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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some background info: we ment to get a dog trainer to help when we got him as a puppy but then covid has prevented anyone from being willing to help as of yet.
He is a pitbull mix we fostered with his brothers and sisters and my wife fell in love with him. He plays fine with my older dog and when we go on walks the cat follows us. When we are outside the cat and the dogs are fine and all the neighborhood thinks it's adorable that the whole family goes on the walk.

The problem: inside the house he chases cats. And if he catches the cat he whips him around like a ragdoll. We've tried everything and he's gotten better but we can't totally trust him yet.

And we bring him to the dog park alot. Never a problem untill yesterday, a gentleman brought his poor little white bishon terrier thing. Very cute. And she walked up to him and they greeted each other nicely as I warily watched them to supervise. And I was surprised they got along so well. They played for an hour. And then more dogs came and they all played well. Untill all the dogs huddled up in the corner and I watched his face do an instant 180 from play to prey. He grabbed the terrier by the neck and whipped her around like a ragdoll/chew toy.

They played together fine and then this happens. So everything small is prey to him dog or cat. Even if he's good sometimes it's not 100%

How do I completely eliminate/ minimize this problem in his behavior? The prey switch is so fast how do I stop it? We've been lucky he hasn't seriously hurt anything yet.
 

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#1 Don't go to the dog park any more. Only 1 of my last 5 dogs was a suitable dog park dog, and that was at a 17 acre park where the emphasis was on walking rather than playing.

#2 Make sure your cat has places to get away from the dogs. I built some "cat shelves" at my daughter's house so the cat can eat and rest in peace from her two dogs.
263672


#3 Never, ever leave the dog and cat alone together.
 
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I'll be real with you: this is very likely prey drive and 'predatory drift' is a known thing that can happen between dogs, especially when there's a large size difference. It's more likely to happen in play, but as you experienced, it happens extremely quickly and there's rarely time to intervene in the moment.

This dog is not a dog park dog.

That's not a bad thing MOST dogs aren't dog park dogs. MY dogs aren't dog park dogs. Dog parks are chaotic and frequently super high energy spaces that amp everyone up, with very little space for dogs to get away from each other or the action, and it brings out the worst in many dogs. The good news there is that dogs don't need dog-dog play or doggy friends to live a happy, fulfilled life. At the very most, this dog should only be playing or socializing with other dogs of similar size that you know well, whose owners you know well and trust, and that he's been proven to get along with. ESPECIALLY because of his breed, because it will be counted against him should you wind up going to court over him injuring or killing another animal (and that ragdoll shake is absolutely a predatory killing behavior).

The cats are a bigger issue, because they have to live together and this is also not a dog I would ever trust loose with cats - or other small pets - unsupervised. That prey drive is a natural thing, but it's also very hardwired. You can train and train and train for self-control, and see massive improvements, but I would never trust that dog unsupervised with cats. Ideally, you're in a home big enough and laid out in such a way that you can separate them completely. If not, that may mean someone needs to be crated or in a secure room any time the other one is out. Note that I'm saying 'unsupervised,' but I want to emphasize that things can happen when you're watching too. I would definitely not allow high-energy play with the dog when the cat's around, or with the cat when the dog's around. If your cat's the type to take off out of nowhere and zoom around, or actively try to tease the dog... maybe they can't share space at all anymore.

As I alluded to earlier, doing a lot of self-control training and getting super, super good with things like 'watch me' or recall can help mitigate some of this. Games like 'it's yer choice' and Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol can teach a dog to be in better control of themselves and how to wind down when they're too amped up, which 'watch me' and recall, when practiced so much in as many places and situations as possible, can possibly interrupt behavior like staring, tensing, and even chasing if you really work at it. I would absolutely look into the Muzzle Up! Project's website and start working on muzzle training him. But going forward you have to assume that this is not a cat- or small-dog- or other-small-animal- safe dog. Doesn't make him a bad dog, just a dog with lots of those hunting instincts that needs to be managed in a different way.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The cats have their own floor of the house, my cat loves my dog and they cuddle together before we got the puppy with prey drive. The pup with prey drive is okay with the cat on walks just not inside the house. We have basically been doing this holding and petting the cat on the couch with the dog in the room and doing 'leave it' and now the cat can walk by [9times out of 10] without the pup reacting. But basically we're never going to achieve 100% in our house the controlled environment? I don't think we're going to try the dog park again due to so many factors going on
 

