Border Collie herding house cats

Discussion in 'Dog Behavior Problems' started by summitbc, Mar 31, 2008.

  1. summitbc New Member

    I have a continuing problem with my poor cats not being able to be in the main area of our home, due to my border collie (Summit's) very aggressive herding instinct. I'm afraid we will never see our cats upstairs again! One good thing though; he's afraid to go down to the lowest level of the house (down those particular stairs anyway) and the cats have their safe space. I just can't stand how he 'tears' into the house and runs to the stairway to see if he can 'catch' one, even though they're never hanging out there, or run downstairs just in time, because they've figured out he won't follow them. Any ideas out there? I can't count on catching him every single time he's let in from outdoors, especially when my kids let him in, also. :doghuh:
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  2. sarhaspups New Member

    Border Collie herding cats

    Here is something I compiled for a friend of mine. He was having the same problems so I did some research for him b/c I don't have cats and have never had this problem. So I compiled the information I gathered from others. I hope it helps you. Good luck. That can be a very dangerous situation if not controled. Keep us posted on your progress. Let me know if you need me to clarify any of this. :dogsmile:

    1. Basic Principles--Training cats and dogs to tolerate and sometimes even to like each other is based on three basic principles—1) condition them to associate each other’s presence with positive things such as praise and special treats, 2) reinforce/reward their good behavior around each other with praise and treats 3) prevent or calmly interrupt undesirable behaviors. The latter is important because the more these undesirable behaviors are allowed to be successfully repeated, the stronger and more entrenched they will become.

    2.Safety First--When managing a household of dogs and cats, the first priority should be to ensure their mutual safety. In worse case scenarios, dogs can kill cats and cat's claws can permanently damage a dog's eyes. One of the most important ways to promote safety is by creating safe places for cats where dogs can't go. Use closed doors, baby gates, cat walks, high stable perches, and teach the cat(s) to use them. The baby gate can be placed off the floor so the cat has the choice of going under or over it. You can also install kitty doors that dogs can't fit through. Keep the cat’s food, water, toys and litter box in a gated safe room, (and make sure your dog won’t jump or knock down the gate). Until the dog is reliable around the cat, s/he should also wear a drag line (a long leash) in the house that will enable you to interrupt and catch him if he should start to chase the cat. Do not leave a drag line on the dog unless you are there to supervise, since the dog could get hung up, caught or twisted in it. Unless you are home to provide supervision, the dog should be crated or confined to part of the house where s/he can’t chase the cat.

    3 Intros--One way to begin introductions is to get the animals used to each other’s smell. Do this by rubbing the cat with the dog’s blanket before replacing it in his crate, and vice-versa.

    4. Using Crates--Crate time may also be used to help the animals acclimate to each other’s presence. Crate them next to each other for some period of time every day and use this time to feed them some favorite treats. Then alternate crating the dog while the cat is loose and crating the cat while the dog is loose. Encourage the dog to be calm and reinforce calmness with praise and treats. If the dog gets too aroused, crate time can also be used for a short time out until he calms down.

    5. Leash the Dog--Acclimating the cat and dog to one another out of the crate should be done with the dog on leash. The dog should be trained to do a Sit-Stay, Down-Stay and to “Settle†on cue, first without the cat, then in the presence of the cat.

    6. Encourage the dog to positively like the cat—Teach the dog to associate the presence of the cat with treat deliveries for him! With the dog on leash, shovel his favorite treats at him whenever the cat is around. Make sure the food you use for these sessions is something he really loves. Stop the treats when the cat disappears. Start them again whenever the cat returns. This classical conditioning (pairing the cat with wonderful stuff) is the single most important part of the training program!

    7. Train Dog to Relax--Induce the dog to relax in the cat’s presence by cuing him to “Settle†as you gently massage him. You should also teach him to lie down on his side and “Play Possum.†Meanwhile allow the cat to come and go as it pleases without trying to force it to remain around the dog.

