Freya came home in August of 2015 with huge dog aggression issues and very intense prey drive directed towards my cat. A big project, for sure. The focus of this article is to address the cat issues. At first, meaning for the first few months, I basically kept Freya in my office and only gave her housetime when she was on a leash. Here's a quick run-down of her first few encounters with my cat, Pasca:
1. We pass by kitty, who is sitting on a desk, on our way out to the backyard. Freya puts her whole mouth over kitty's head. Oops. I yelp/scream, jerk on the leash, and she snaps out of it. Cat never moved an inch, dog slobber the only proof that her head had just been inside the mouth of the lion.
2. Cat goes out the doggie door to the back yard, Freya breaks out of her crate to chase the cat up a tree. I have to get the cat down from about 25 feet up a pine tree with an extending ladder. Sometimes cats actually like being chased, but the fact that my cat eliminated her bowels on the way up the tree lets me know that she was truly in fear for her life. My bad.
3. I upgrade Freya's crate to a Gunner Kennel. We work the five core exercises of Natural Dog Training.
4. Freya's housetime is now allowed to be off-leash. She approaches cat on my bed, snuffles her fur, and games the cat into a chase. Cat escapes under bed, Freya flattens her body to get under the bed, quickly turns around, her nose now bleeding due to a quick swipe from the cat. Now the cat is chasing the dog. And I am truly scared for Freya's well-being as she flees the bedroom. My cat is a crazy ninja.
Now, that last interaction was definitely too much too soon, and I wasn't sure if my cat was going to come out alive from under that bed. Luckily she's a badass kitty. Today, they hang out in the house together like old roommates, hardly noticing eachother. Despite my lack of management, or perhaps because of it, they worked things out in their own time. And now kitty definitely runs the show, as she does with the other two dogs.
There are ways to make this more gradual. You can start by placing the cat in a wire crate and allowing the dog to meet her that way. The cat cannot run away, and must "fend off" the dog because of that fact. The dog then learns that they are unable to game the cat into chase, and because the cat is restricted from putting out too much prey energy, the dog basically stops seeing her as such. Luckily, prey controls predator, and if your dog is in drive, the cat should be able to train him just fine. In fact, the more drive the dog has, the quicker the relationship will flip to cat-controls-dog. If your dog is expressing a lot of prey-instinct, meaning they are reactive and their drive is unevolved, then you do need to proceed carefully, as some dogs will just outright kill a cat.
Hopefully, the transition goes smoothly with the correct amount of caution expressed by the human house-manager.