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You have been incrediably lucky thus far. It absolutely sounds like prey drive and that ragdoll shake? Can kill in an instant. Faster than a human can react, let alone react in any way that could functionally stop the larger dog in time.

No more dog parks. Ever. No matter how long it has been since the dog showed prey drive towards a cat or small dog, no matter how awesome his "Leave it" command gets. A dog with prey drive who has shown that he will go right to the whip/shake neck move is a risk to other dogs that you have no rights to put them at such risk.

Personally, I would also 100% separate the cat in the home from the dog. If the cat(s) loose upstairs, there should be a solid door (not a baby gate) between the cats and the dog. If the cat is loose downstairs, the dog should be crated.
Only under direct supervision AND with the dog wearing a well fitted and acclimated basket muzzle and a leash would they ever have access to each other.

Like said above, its normal and natural and not that uncommon. It also has nothing to do with any risk of human aggression and only a sometimes/not strong connection with overal dog aggression.

But in a mixed dog/cat household, it means management for everyone's safety.

And for the record my dog, my late male dog and probably half my fosters had medium to high level prey drive /small critter aggression. Eva once killed a large wild rabbit while ON-leash with a reasonably responsible adult human hold on to the other end just 4 feet of slack. One fast lunge, one head shake.
 

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Listen to Shell and DaySleeper. You are right now basically playing Russian Roulette with your cats' lives. This is from someone who was once foolish enough to do the same and still lives with the guilt and regret.
 

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A couple of years ago, I adopted my "dream dog" from the city shelter. I had wanted a Doberman Pinscher for literally 40 years. Within two weeks, he was gone, turned over to a Doberman specific rescue group once I realized that his prey drive was above my pay-grade as a trainer. With three cats, a bird, and an autistic teenager who didn't understand why he couldn't open my bedroom door as I took the dog in and out, it was a tragedy just waiting to happen.
 

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I would be less concerned if the issue was just chasing or rough play, but your dog has shown that he will follow all the way through to the killing part of predatory behavior. His technique isn't quite down, but that is literally the only reason why your cat or that little dog aren't dead right now. The only way to ensure that he never get the technique right is to manage him so he never gets another chance to do it. 9 times out of 10 not reacting isn't good enough. 99 times out of 100 wouldn't be good enough. Because if he keeps having the opportunity to do that ragdoll shake, there's a bigger chance each time it happens that it'll snap a neck or back, leaving you with a dead or seriously injured - possibly dying slowly - cat. It may even be the next time.

I'm not trying to upset you, or paint your puppy as some evil killer, just make sure you know the reality of the situation. Dogs are animals that do animal things, and sometimes that means hunting behavior that makes keeping cats in the same household more challenging. Doable, but challenging. But the consequences of not stepping up to that challenge are severe, especially to your cat.
 

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The dog on dog thing at the dog park.. as said by others.. NO MORE DOG PARKS. Pit mix dogs do not belong at dog parks.

As to the cat thing. You are lucky. He will kill your cat and do it in front of you and have NO remorse. Just because he hasn't outside does not mean he won't. That whipping around like a rag doll is not a game. It is not fun. It is serious stuff.

My dogs and cats get along well. I still NEVER trust a dog loose and alone with a cat.. and I most assuredly would never trust this dog you have around a cat whether I was present of not. It may be cute at times, but a day will come when it will be anything but cute. It will be awful for you and deadly for the cat.
 
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