Ask the Trainer |
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — Dear Carla,
We have two cats and just rescued dog named Felix. We adopted him about two weeks ago and the shelter estimated that he is about 3 years old. Felix loves to chase our cats. It doesn’t seem like he wants to hurt them, he just wants to play. How can we teach him not to chase them?
Many dogs have a hard-wired instinct to chase prey and many cats will run from danger, creating a perfect set-up for a game of chase.
Until you have gained control of the situation, you may want to create an easy place for the cats to escape. A tall cat tree or a door held open by a short chain so only the cats can fit through it will help.
Your first job is to be sure that Felix gets ample amounts of exercise. A dog with excess energy will look for any way to let off steam. Next, you will need to teach him some cues in order to more easily gain control of this situation.
Cue No. 1: The Name Game
The goal of this exercise is that your dog will always look at you when you say his name. If your dog will look at you, the odds increase that he will follow the next cue you give. It also helps him understand when you are talking to him.
1. Say the dog’s name in a pleasant voice
2. Quickly give the dog a treat.
3. Repeat this process 10-15 times, several times per day for a couple days.
4. To test and see if your dog has formed a positive association with his name, wait until his attention wanders and then say his name in a pleasant voice. If he turns to look at you, he has it! If not, go back to step 3 and do repetitions.
Cue No. 2: Leave it
The ultimate goal of teaching this cue is to be able to tell your dog to “leave it” once and they immediately turn away from whatever they are starting to engage.
5. Say “leave it” as you hold up a particularly tasty hard treat, then place the treat on the floor, under your foot to protect it.
6. Let your dog sniff, lick, dig, and nibble at your shoe. At the split second the dog stops sniffing, licking, or looks away for even a second (even if by accident), say “yes” and feed a treat from your hand.
7. Repeat this exercise until he starts to purposely look at you or turn away from the treat under your foot. At this point, move your foot away slightly to uncover the treat … but be prepared to cover it up the instant the dog starts to move toward it. Say “yes” when he looks away or toward you.
8. When you are done with the session, pick the treat up off the floor and feed another treat from your hand.
9. Continue the exercise with toys or other objects he loves.
10. Put him on a leash and say “leave it” when the cat walks into the room. Feed generously when he looks at you and away from the cat.
The ultimate goal is be able to say “Felix” and “Leave it” when he sees one of the cats and have him turn toward you instead of chasing them.
If you are having trouble getting his attention, use better treats and gradually add distractions. It will take quite a bit of practice, so don’t get discouraged. The goal is a peaceful home where pets and humans can relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.