Training Dogs And Humans For A More Enjoyable Life Together

By Susan Smith, East Valley Dog Training

Answers to questions are based on the information provided. It’s always a good idea to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinarian when having behavior problems. Although I can give general information and management suggestions on serious behavior problems such as aggression, issues such as these can be a very serious problem and a certified dog trainer should be consulted.

Fifi is a 10 year old toy poodle, she’s grown up with cats, rabbits and other dogs all her life. She’s fine with our cats, however when we’re on a walk she will always chase a cat if she sees one or if we’re at anyone else’s house who has a cat she will growl and chase the cat, is it just something to accept as prey drive in a dog or something I can train out of her?

Although dogs are no longer technically predators (they’re now scavengers), they do still have a significant prey drive. All the sports and most of the work our dogs do derives from the prey drive – they’ve been bred to emphasize one aspect of that drive.

Poodles are in the retriever class, and retrievers are bred to chase and grab. As an example, anyone who owns a Golden Retriever knows they always have something in their mouth! Toy poodles do not have the same drive as a standard would have, as they’ve been bred for companionship and size; nevertheless, they still have the chase instinct, as do all dogs.

Fifi has learned that the household pets are not prey animals, so she does not chase them. However, other cats and small animals are fair game. This is a completely normal behavior. You don’t say whether Fifi is on leash during your walks. If she is, then you can control her; if not, you should train a very solid recall. Also, always be aware of what’s going on around you. You will probably see a potential problem before Fifi does, so you can get her attention and bypass the cat without Fifi even seeing it.

You could train her not to chase, but this is a huge undertaking and a solid recall can serve the same purpose. This is a high level of training, so you might want to consult a trainer for help.

If you have questions for the trainer, please send them to:

Susan Smith, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer in San Tan Valley, AZ, specializing in pet dog training as well as cat and parrot training—from obedience behaviors to serious problems such as aggression. She can be contacted at:

Sue is also the owner of Raising Canine, LLC which provides professional education to animal trainers.