doing, which in this case is the barking behavior.
“Place” command. This command basically works by getting your dog to go to his targeted area such as his crate or couch.This will help to decompress his prey drive over the cat.
So the way to use these command will be:
1. Have your cat be in the living room.
2. Then you lead your dog to the same room.
3. If you see your dog start to react to the cat, use the command “leave it”. If you had conditioned your dog to react positively to the “leave it” command during the obedience training, he would stop his barking.
4. And in case your dog’s body language shows that he is still very excited despite having stopped his barking, you can use the “place” command to make him go to your designated area to “cool” him down.
Introduce Your Dog To Cat’s Scent
Your dog might be barking or even attacking your cat as he finds an unfamiliar scent in the house.
This might be the case when you haven’t PROPERLY introduced your cat to your dog.
You see, your dog possesses a sensitive sense of smell and could easily pick up scent from far away (even if you hide your cat in another room).
Thus, it’s important that you do the proper groundwork and gradually introduce your cat’s scent to your dog before their first meeting.
This is how you can do it:
1. Bring your cat to your bedroom to play with her for 15 minutes while keeping your dog in another room.
2. Then bring your cat out from your bedroom and lead your dog to the same room to play with him for 15 minutes. Do not allow your dog and cat to see each other.
3. The goal is to make your dog smell the scent of your cat in your bedroom and gradually make him get used to the smell.
4. Do this for 2 days before you let your dog and cat meet up for the first time.