yourpurebredpuppy logo

Dog Breeds That Are (Usually) Good With Cats

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books



Risk of aggression toward cats

Dog and kitten

Dogs and cats can get along famously. Or horribly.

If you have a cat and are trying to choose a breed, be aware that not every dog can live safely with a cat.

Most dog-on-cat agression is triggered by inherited predatory instincts. To minimize the risks, choose a breed with minimal predatory instincts – aka low prey drive or weak prey drive.

Prey drive is a genetically hardwired compulsion to chase and grab smaller creatures that move suddenly, or run. That includes wildlife such as raccoons and foxes, but also cats, pet rabbits, small parrots... even small dogs. A strong prey drive is common in breeds that were bred for working, hunting, or guarding.

Over HALF of the pure breeds in the US have a strong prey drive because it helps them accomplish their work of hunting, herding, or guarding.

Most likely breeds to be aggressive with cats

Dog threatening to attack cat

Siberian Huskies have a strong prey drive, a genetically hardwired trait that can be triggered by a small animal moving quickly. Don't underestimate its power.

  • "Spitz" breeds (wolfish-type dogs with pricked ears, curled tail, and thick coat) – Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky
  • Hunting breeds (small and large prey animals) – American Bulldog, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Coonhounds, Dogo Argentino, German Shorthaired Pointer, German Wirehaired Pointer, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Weimaraner
  • Guardian breeds (especially from working lines with a high prey drive) – Belgian Shepherd, Dobermann, German Pinscher, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Australian Cattle Dog
  • Sighthounds (tall, slender, long-legged hunting dogs) – examples include the Afghan Hound, Borzoi, Greyhound, Whippet...
  • Terriers (tough, determined hunters) – ranging in size from small (Jack Russell...) to medium-size (Pit Bull...) to large (Airedale, Black Russian...)

If you have a cat, yet want one of these breeds, this is not the time to adopt an adult dog from the animal shelter or rescue. Too risky!

Instead, look for an excellent breeder who can match you with a lower prey drive  pup (this trait can be tested in puppies). Then let your CAT "assist" you in correcting the pup whenever it tries to get rough.

If the puppy still grows up into a determined chaser, you might be able to train him to be respectful toward the cat... in your presence. But you can never leave them alone together. The poor cat might jump from the easy chair to the sofa, triggering the high prey drive dog to burst into pursuit, grab, and shake fiercely... it happens in the blink of an eye, before the dog has a chance to remember any training to the contrary.

Breeds that are usually peaceful with cats

TINY DOGS

Nearly all tiny dogs are fine with cats in their own family, although they might excitedly chase a strange cat.

Yorkie with cat friend

SMALL DOGS

Lots of terriers here, with their high prey drive chasing instincts. Fortunately, most small terriers will not take on a confident adult cat with claws. For example, a good many Cairns, Scotties, Westies, Miniature Schnauzers, etc. live peacefully with the cats in their own family.

The only two small breeds that I would consider real threats to an adult cat are the Jack Russell and Border Terrier. Many individuals in these breeds are willing and able to engage virtually anything that moves.

The most peaceful small breeds with cats:

Bichon Frise Lowchen
Cavalier King Charles Mini Poodle
Coton de Tulear Pekingese
English Toy Spaniel Pug
Havanese Shih Tzu
Italian Greyhound Tibetan Spaniel
Tibetan Spaniel

Tibetan Spaniel. Nice little dog, on the stubborn side, sheds quite a bit, can be barky... but overall a sensible, moderate temperament.

MIDSIZED DOGS

In this size range, we're most likely to see "cat contentiousness" from the terriers and the German Pinscher. Whippets, with their powerful prey drive, can also be a threat.

The midsized herding breeds (Buhund, Puli, Sheltie, Swedish Vallhund, Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgis) have strong chasing instincts, but are usually fine with cats in their own family, especially adult cats with claws. Just stay on top of (or discourage/forbid) any chasing.

The most peaceful midsized breeds with cats are Cocker Spaniels (American and English), Beagles, and the Lagotto Romagnolo.

Lagotto Romagnolo

Lagotto Romagnolo = water dog from Romagna, Italy.  Lively, athletic, fond of water, fond of mud, fond of digging. Exercise!!!

MEDIUM-SIZE DOGS

Again, most likely to be quarrelsome with cats are the terriers, plus the Standard Schnauzer, Australian Cattle Dog, Siberian Husky, and Chow Chow.

Medium-sized herding breeds (Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Border Collie, Canaan Dog, English Shepherd, Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Samoyed) have strong chasing instincts , but also strong bite inhibition instincts  that prevent them from mauling the sheep. Individuals in these breeds may or may not be safe with cats.

The most peaceful mediium-size breeds with cats:

Basset Hound Keeshond
Brittany Vizsla
English Springer Welsh Springer
English Springer, Welsh Springer

A pair of English Springer Spaniels and a trio of Welsh Springer Spaniels. These are nice dogs, but they need a lot of grooming and LOTS of exercise. Shedding? Yes!

LARGE DOGS AND GIANT DOGS

Because of their size and working ancestry, you want to be extra-careful when combining these breeds with cats. Re-visit the previous section on most likely breeds to be aggressive with cats and you'll see that large/giant breeds dominate the list.

The most peaceful large/giant breeds with cats:

In my experience, crossbred and mixed breed dogs are often better with cats than purebreds. Unless, that is, two cat-aggressive breeds are crossed!

Hound mix lying down peacefully on a fench with a cat

This older hound mix and young female cat have developed a calm, peaceful relationship.

Training still required!

No breed is automatically safe with cats. Training is still required to teach Puppy that he may NOT pester Kitty. But this training is easier and more reliable with breeds that don't have a strong prey drive. More info in my Respect Training books.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.


To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.