How to Train a German Shepherd to Like Cats

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Are German Shepherds good with Cats?

I get that question a lot!

And to be honest, almost any animal species can live in complete harmony with another.  Just check out this cute video of an Orangutan and his Tiger cub babies!


I know you’re not here to watch cute videos of Orangutans and Tiger cubs!

You’re here because you want to know how to train a German Shepherd to like cats.

And you’re not alone!

A couple of days ago Jo, a reader at GSC left a comment asking for help with her kitty-doggy duo…

Just found this website and I love it. Our GSD, Kiara, is 13 weeks and my partner’s grandma has raised them but it is my first GSD. She’s a beautiful dog. We’ve had no problems introducing her to other dogs or walking loose lead, she can focus when another dog walks past.

However, we have a cat and that pushes her thresholds higher than anything. She pins the cat via the neck to the floor, which I noted is what they were trained to do to sheep. I want to break this behaviour asap before she is too big and accidentally hurts the cat.

Her jackpot treat is boiled chicken and the dog and cat can sit next to each other happily when I have chicken in my hand. But if I’m not watching and the cat walks/runs past she goes him and often won’t let go even if I grab the chicken.

We’re trying to teach ‘leave it’ before she gets to the cat but when she’s too excited it doesn’t work. Any tips you can help with?

And a while back I got this email from Tracey, another reader here are German Shepherd Corner…

Hi Gabriella,

Please advise if you are able to offer any advice/help with getting my GSD puppy used to my cat? She is 4 months old and I think her prey drive is making her charge at the cat every time she sees her.

The cat hisses at her if they see each other through a window or door, which causes my pup to start jumping and barking. If the cat tries to go outside to do her business and my pup sees her, then she charges the cat.

I really need these two to get along and realise it might take some time. I have tried to bring them close together with my puppy on leash but she just goes over the threshold no matter how much I try to calm her or offer treats.

I hired a professional dog trainer to help too and followed the advice of bringing in my puppy on a leash and trying to get her to calm down when she sees the cat, then reward her for good behaviour, but so far there has been no positive behaviour.

As you can see, both pooch parents have a firm grip on the understanding of how their German Shepherd’s are wired. And how their triggers and thresholds affect their behavior.

If you’re new to these concepts, I suggest you check out my article on triggers and thresholds before you start this training.

So, if your heart belongs to a kitty cat and a German Shepherd this guide will help to teach your furry friends to get on like a house on fire!

Although, you should be aware of the fact that some kitty-doggy duo’s will never become bosom buddies.  But even if they end up mutually disliking each other without fireworks it’ll be a win for your household.

It’s all about the Kitty

How to train a german shepherd to like cats

This training method is from your kitty’s perspective.

This is one situation where I think the solution should be looked at from your cat’s point of view.

Here’s why…

Firstly, cats are more ‘strung’ than most dogs.

They also have thresholds which they reach faster.  And they can stay peeved for much longer – sometimes even days.

Secondly, they experience negative situations, like being faced with a bouncing 4 month old puppy, much more intensely than dogs do.

Lastly, cats move like 50 caliber bullets, even when they’re not trying to.  And your German Shepherd is a herding dog.

So their instinct is to chase and pin down anything that moves at pace.  And your kitty cat fits the bill there.

See how this can get messy very quickly?  Even if your puppy is on a leash?

4 Fundamentals to Success

So just a few things before we start…

If you push too quickly, your pets will fail.  So aim to set them up for success.

Here are a few ways you can do that…

  1. You know your pets best, only you can make the call to move forward or stay put.
  2. It could take weeks or even months before there’s total harmony.  But total harmony means you never have to worry about your cat jumping through a window or your dog having their eye scratched out.
  3. Going slow is good but going slower is even better!  Giving your kitty and dog enough time to be fully comfortable with each other before moving forward means you’ll have more success.
  4. You will need to micromanage every step of this process.

5 Steps on How to Train a German Shepherd to Like Cats

Step One – Total Separation

So most people who get in touch with me have already done the introductions and then realize it might be trickier than they originally thought.

If this is you, be prepared to go right back to the beginning and start the reintroduction from scratch.

In this first step you’ll need to separate both pets completely – visually and physically.  The best way is to keep them in different parts of your home.

Of course you’ll need to make sure you spend quality time with both pets individually.  This should not feel like isolation or punishment for them.

They should have plenty of interactive toys to keep them busy and regular human contact.

Step Two – Introducing Scent

You should start this step as soon as possible.

The aim here is to allow contact, but only through scent.  Using 2 towels or soft toys, rub one on your cat and the other on your dog.  Then expose the opposite pet to the scent of the other.

I’d go for one week with this step but if you feel a longer period is necessary then go with your gut. You know your pets best.

Step Three – Make Good Things Happen

Next, let them both associate a good thing in the vicinity of each other. I suggest feeding them both on opposite sides of a closed door. It sounds silly but both animals have powerful olfactory senses, and will be able to pick up on the other’s scent.

