How To Tell If A Dog Is Aggressive Towards Cats And Other Animals

how to tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats

Do you know how to tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats and other animals?  Have you ever run into a situation where your dog was acting aggressive in the presence of other animals?  I know I have.  Dogs are territorial by nature and sometimes this can manifest itself as aggressive behavior towards the people and animals around them.

In this article I would like to break down why dog’s act this way towards cats and other animals.  I would also like to touch on a few methods to train this behavior out of them.  Every dog is going to be a bit different due to their own personality and breed type.  Lets take a look at some of the more general issues first.

>>New to Dog Ownership?  Looking for a handy guide to help train your pup up?  Check this out.<<

Why Is My Dog Aggressive Towards Cats?

It can be hard to tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats right off the bat.  You will usually need some form of interaction with the animals to determine how they are going to act in the first place.  As stated above, dogs are territorial by nature.  This is a part of their genetic makeup.  With that being said, most times aggression in your dog is more a matter of upbringing and personality then anything else.

Dogs can have many different reasons for acting in a certain way but most of those can be trained out over time.  If you provide your dog with the right overall structure and schedule, an introduction to a new animal like a cat should pose very little threat to them.  One of the main reasons dogs will act aggressively towards cats has to do with their fear of change in general.  Cats are foreign to them and bring with them new smells and sights.  This can trigger a dog to over react to what they perceive as a threatening situation.

What Triggers Aggression In Dogs?

Dogs will have many different triggers that could cause them to lose it and get aggressive.  With that being said, lets take a look at some of the more common triggers that can cause a dog to get aggressive in any situation.

  • Unrecognized Smell:  Dogs are very reactive to smells.  An unfamiliar scent combined with a strange animal can cause aggressive behavior to be triggered.
  • Instigating Behavior:  I’m specifically referring to the animal other than the dog messing with said dog.  So for example, a cat blocking a dog’s path out of a room may cause the dog to get aggressive.
  • Forced Introduction:  What happens here is the dog and cat are forced to come together before they are ready to be that close to one another.  This could spark aggressive behavior in one or both of the animals.

What Are Some Common Signs Of Aggression In Dogs?

Aggression can be shown through many different actions in our furry little friends.  Here are a few of the more noticeable signs of aggression in dogs towards cats and other animals.

  • Growling:  Growling is the first warning sign that a dog will give to others that it is uncomfortable.  This is a good cue to take from your dog.  Find the reason why they are uncomfortable and attempt to resolve it.  More on this below.
  • Staring:  Some dogs won’t growl.  Instead, they will stare at the source of their stress.  This largely depends on the dog.
  • Chasing:  Dogs will sometimes chase the animal that is the source of the aggression.  This is usually preceded by growling or barking.
  • Barking:  This is a warning sign that dogs will give out.  Barking can be interpreted as an alert as well as an aggressive act.  Usually this is one of the first things a dog will do when bothered or startled by something.
  • Biting:  A dog biting or snapping at another animal such as a cat is a definite sign of aggression.  They will usually do this as a last resort or if they feel their personal space is being invaded.

what are some common signs of aggression in dogs

Stopping Aggressive Actions From Dogs Towards Cats And Other Animals

So we have now identified some of the triggers and warning signs that tell us when a dog is upset and getting aggressive.  The question is, how do we discourage this activity and give them the tools they need to respond better?  There are two main methods I would like to discuss.  First, is introduction therapy and second is a strong training routine.

Introduction Therapy

For this method we are going to introduce our dog and cat in stages. This is ideally more geared for animals that are going to be living with each other for a prolonged period of time.  Follow these steps and see if there is any improvement.

  1.  Bring the cat into your living space and give them their own area separate from the dog to get used to.
  2. Start gradually introducing the animals to each other for longer and longer periods of time.  You want to do this by using a screen or glass door ideally.  Place the dog on one side and the cat on the other.  This will allow the dog to see and respond to the cat gradually on their own terms. Do this for a few days then move to the next step.
  3. Take the animals to a more neutral area like a garage or basement and allow them to explore the same space together.  They should be familiar enough with each other by this point to not be openly hostile.  You may still have to pull the dog away if he starts getting triggered.  Continue this until they can co exist in the same area without becoming openly aggressive.
  4. Reintroduce them into the house environment and keep an eye on them moving forward.

Behavioral Training

For this method we are going to be looking at having our dog trained and responsive to our commands from the onset.  By establishing a firm training method, your dog will be able to develop the tools needed to deal with all types of anxiety or stress producing situations.  Anxiety and stress are usually some of the main reasons dogs get aggressive towards cats in the first place.

