My Corgi, Kara, is about 2.5 years old - she's got a fairly strong personality, but I've worked hard with her on her worst tendencies, and we've managed to nip most of those in the bud.
Lately, though, I'm seeing some behavior towards the cat that makes me nervous. Kara has always herded him a lot, and constantly wants to chase him - her prey drive is strong, and we try to reign in the chasing as much as possible, because I don't want to turn it into anything dangerous. The chasing has improved over the past year, but now occasionally Kara will growl at the cat if he comes too close and starts sniffing her. And she growled and actually snapped at him once when he walked near her while she had a treat. This isn't a constant thing - more like we have an incident once or twice a week, at most.
I've been trying a mix of negative reinforcement ("No! Bad!") when she growls at him, combined with positive reinforcement if he comes near (petting her, saying "good girl" if she sits quietly, etc). I gotta be honest, though - I'm nervous that she may potentially take it a step further at some point - especially if I'm not watching the situation - and I'm wondering what else I should be doing to try to curb this behavior. Any suggestions or advice?
Hmm this is a tough one and I will be interested in other opinions. I've always had both cats and dogs. Currently my Watson just ignores the cats unless they try to sniff him or if they get near his food. If that happens he will snap air in warning. I don't think I would scold for a growl as it is a safe warning system. I would be more likely to move the cat away. I don't allow chasing although my one year old puppy still occasionally still will. I think dogs have a right to not be bothered while eating. I just teach my dogs that a human by their food is good.
I have similar issues with Becca who is five. Becca resource guards against the cat and generally just doesn't like her. I feel a large part of the problem lies with the cat. If Becca growls or lifts her lip at the cat she is communicating that the cat needs to back off, my cat generally won't. The cat is convinced that eventually Becca will love her, its never going to happen.
Because I feel the blame can be spread on both pets, I let some of it happen. Becca is allowed to growl at the cat or lift her lip if the cat is in her face. She is not allowed to guard items or me. The cat has finally been convinced that Becca's crate is off limits. I have gates across the bedroom doors, they are cat zones. I also have high zones in each room for the cat just in case. I don't think it will ever come to that but my cat is a pacifist and has never smacked Becca.
I try not to tell Becca "No" in cat related issues. If an item is guarded she is told to "leave it", then I remove the item. If Becca tries to guard the couch, she is told to get off. Snapping at the cat results in crate time. In instances where the cat is provoking Becca on purpose I've shut her in the bedroom.
We also all train together on a regular basis. I started just treating both pets when they showed appropriate behavior with each other. Now whenever I work with Becca with tricks or core fitness the cat comes too. Appropriate behavior is still treated, and the cat makes for a great distraction with obedience. I've got pictures of them doing core fitness together, each on their own balance disk right beside each other.
It has been hard work but we live in harmony most of the time. My lap has been the hardest thing to share. Some days they can both share, other days they can't. My biggest suggestion is to work on training them to tolerate each other, BUT have high zones available for the cat just in case. I established my high zones when Becca entered the family as an eight month old. It has worked to keep them available.
Marcie, sounds like your cat and mine are similar :) He just thinks the dog should love him, and doesn't quite get why it's not happening. They did play together when Kara was a puppy, but not so much anymore. Our kitty has swung back on occasion when Kara has gotten too pushy, but he generally avoids confrontation - not sure what he would do in a real fight, though.
We have a similar setup to you - baby gates to block off the back part of the house, so the cats feel safe (our female kitty rarely comes out to the front, and avoids the dog in general). Lots of kitty high points as well, including empty shelves we've nailed into the wall for lounging, etc. Cat food is up on a counter, and the dog inhales her own food in 30 seconds - the cats don't even have time to be interested, so food time is a non-issue. Treats are a bit of a problem as far as resource guarding with the cats (not with us), so I'm sticking to giving out treats when the cats aren't around. I'm trying to use avoidance as much as possible in regards to preventing problems...just not sure what to do when situations do arise, though.
Do you have a place that you could put up a child gate so the cats can have their own space? I use one for my cats so the dogs can't get in there and eat the cat food or cat poop. I also have fed mine on my washer where the cats don't have to worry about being bothered. I would probably try crating her after a strong "no" when this happens. Good luck!