My border collie puppy (3 months) likes to chase my cats.

I think cats do know this is play. I only saw the puppy scratched once, and I don't see claws out while the puppy is chasing the cats. On the other hand I am not sure if the cats really enjoy being chased. They do complain every once in a while if the puppy is being too rough.

What kind of limits, if any, should I put on their play?

  • Do the cats have safe spaces (off the floor) where they can retreat to when they tire of their new companion? If they do, there should be no problem. – Mick Aug 9 at 21:17
  • 1
    I just love your username. I never tire of it. – Yvette Colomb Aug 9 at 21:25
up vote 1 down vote accepted

While I only have cats, I see a similar thing happen here. The youngest (male) is incessantly playful and is always up for some playtime, whereas the two older girls only occasionally play.

It's sometimes hard to figure out if a girl is fleeing from him, or playing with him. We observed for a long time, and found that we often interrupted genuine play time because we thought the playing was getting too rough.

It's relatively easy to see when a cat is genuinely distressed. Some cats gets fearful, others get aggressive (well beyond playfulness). Specifically look out for:

  • Hissing
  • Growling
  • Long drawn out meows
  • High pitched fierce meows (think of the sound you hear when two cats are fighting outside - often used in TV and movies)
  • Arched back, raised hairs
  • Trying to find higher ground where the chaser cannot reach.

If your cat doesn't look like it's either ready to attack (with anger) or fearing for its life, you can usually consider it playing.


Our youngest was a bit oblivious as to whether the others were interested in play time or not. As they were still getting to know each other, we helped "save" their relationship by making sue that he didn't ruin his relationship with the girls.

There was a pattern of escalation here. Whenever he took it too far, he would subsequently encounter:

  • Yelling his name and telling him to stop.
  • Loudly clapping my hands
  • Physically separating them by putting the offender in a different location.

We used the spray bottle for most other things but didn't use it in this case, because we wanted to avoid hitting the girls. The negative feedback needed to be clearly directed at him.

Interestingly, distracting him would often reveal if it was playing or fighting/harassing. If the girl made a hasty retreat when he was looking at us because we called his name, she clearly wasn't enjoying herself. If she stared at us as much as he did, then we had apparently interrupted genuine play time.

While the feedback you give your dog is likely different from the feedback I gave my cat, the same principle applies:

  • If you think it's bordering on harassment, interrupt the interaction and see if the alleged victim escapes.
  • Tell the attacker off for taking it too far (but allow him to resume normal play if he's able to)
  • Repeated offenses get punished more severely.
  • Eventually, the offender will be put in timeout.
  • As you get better at distinguishing between playing and harassing, try to avoid interrupting playing. If you're consistent (and correct) about your negative feedback, your dog will understand the line between playing and harassing better.

Border Collies are a working and herding breed and extremely energetic and intelligent. The motion of the cat triggers their herding instinct and they start to chase. The cognitive connections of "cat = chase" and "chase = fun" are not at all hard to establish. So the puppy acquires a habit... The longer this habit exists, the harder it will be to break, so you want to start training as soon as possible.

This article provides several great techniques to break the habbit of chasing in a puppy.

  1. Place your kitty in a protective carrier while the puppy is in another room. Provide a cat toy or catnip to help keep the cat calm.
  2. Bring the puppy into the room and give him favorite treats one after another to keep him focused on you and to reward him for behaving calmly.
  3. Ask the pup to practice a sit, to follow you on the leash in a heel position or to stay on command. Practice obedience commands your puppy knows very well and reward him for obeying.
  4. Offer the BEST treats for moving or looking away from the cat. The idea is to teach your puppy he gets better attention and rewards by ignoring the cat than by pestering her.

Another one, including clicker training:

  1. Ensure the cat’s safety by keeping your dog under leash control and prevent ANY chase from taking place. Most puppies prefer cat-chasing to any other reward so don’t allow your pup to get his first taste.
  2. Have plenty of smelly, tasty treats handy. These should be irresistible and something the puppy ONLY gets for this exercise.
  3. Don’t confine the cat at all. Allow her to move around at will while you keep the puppy’s attention on you as much as possible by teasing with the treats.
  4. Each time the cat makes an appearance, moves or otherwise draws the puppy’s attention, give a tiny taste of a treat—partner this with the CLICK cue of the clicker if you’ve clicker-trained.
  5. Be consistent. Offer this treat-CLICK reward every single time whether your puppy is calm, excited, looks at the cat, barks or anything else. The equation should be: CAT’S PRESENCE = DOG TREAT.
  6. Use the leash to keep your puppy safely out of paw-reach of the cat, but not to force his attention. You want the puppy to choose to look at you for the treat, not be forced to do so. Given time, his puppy brain will connect the dots and figure out that when he sees the cat, he should look to you for a treat—and he can’t chase when he’s accepting that yummy treat!
  7. Continue to reinforce this behavior for at least a week or more. With consistency, most dogs will get it within only a few sessions.
  8. Make sure the dog stays leashed and the pets separated when not supervised until you're confident the new canine response has become ingrained.

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