    8. Leave It--Another important obedience behavior that can be used to prevent the dog from chasing or harassing the cat is “Leave It.†This means “don’t approach it†or “Move away from it NOW.†When your dog hears “Leave It†he should immediately cease sniffing, touching or pursuing contact with the distraction or object of his attention, in this case the cat, and return his attention to you. (See study hand-out on teaching Leave It). Practice Leave It with the cat stationary, then with the cat moving. When he does return to you, placing him on a Down-stay can help to foster a calm emotional state.

    9. Interrupt Rough Play--If the dog and cat reach the point where they begin to play together, and the dog then begins to play too rough, interrupt the session by: a. placing the dog on a down-stay; by placing dog in the “Play Possum†lying-on-side position; c. inducing relaxation with the Settle-Massage; d. if necessary, giving him a time out in the crate. If done consistently, the dog may learn to monitor himself and behave more appropriately.

    10. Encouraging the cat to accept the dog--If the cat needs encouragement to tolerate or like the dog, try repetitions of the following classical conditioning exercise: One family member should serve as the helper and bring the dog in and out of the room on leash. The other family should offer the cat some special yummy food when the dog appears, and stop feeding when the dog disappears from sight. The goal is to train the cat to think of the dog as being what makes sardines appear!
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  3. summitbc New Member

    Thank you so much for your information. It's something we've been worried about for a while, since Summit is a tad 'hard headed' and sometimes ignores commands when he's in the zone! Since he's fairly young, I hope we can, like Cesar says, 'rehabilitate' him around the cats soon.
    MaryK likes this.
  4. CollieMan Experienced Member

    I remember, before getting a BC, I consulted with a canine-behaviourist friend of mine. He stated, and I remember it so clearly: "If Border Collies were the only breed left in the world, I'd have a cat." His reasoning being that yes, they are great dogs, but, because of their intelligence and their natural ingrained herding instinct, which often cannot be put to positive use outside of a field-working environment, they are particularly susceptible to quirky and neurotic behaviour. (Suffice to say that I ignored his advice anyway. :))

    When a BC can't utilise its instinct, that instinct frequently gets diverted or channelled inappropriately. Where there are no sheep, it often gets diverted to cats. Where there are no cats, it often gets diverted to children's ankles, where there are no children, it often gets diverted to bicycles, and where there are no bicycles, it often gets diverted to car tyres. Each of these cases will resonate with domestic Border Collie owners more than any other breed owner. The common denominator in each case is that each BC is just doing what it has been bred, over generations, to do - herd.

    Are there any herding (working trial) classes in your area that you could join, so that you (and he) can learn to control his herding instinct? Even agility classes could help you regain a little control, appease his natural drive, and, more importantly I feel, tire him out. A Border Collie with excess energy is like a time-bomb ticking at your feet, unless you have a positive use for that energy, and then it's a blessing! :)

    You state he is still young, and so, I feel it's important to take steps now, before it becomes an irresistible compulsion for the dog. Once it reaches that stage, then it becomes so much harder to cure or manage.
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  5. sarhaspups New Member

    Living with your BC

    Are there any herding (working trial) classes in your area that you could join, so that you (and he) can learn to control his herding instinct? Even agility classes could help you regain a little control, appease his natural drive, and, more importantly I feel, tire him out. A Border Collie with excess energy is like a time-bomb ticking at your feet, unless you have a positive use for that energy, and then it's a blessing! :)

    You state he is still young, and so, I feel it's important to take steps now, before it becomes an irresistible compulsion for the dog. Once it reaches that stage, then it becomes so much harder to cure or manage.[/QUOTE]

    Well said! I agree completely. Must keep him mentally and physically stimulated or he will use that energy in a negotive way. They are very smart but can get very compulsive if not kept busy enough. Very complex creatures. Don't give up though, there are lots of things you can do to make a border collie happy and content in your home. Doing sports will build a stong bond / relationship with them also and they need that. Does he fetch a ball or frisbee for you? I know that herding isn't an option for a lot of people when you live in the city and just can't do it but there are tons of other things you can do to keep a BC happy (I'm not saying that he's not happy but he could have some pent up energy and that is causing this problem with the cats?) I don't have cats so I don't know but just making some assumptions. :dogunsure:
    Some things to consider.....
    Disc dog (frisbee training)
    Daily training sessions
    Dock diving (some areas)
    Off leash running daily (in secure safe places of course)
    Teach them to clean up the house with you. You can interact with your dog and give them a job to do even while you clean the house....:dognowink:

