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Just Say No

Hi John, Saturn is my 2-year-old Chihuahua and from day one has wanted to chase my cats – which I have 4 of. 1 out of the 4 she enjoys “play fighting” with. She is absolutely relentless. Every day we probably tell her “NO!” 20-50 times when she goes after him. The cats squeals, screams and kicks back, but obviously not enough to tell the dog to bugger off.

If any cat goes near her bones, chews or food, Saturn charges and will out right snap and bite the cats to get them away-no marks or blood though, but plenty of racket and chaos.

It’s to the point that all our cats are afraid of her except the one that gets picked on. How do I get her to just ignore the cats?


Dear Sandy, Most Chihuahuas that catch a cat would normally end up stumbling away licking their wounds correctly thinking, “I do believe that cat let me catch him!” Your cat is either short on legs or brain cells or big into masochism but if the cat is enjoying himself I guess who are we to judge?

Whatever the chemistry between these two, there are the other cats to consider. If you want it to stop you have to realize that if a dog can’t be caught, it can’t be taught. Dog math is simple. When Dog A can consistently get to Cat B before Human C can get to Dog A then in Dog A’s mind, Dog A = The Teacher. So the first thing is to have your dog start dragging a leash around in the house.

The leash will serve several purposes. The obvious one if you happen to be a cat is the human will start winning the race to the cat. However the main purpose for the leash is so that you can start teaching and winning in scenarios a little less stimulating then these regular mixed species martial arts bouts. You need to start getting your dog to do things for you without the cats as a distraction. That will make it easier for your dog to understand what’s expected for the more challenging main event.

The main thing on the lesson plan would be the command, “Stay!” and not the sort that lasts for a few seconds. You’re looking at building to a 3-minute stay regardless of distractions. Toss a matt on the floor so your dog has a target and start with television commercials. Once he’s got the idea have him stay on his mat always while you’re preparing his meals and always whenever you’re preparing and eating your own. Always insist he stays on his mat for a few minutes before and after you take him outside each and every time. You’re teaching him to focus and do his job when he’d rather not.

Without the leash to give you physical control of his body you won’t easily be able to engage his brain. I think you should by all means reward his good behaviour but you shouldn’t forget that there isn’t a dog, wolf, ape or human “parent” that doesn’t know from the moment they become a parent that “Because I said so!” goes with the territory and the young of all seem to be able to mature with their self esteem intact when that firmness is balanced with fairness.

Pawsitively yours,

John [email protected]

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