Create a safe and controlled training environment. During training sessions it's best to have the cat in a carrier (since the cat's natural inclination to run can intensify the dog's natural inclination to chase). Position the carrier to one side of a large room. Bring the dog into the room, on-leash, and lead him/her to a dog bed on the opposite side of the room. Feed high value treats while your dog is sitting or lying down calmly on the dog bed. Body block any attempt he/she makes to move towards the cat. The goal is to desensitize the dog to the cat, and vice versa. Expect to repeat this desensitization session (10-20 minutes in length) on a nightly basis for 3-10 days, or until both cat and dog seem relaxed in each other's presence. At this point you can have a helper open the carrier door while you continue to reinforce the dog (still on leash) for remaining calmly on his bed. It's always best if the cat chooses to approach the dog. For cats that were never properly socialized with dogs as kittens this may take some time -- be patient. Note: Do not attempt to walk the dog up to the carrier to sniff as this will most likely intensify your cat's fear, and your dog's excitement.
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Keep the dog and cat in separate rooms when you are not training. The desensitization process will take substantially longer if the cat spends its days hiding from the dog, and the dog spends its days searching frantically for the cat. This unsupervised interaction is also dangerous for both animals. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Consult a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for additional help.
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Written by Alyssa Lapinel, CPDT
Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Behavior Specialist