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Why Do Dogs Chase Cats?
And How to stop it!

Why do dogs chase cats? We can't really ask the hound this question but understanding this dog behavior might give us clues. Canines are predatory animals and if they perceive a cat as a potential prey they will chase it. It could also be that they simply want to play.

Why do dogs chase cats: Predatory behavior

To answer the question "why do dogs chase cats?" the first thing is to understand that chasing is a natural dog behavior. That's one of their ancestral ways of getting food!

Dogs were domesticated by humans about 12 thousand years ago (rough estimate). What were dogs doing before this happen? They had to survive on their own chasing and catching small prey, they were probably scavengers as well (that's why most dogs will eat anything!).

The hunting behavior was very important to their survival so it has been "wired" in their brain. We call it "prey drive". This means that the behavior is partly controlled by genetics, they will perform this behavior when the right cue appears (something to chase), even if they do not need food (because you feed them twice a day!).

Why is prey drive still so strong in animals after 12 thousand years of domestication? Because this amount of time is usually not enough to see evolutionary changes. Nevertheless humans have bred some dogs for certain purposes, like herding or pointing. What breeding has done in this cases is to slightly change the chasing behavior. Herding dogs will …well, herd…animals instead of chasing them to kill them. Pointer dogs will stop and point at the sight of prey.

Understanding that prey drive is part of who your dog is helps us accept our dogs better. However, it is important to teach your hound to respond to your commands in any situation, no matter how fun it would be to chase that cat. This could save your pooch's life as well as the cats!

Play behavior in dogs

cartoon cat and dog by Dog Training Excellence

Another answer for the question "why do dogs chase cats?" lies in play behavior.
Does your dog like to play fetch? Does he like to chase other dogs at the park? most hounds do like it, why? because it is like chasing prey! The game  gives them a rush of adrenaline just as if they were really hunting.

When dogs play they (usually) do not try to hurt the one being chased. They take short breaks or switch roles (let the other chase him!). The problem is that most cats do not like to be chased by dogs, specially if they do not know each other!

To prevent chasing, you need to teach your canine friend to respond to you when you do not want him to go after a cat (or anything else for that matter). Start with basic dog obedience training like sit, down and stay. As your furry friend improves keep adding more difficult commands.

Stop your dog chasing behavior!

The following are beginner to advance obedience commands to help you keep your hound from chasing. It will take time for you and your dog to master them, in the mean time use management. Prevent your dog from chasing cats by walking him on a leash and being alert during walks.

I suggest you teach your pet these key commands to prevent chasing or stop him in mid-chase. Click on each link for step-by-step instructions on how to teach these commands to your pet:

  1. Ask for permission: This is not a command, but a constant requirement. When your dog wants to do something, anything… (play with other dogs, get a little far away from you to smell something, greet another dog or person, etc.) he should first look at you for permission!
  2. Come when called: This is one of the most important commands you will teach your pet. You must be patient and go slowly. Your dog must succeed most of the time to learn this properly.
  3. Wait: This can be a useful command. When given your hound must stop and wait for you to catch up. It can be used while on walks or simply to prevent him from rushing out the door.
  4. Leave-it: A must! When trained properly it will help you prevent your dog from grabbing things from the floor or chasing cats!
  5. Remote signals: When your pooch chases something he usually gets far away from you. Teaching him to respond to commands at a distance could be helpful.
  6. Flying drop: This is a really advanced behavior. The idea is for your dog to stop and lie down in the middle of a run or chase!

Let us know your story! And I welcome your comments, suggestions or questions.

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