    Do keep us posted on your progress too.:dogbiggrin:
    MaryK likes this.
  6. lexio2 New Member

    First i have a question - how are your cats with the dog? Are they aggressive towards him, hissing/swatting/growling at him (even from across the room), or do they ignore him? If the cat is showing aggressive behavior towards the dog, it will be harder to get him to ignore the cats and to leave them alone. This can be a dual edged blade tho if the cats are acting agressivly just to get the dog to stay away from them!

    Next, which you probably already know, but i'm going to repeat it anyway because it is the most important rule for owning a Border Collie! The biggest help is to find a good, mentally stimulating exercise for your BC, agility, herding, flyball, even a very LONG game of fetch and a strenuous walk/jog, or teaching him to do something fun like scooter, will help to keep his need to compulsively herd down. The big stress there is of course to engage his brain in these activities as well.

    Then, my course of action would be to start teaching your dog that when he's in the house he must me CALM. Do you play fetch or other high energy games in the house? If you do, i would move those games to outside (if you can). Do you have more than one dog? ( I can't remember you saying if you did or not) If you do, teach them that playing/tussling/wrestling/chasing is an outdoor only exercise.

    An easy way to start this is to work with him on a leash in the house so that he learns that the house is not his play ground, and there are manners to learn and follow in order to be in the house. This doesn't mean always HOLDING the leash (lets not be unrealistic) but keeping him near by, and having the ability to stop him in his tracks when he goes after a cat. Stepping on the leash will also self-correct him, so he won't always associate YOU with the correction.

    Lastly, when he does go after the cats what kind of correction are you using when he chases the cats? Screaming at him can be interpreted as encouragement since dogs can't understand actual words. He could be thinking you're barking along in excitement with him!

    Petting him (even if you're making him sit) can also encourage a heightened excitement due to the cats as it means you're praising him for being in that state of mind, even if you have him "under control" in a sit. If you're going to make him sit, do not pet/stroke/praise/talkto him until he is calm, as you only want to reward calm behavior.

    Lastly do you use a crate/kennel? If you can, i good way to teach him that crazy herding is an unacceptable behavior would be to walk him to his kennel (which can hopefully be placed in a room away from activity and cats) until he calms down. I don't know your living situation (apartment/condo) so if your dog is going to scream/fuss when kenneled in a crazy state of mind, that might not work, also if your dog is dangerous crazy in a kennel if putting him away in that state of mind i will try to think of a different solution.

    I have 4 cats, 3 dogs and we all have learned to live happily together, so if you have any other questions or if i typed something that doesn't make sense just let me know and i'll try to explain better!!
    MaryK likes this.
  7. ponygirl New Member

    I don't know your situation, but if your dog does not have a 'job' it might be a good idea to give him one to expend his excess energy and natural instincts. Frisbee, agility, flyball or if you check around someone that you could go and work him on stock
    MaryK likes this.
  8. whalenm New Member

    I know the thread dates back a few years and I would assume that the issue was resolved but I wanted to say that I recently got a border collie who is now 6 months old. I have two persian cats at home who are older. My Border Collie (Whisky) first and natural instinct was to herd the cats and he would always herd them to the basement which was the cat's safe place. Like you, the cats would never come upstairs. Now my cats are coming up and the advice given by Sarhaspups is probably the best advice. I did just that and they are ok now. It is important to correct the behaviour right away and let your border collie know what is acceptable and what isn't. He does still try to to play with them and the cats still hiss, swat and growl at him when he gets too close but animals communicate amongst eachother and they let eachother know what is acceptable and what isn't. Providing that they are not showing aggressive behaviour it's ok to let them express themselves...eventually they come to a mutual understanding. Yes Border Collies do need challenges and will always challenge your cats. I live in the city and I bring my border collie out to fetch ball for half hour in the morning and when I get home from work, I take him to fetch ball for an hour in the parc where he can run freely as much as he wants. When I get home, I take time to play hide and seek with his toy or cookie and teach him new tricks. That stimulates him and keeps everyone happy :)
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  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Yes, i so agree, border collies have to be kept busy...i tired border collie is a well behaved border collie.
    I so enjoy finding ways to wear Buddy out, it is one of my biggest joys. I love Buddy's quirks...and he is so so so appreciative of any efforts to entertain him or wear him out or take himplaces, or make him run full speed, etc etc.