Lets talk about a few of the more common training techniques and how they can help with dog aggression.

Crate Training

Crate training is a great resource when it comes to dog training in general.  There are many advantages to using this technique.  Crate training is one of the most powerful ways to establish a private, safe area for your dog.  It is also a great way to get them on a schedule for house breaking as well.

How does this help with aggression?  The main thing you are doing here is establishing a strong training foundation for you to build on and increase your dog’s ability to be obedient.  Crate training also helps a dog get used to coping with stress on their own without you to reassure them.  This can help with all sorts of stressful situations including introduction to new animals like cats.

Tether Training

This is hands down my favorite way to train any new pup I work with.  The training method is simple but incredibly effective.  The basic idea behind this technique is to keep your dog with you on a leash at all times for the first several months of dog ownership.  During this time, you can get used to the dogs personality and mannerisms.  This will allow you to determine how they react to certain issues and how you can best help them respond in the future.

Let me give you a quick example of how this method works…

  • Go get an 8-10 Ft leash.
  • Attach it to your dog and keep them with you all day.  When you are not able to directly supervise them, hand them off to someone who can or crate them.  This method works great in conjunction with crate training by the way.
  • As you have your dog with you, take the time to observe them periodically.  You will soon get to understand their personality and way of thinking.  You will notice things like body language and how they act when they are hungry, need to go out, etc.
  • Alternatively,  your dog will also get to know you.  They will watch how you react to situations and soak up all this information like a sponge.
  • Introduce some basic command word training (Guide here if needed)
  • Rinse and repeat daily for a few months

Once this has been implemented you will be able to notice how your dog gradually improves over time.  Their temperament may change for the better as well.  At the very least, they will respond better to stressful situations.  This method can also be used on dogs of any age.  It will take longer to train up an older dog but it is still viable to accomplish.

how to tell if a dog is being aggressive towards cats

A Few Tips To Help Your Dog Get Along With Cats

Personality Traits

Some dogs and cats just won’t get a long.  This is very similar to people in a way.  If the two animals personalities are constantly at odds, its going to be hard for the animals themselves to get along.  You can go a long way with training but animals can have bad days just like humans.  One of the main responses could be aggression or frustration in this case.

If you find that your dog isn’t getting along with a particular cat, the best option might just be to keep the two separate.

Exercise Your Dog!

I can’t stress this one enough.  Dog’s need an appropriate amount of exercise.  With the proper amount of exercise, dogs slow down their thinking processes and they are able to respond better to outside variables like a cat or kitten.  This is also one of the key reasons its a good idea to exercise a dog before training them each day.  Burn off a little bit of that excess energy and your dog will focus up all the better.

The Power Of The Nose

I’ve used this tip several times when introducing a cat and dog to the same living environment.  The idea here is to allow the dog to smell some of the cats toys and sleep area before a face to face interaction with the animals.  This will allow your dog to get used to the scent before he has additional stimulus to deal with during the introduction.

Keep Food/Play Areas Divided

It can be easy to tell if your dog is aggressive towards cats when it comes to food.  This is really more for pet owners who are introducing a new cat or dog to the living environment.  I highly recommend keeping the animals food and play areas completely separate from one another.  Once they have had some time to acclimate it may be ok to combine the areas again but definitely not at first.  One of the main areas that dogs will be territorial over is their food bowl.  If they sense a cat sneaking up on them while they are eating, all bets are off.  Keeping these areas divided allows the animals to get used to each other without adding that additional stress.

Raise Your Dog With A  Cat

This is a very specific scenario and will not apply to the general dog cat aggression metric.  In this case, you are raising the dog and cat together at the same time.  This means that they will grow into adulthood together.  There may be a few fights here or there but the animals will become accustomed to each other much faster this way.

How To Tell If A Dog Is Aggressive Towards Cats Summarized

We have covered a lot of ground in the past few sections including how to tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats.  We have learned about triggers and different kinds of aggressive behaviors dogs will use towards cats.  Identifying these stressors before they become full blown aggressive behavior is ideal but not always possible.  A key piece of advice to take with you is to train your dog based on their personality, not their breed. This will help in all types of situations including aggressive behavior.  Knowing how your dog is going to react to a potential stress point before they encounter it will be very beneficial for you in the long run.

Now the we have answered the question of how to tell if a dog is aggressive towards cats, I have a question for you.  Are you new to dog ownership?  Looking for a guide to help train up your pup without spending thousands on pet trainers? Check out this training guide to get you started!



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