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I know the old cliche of how dogs and cats get along, but my dog Olive (rottie/gsd/husky mix) takes it to a whole new level. Whenever she sees a cat along our daily walks, she goes BALLISTIC. Not growling and barking, but the most horrible high pitched screaming like she’s being murdered. I have to hold her by the harness and literally lift her up so that only her back legs are touching the ground in order to get enough leverage to drag her away from the offending feline. (Note that she is about 65 pounds and I’m a somewhat petite person). She’d definitely kill it if given the chance. The other day she fought so hard to get at a cat that she snapped one of her toenails clean in half on the pavement. Fortunately I’ve mapped out our nearly two mile walk to avoid almost all of the neighborhood cats, but there’s one that just can’t be avoided.
The weird thing is, it’s ONLY cats she reacts this way to. A squirrel goes by and she barely perks her ears in acknowledgement. She loves all dogs, even little ones. A whole herd of deer was at the end of the road one day and she acted like she didn’t even notice them. She will try to drag me after the occasional vulture (there are a lot of vultures around here) but she doesn’t start caterwauling at them the way she does with cats. I don’t understand it. I’ve had her since she was seven weeks old (she’s now approaching her 2nd birthday in the fall) so I know she hasn’t ever had a traumatic history with them or anything.
I have two cats that live inside with me, while Olive is an outside dog of her own choice in a big fenced in backyard (I tried to adjust her to being an inside dog at one point before I got the cats, but she was miserable. She is a high energy dog and needs the room to run around and do her own thing.)
Given this information, does anyone have any ideas of what I can do to calm her down when we come across a cat? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
First two things I would do is get her out of that harness and get a collar on her. If control is an issue, get a prong collar so that you can keep control of her. At least get a martingale collar she cannot slip.
High pitched screaming is typically prey drive and usually it is mingled with nerve.
The reason for her being set off by cats in immaterial. My way of handling this would be to stop her from reacting before she starts.. meaning you have to see the cat first. Every. Time. And then redirect her. Every. Time. Once she starts screaming all is pretty well lost.
The more she is allowed to behave this way the more she will behave this way... because it has been allowed and there have been no consequences. As a result it will be even harder to redirect and reduce the behavior. The biggest thing here is timing. At the first look, ear prick etc. you have to redirect her so you need to be on your toes.