I’d go as far as feeding them a little something extra nice during this step.  See it as a high value treat. That will even make a cat commit to ‘working’.

Step Four – Face-to-Face

Once both pets cope in a calm manner with scents and sounds it’s time for face-to-face introduction. Your cat should be in a crate and your pup on a leash.

There should be no physical contact.  And you should start at a distance. Like for example, you and pup in one corner of a room and kitty in a crate in the other corner.

Increase distance slowly.  I’m talking real slow here.  So for example, on the first meeting just keep to one side of the room without moving forward.

If you move forward and one of them reacts negatively like;

  • Hissing.
  • Spitting.
  • Moaning.

Or gets excited like;

  • Bouncing.
  • Lunging.
  • Barking.

Go back to the distance where this was not happening and start again.

Step Five – Physical Contact

Learn how to train a german shepherd to like cats

Physical contact is the final step in the training.

This is the last step and the one which is likely to take the longest.

Once there’s no reaction from both pets when the distance is narrowed you can introduce them physically.

This time, put your pup in a crate or playpen.  Or separate them with a baby gate.

This step should be done in a room with the door shut.  You don’t want your cat bolting.

But make sure your cat has lots perches and elevated spots.  Cats feel safe when they are high up.  And it’s one of their natural life preserving characteristics.

Allow your kitty to approach your pup.  Not the other way around.

At this point introduce treats for your dog when they are behaving in a calm manner, while kitty approaches and investigates at her own pace.

Expect this step to go very slowly.  Because your kitty cat will likely approach and then retreat again.

But the main goal here is to get your puppy to be totally calm when your cat is around.

Whatever you do, don’t leave them unsupervised!

Keep the sessions short and increase the time slowly.  At some point you might need a good book to keep you busy while things progress.

Be ready to take steps forward and then back again.

But persevere, and you’ll have success.

How to successfully train a german shepherd to like cats

High 5! Now you have a happy kitty-doggy duo!

So there you have 5 solid steps on how to train a German Shepherd to like cats!

And just before you go…


  • Start with small steps.
  • Gradually increase difficulty.
  • Acknowledge small victories.
  • Be persistent.

Picture Credit:

Kitten on a Blue Fence – Flickr


    • Hi Shooter!

      I’m happy you’re finding value in the information here!

      It sounds like your dogs are chasing kitty number 2 because she’s running from them maybe? You don’t say if she’s as bold as kitty number 1. Does she run from them or does she approach them boldly and then get chased?

      I’m so please to hear you’re finally getting your service dog! These things take much longer than they should in my opinion! You won’t need to worry about your service dog chasing your cats, they have been desensitized to everything.

      Let me know about my question above and any other question, I’m happy to help!

      Chat soon.

  • Laura Rosen

    Hi – it sounds from Shooter’s post that female GSDs may be more of a problem? Our 18-month female GSD Penny is very sweet but also LIVELY and immediately chases any squirrel, rabbit, or bird she sees. My younger daughter now wants a cat. Would be better to introduce a kitten, or would she be even more likely to eat it? :-(

    • Hi Laura!

      Thanks for your comment.

      I think it would be better to introduce a kitten. Although Penny is already 18 months old she’ll essentially be growing up with the kitten. Kittens are also easier to handle during the intro phase than an adult cat would be.

      The same steps would apply when introducing a kitten or an adult cat.

      Hope this helps.

  • Kate

    How do you introduce an older dog 2+ years ,who was attacked by a cat as a puppy. We have 3 cats and haven’t worried too much as we’ve just kept everyone separated ( son and dog leave on the weekends ). But…we may have to be a full time care giver for 6-9 months and remembering to keep track of the 3 cats before the shepherd goes out is getting tough. Yesterday I forgot a cat and the shepherd immediately gave chase and treed the cat. This is a lovely, sweet dog, who loves her doggie sisters but lizards, cats and sprinklers are a huge problem for her. She smells the cats through doors. She no longer gets her hackles up and whines but…
    Thanks for any tips or suggestions. Kate

    • Hi Kate,

      Thanks for your question.

      I think your best move is to reintroduce your dog and cats from scratch. I think the fact that she’s not getting her hackles up when she smells them is a good sign. And I’m sure she treed the cat only because your kitty ran. If they are accustomed to each other your cats will be less likely to bolt which will remove the reward of the chase for your dog.

      You might have your hands full now with the full time care giving and reintroduction. But it’ll be worth it. The steps in the article will work fine for your situation too.

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have other questions or if you need help through the process. I’m happy to help where I can.

      Chat soon,

  • kim anderson

    i have had 3 gs in my life and several cats with each 1 of them. never had any problems but liking to play with each other. i think it is different with each one is a individual. this breed is 1 of the best loyal dogs there is. they love and want to please their owners. they also are great watch dogs.

    • Hi Kim!

      Thanks for your comment.

