I don't know if you truly get a chance to answer much of this, but I have a question that stems from a husband/wife debate. I've searched on the forums but I don't see this, and I really want an authority figure that he and I will both respect.
My husband is a police officer and we have a female GSD (2 years) who he has been training, in bite work as well as searching, but not in an official capacity. She is a great dog and very obedient. I trust her 100% with us and as well as I would trust any dog with my 3 year old.
My issue is with the cats. We have two. As a pup she was terrible with the cats and would bark and chase as soon as a paw or tail appeared, even (or especially) when kenneled. She was always crated or on a lead in the house and we always corrected her, so that behavior stopped.
She has never attacked a cat. Once she had learned to ignore the cats, and was obedience trained to our satisfaction, she was loose while we are home and now, even when we are not (she is allegedly guarding the house, in my husband's opinion).
My claim is that she stalks the cats and fixates on them. She stares at them every time they enter the room and continues to stare until they settle on a spot to sleep or leave. She will sometimes stretch her neck out and place her open mouth on the cat's head or neck when they walk under her muzzle. They always freeze and she will stay there, without biting until one of us sees her or the cat walks away. I have also noticed wet cow licks where the fur on my cats' heads is standing up sometimes after she is around them (in the kitchen or family room) unattended.
I contend that one day, a cat is going to bolt during this, and she is going to grab it, shake it, kill it and probably tear it up. I think the walking or running cats activate her very high prey drive, and I think she is particularly bored right now because she is not getting training like before due to winter weather and my new infant. I think that this behavior should be corrected every time.
My husband claims that she is "playing" with the cats. He claims she is establishing rank. He feels this because the dog is not chasing the cats (which I claim is only because she's not allowed to run in the house) and because the dog and cats will all sleep within a few feet of each other peacefully, and she leaves sleeping cats alone. In fact, one of the cats is so friendly with her that she will occasionally sleep with her ears, tail or paws stretched right against the dog's muzzle.
She also rubs against the dog's legs. Other times the cats run from her. Might I add he is not really a cat person and has repeatedly stated that the dog probably sees them as "rodents." He also claims it's not a problem because if you tell her "nein" or "watch" she will immediately turn her attention away from the cat and give attention to the human.
I think the cats sense her state of mind, and that explains why they are sometimes friendly and that the dog is a danger to them when they are moving. I have even seen her try to goad them into moving with her nose if she really should have been exercised better or is not mindful of our presence.
Who do you feel is right, and would you correct her for simply looking at the cat? Or is looking normal, and would you correct her for practically engulfing the cat's head or neck with her mouth? I swear she's thinking cheeseburger, but my husband claims she is merely observing something in her environment. I have a huge fear of coming home from work with my daughter and finding her kitty dead on the floor.
I understand she is trained, but she is still a dog and is home bored and unattended with these cats.
She's not really my dog so it is not something I am going to be able to correct without the opinion of a professional who's opinion my husband respects feels I am right (as it won't be a consistent process without him practicing the same thing).
Thanks if you can give an opinion, I would really appreciate it.
In my opinion, this dog needs a correction for even looking at a cat.
Anytime a dog fixates on anything like a cat or small animal, the potential for disaster is there. I got a call recently from someone who had a dog for 4 years (from a young puppy) and the dog was raised with the family cats. Long story short, he killed one of the cats right in front of the owners. I found out after talking with them that he would fixate on the cats and mouth them. They mistakenly thought he “loved”
them and wanted to play.
You may be lucky, but I wouldn’t count on it. Our dogs would not have an issue with chasing and biting any small animal that runs, so they are taught from an early age that this is not allowed. We do not allow them to bark at, chase, or stare at the cats. The best way to deal with it is with a remote. I would not leave a dog that behaves like this loose in a home alone with a cat. Not ever.
Electric collar Training for the Pet Owner is the place to start, if your husband wants to work on this.