    My Buddy has zero behavior issues, none, (well, except he wants to mutilate most other dogs...ha) We knew what we were getting when we brought home a border collie.

    Things some ppl might find annoying, we enjoy, we're weird like that.

    Things like "zoomies" we find hilarious, and we totally encourage it...but, we have no small kids, no cats, just the "Mr Buddy Show" each day. He'd stop if we asked him to, but, we enjoy the show. We've even re-arranged our furniture to accomodate the lap s around the house, giving him a wider path to zoom around. He runs laps like this, both indoors and outdoors.
    But, to us, it is a great show, we always stop to watch, and call out to egg him on, cheering him on. (We're like that...)

    My Buddy has strong herding instinct,too.........he can even herd 1(one) dog...but, besides his busy busy life, he has "fake sheep" now. This is something other BC owners may want to consider for their dog...??

    He has 3 lighter-weight plastic laundry baskets, which he herds indoors,
    and another 3 heavier weight, more durable, plastic laundry baskets, which he herds outdoors.

    He can do this for hours. Focuses very intently on it, sometimes for hours...we do believe that Buddy "thinks" the baskets are real sheep...he stalks them in a border collie prowl....sort of sneaking up on them, then barks and head-butts the baskets, zooming all over the house pushing that basket into some spot.

    then he goes back for basket #2, (bringing it to wherever he put basket #1)
    and finally, basket #3.

    then he sits next to them for a while, looking at them
    and appears very satisfied and proud, as he catches his breath...

    then, he starts alllllllll over again.....'herds' the baskets to an entirely different room, piling them all up together again...on and on, for hours.

    at night, every night, he piles them up in the dining room, (a room we rarely use or even go into)
    as if that is his lil make-believe barn for his "sheep". We did not teach him that, he puts "his sheep" all to bed each night by himself, it is HIS idea to do that. He puts no other toy in the dining room, JUST the baskets.

    cute. Outdoors is even more fun to watch.
    Buddy is a real "BASKET CASE"!!!!!!!!!!
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  10. reveuse Well-Known Member

    Romeo does that TOO! and I just get the biggest kick out of it.... I've taken to calling the path around my couch his "racetrack"
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  11. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    ME TOO!!! i suppose, if i had cats IN FRONT of Buddy as he zoomed around, well, that would probably take the fun out of it,
    but, without any cats in front fearing for their lives, it sure is FUN to watch dogs doing FULL SPEED laps around...and around....and around....THE LOOK on his face, priceless. flat out JOY, with a dash of crazy.

    we've even got some specially backed rugs to stay in place in this one spot, to help him make that last turn without sliding, so he can keep his speed up. Once a pal of mine over for coffee was watching Buddy doing the Zoomies, she seemed to find it disconcerting, not fun.......and i said, "Do ya suppose THAT is part of the reason that his last place threw him out? To us, it's one of our favorite things about Buddy!!"
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  12. dogslife New Member

    i've got a 90-lb lab/shepherd named Boss, a 60-lb border collie named Sydney, and a new cat, Little Kitty. Luckily the cat is very used to dogs so she isn't afraid, but Sydney has given in to her strong herding instincts. Boss is curious, but I think he would leave the cat alone if Sydney weren't such an instigator. I'm so grateful for all the hints in this string and can't wait to start applying them to my situation. I know that consistency and patience are key, so wish me luck!
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