Making a dog cat-safe

I have five dogs and two cats. Since I adopted the airedale, Ruffian, I’ve kept her separated from my cats, crating her at night and letting the cats out of their half of the house so the cats can have one on one time with me. However Grace, the newest dog, a doberman dumped near my farm, won’t sleep apart from me. She barks and whines all night long until I let her in. The other day, Ruffi and Grace took after one of my cats. The airedale shook him and injured him. Nick is doing better, but I need to know if there’s any way to train them not to chase. My other dogs don’t give the cats any problems and the cats are relaxed around them. I want to have Nick to be a barn cat, but I don’t want to risk having him injured. I know terriers tend to be highly prey-driven, but I’ve never had a dobe that didn’t get along with cats. It could be the incident was an example of pack behaviour, with one dog setting off the other, but I don’t want a repeat of it.

My house is plenty big for them each to have their own space, but I worry that the cats aren’t getting the attention they deserve. I’d like us all to be one big happy family.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


Training a dog not to chase cats is a hard one, especially with a dog who isn’t content just to chase. You’re probably going to need to work with a trainer and maybe a behaviorist on this one, and you may ultimately have to rehome the terrier and maybe the Dobie.

Whoa! Thats a tough one. I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but getting the predator out of an animal is extremely difficult. Do you know anyone without cats who could adopt your pooch?

Hi there,

That’s one thing - in my years of dog training and consulting - that I have hardly ever seen “fixed”. Some dogs, especially sight hounds and terriers, have strong prey and dispatch drive. Though many seem to learn to cohabitate with cats, it really does depend on how introductions are done and how the cat actually responds.

In many cases, it’s better to introduce them from the getgo, while closely supervised, and to correct the dog if it “catches the cat” (teaching it it’s NOT OKAY to grab kitty by the neck and shake him, before he even gets the chance to get further than “I am about to put my teeth on the cat”…) What it sounds like is happening is that right now you have given the dogs an interractive toy to chace, pounce, and shake like dogs do with their stuffed toys. More often than not, cats do “strike back” when introduced properly - curious dog will go up to stationary “I am the KIIIIING” cat and get a good swipe on the nose. That often settles it right there.

You may want to re-try introductions all over again. Find a quiet, contained room where kitty likes to be. Take the dogs on leash, out of the house, bring them back in and go into that room. Let the cat do what he wants. The minute the dogs show interest in the cat, let get them closer… too much interest is a “NO!”, etc…

It can take a LONG time, and I would never again trust the dogs alone with the cat when you’re not there to supervise what’s going on.

Wufs from us all,

Elly and the NoFair Household Dawgs

I have to agree that the ‘peaceable kingdom’ model may not be one you can establish with this particular mix of dogs.

If you can, check out pages 58 and 59 of Lee Livingood’s book, “Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies.” It outlines a good technique for introducing a new dog to a cat - even though these pets have already been together, starting over like they’ve not met and letting the dogs know what you expect in terms of their behavior is a good starting point (just like Elenfair already said).

You do say, though, that you want Nick to be a barn cat - if he’s going to be outside, all bets may be off, because often a dog that won’t bother an indoor cat will chase and kill an outdoor one. A cat can put a good hurtin’ on a dog too. If these were my pets, at the very least I’d make sure they were very safely separated when I wasn’t around to supervise, and very closely supervised when they are around each other. Both dogs would be muzzled when around the cat too, until/unless I was quite sure they weren’t going to kill the cat. In the the end it may be better to rehome either the dobe or the airedale, for everyone’s happiness and safety.

Thanks, everyone, for your ideas. Rehoming isn’t an option for me. But I can continue to keep them separated (the cats have about 900 sq ft with windowsills to sit in and seem pretty happy) and I’ll just have to acclimate Grace to sleeping in the diningroom with Ruffi in her crate. As long as the cats have me at night, things should be okay. Part of the problem is one of my cats has always had more of a flight instinct than fight. She freaks when she sees Ruffi (because of past chasing) and that just makes Ruffi want to chase her more. I’ve managed to have Nick and Ruffii in the same room peacefully, but that only works if Nick acts like he doesn’t care about the dogs at all. If Nick runs, Ruffi’s going to chase him.

Ruffi is my first ever terrier. She’s totally different from the dogs I’ve had before. I was surprised that the dobie wouldn’t back off, even when told. Usually they’re so eager to do just what you want. But I guess each dog is an individual.

Thanks again for your advice.


I recommend joining the Doberworld list. Every so often there’s a dog vs cat thread that gets a healthy discussion. Unfortunately there aren’t archives so I can’t just point you there.

That’s EXACTLY what happened when we introduced our new dog to the house cat. Dog stepped up to the cat, thrust her nose at her to get a good wiff and was promptly batted with an extended claw. Never had a problem after that.