      I totally agree with you. The GSD is a super breed. their loyalty is one of the reasons I love the breed. You’re lucky that your crew all got on so well. It can be stressful for owners who are struggling. Although in most cases it’s a matter of getting the kitties used to the dogs. :)

  • Katy

    When seperating your cat and gsd how do you decide who sleeps with you?? They both fall asleep on the bed, but before and after they fall asleep it is not pretty. Our gsd is about 3/4 months old and is obsessed with getting in our cats face and then once he is close enough he snaps at her. She also will hiss if he gets close. This is getting worse:( Enough to where I am afraid to be in the middle of them.

    • Hi Katy,

      Thanks for your question.

      I’d definitely restrict close contact like that until you’ve sorted the problem out. I highly recommend clicker training.

      But, if it’s getting worse and you’re concerned about getting in the middle of them then your best and safest bet is to get a qualified dog trainer in to deal with the issue. This sounds like something where a face to face trainer is needed. They’ll help you solve the issue and as a bonus you’ll learn the basics of clicker training.

      This site is very useful in finding certified trainers in your area.

      Hope this helps.

  • Hi, I am getting a German Shepherd that is 6 months old on Friday. The person I originally tried to get a dog from raises show dogs, but there seems to be a network of people involved here. I like black and tan blanket or saddle working dogs. My little guy was overlooked because he is small for a male. But I have a 12 year old cat. I love this article, because in my mind the cat is and was always going to be the problem. So I have something to do, and I am relatively certain it will work, because inadvertently I did it with a grandchild. The cat was a shelter cat that was given up because of a child. The cat doesn’t like children (or dogs, this has already been witnessed). I am getting to my question eventually. They were seperated, not with a closed door, but the cat’s possessive place is our bedroom, and Sophia is not allowed to go up there. When the cat came downstairs Sophia was told no. As a result the cat will now come up to her, let her pet her once, then jump up on the sofa. Does she like the grandchild, NO. But there is a harmonious situation as the cat set the pace. I don’t mention the cat’s name, because It is Sophie and it just gets to confusing. The grandaughter and the cat have almost the same name. I have spent all night on this website learning a crash course. I should put the puppy in my bedroom, but I can’t do that, because that is the cat’s sacred place. I have multiple floors, and it is where she chooses to go when people visit with dogs. There are multiple litter boxes. So I need to acclimatize the puppy, do I sleep on the couch and hubby in the bedroom for awhile? And obviously moving the crate away slowly isn’t going to work. Eventually the dog will have the run of the house, including a doggie door, but that is going to take time and adjustment on all concerned. I am just wondering if you have a recomendation on this. Another question. The dog has socialization training, is potty trained, and some basic obedience training already (because it was overlooked, someone else’s loss is my gain, I am not paying any more for it with that), but he’s been trained in German. I don’t speak German. I am not showing or breeding the dog, and see no purpose to this. I will probably train him in protection and/or tricks, just because shepherds get destructive when bored. I actually prefer hand signals with words. I am sure they will tell me the words, whether I pronounce them correctly or not is something else. Should I start the whole training over in English and further confuse him? Should I learn just those German words, and any new stuff do in English? Or should I continue the training in German. I am 55, and actually do plan on continuing her training where she is at now, because I am old, and what I have learned about training to date, is really its about training the owner to recognize the dogs cues, and I am an old dog. However, that is basic obedience, and in home training is another matter. I am absorbing all this, and I have found all of this very useful. And advise you can give would be great.

    • Hi Cydny,

      Thanks for reaching out with your question.

      Definitely leave your room as your cat’s sacred place. You can pick another room which is neutral for the introduction and training. Of course having your pup near you during the night makes sense in case he need to go out for a potty run. Could you have his crate just outside your bedroom door? I mean you could sleep on the couch as you suggest but it’s ideal to keep sleeping arrangements the way you intend them to be on a permanent basis. If you do decide to sleep on the couch for a while it might mean you’ll need to retrain your boy to get used to you moving back to your room depending on how he behaves once you change to regular sleeping arrangements.

      If you’re okay with picking up the German words then I’d go ahead and do that. And teach any new stuff in English. I have an article on some German commands and a friend of mine, Anna, did a recording which you can download from this article.

      It’s worth mentioning that you might need to do a few potty training sessions with your boy in his new home. It’s not full potty training, just generalizing the potty rules.

      Give me a shout if you need some advice, I’m happy to help.

      Chat soon,

  • Karen Jorde

    Two related questions, my BFF has a very nice female GSD–Doreen always has been Maja’s primary person, but she gets along with most other people, however does have a preference for women. Maja and I did get along quite well, partly because I am an “animal person” and partly because Maja was easily bribed by me sharing pistachios nuts with her. Although Maja also spend a lot of time with Doreen’s husband who recently passed away, she would not be considered to be as well socialized as one would hope. After John’s death, I went to visit over a long weekend, but decided to leave my dog (a toy poodle) at home. I felt that Maja would still be adjusting to all the changes in their family, airplane travel with a pet is expensive, and to avoid upsetting Lily’s diabetes medication schedule. Either way meeting our dogs’ needs is a lot of work.
    Do you think it would be feasible to ever take Lily along on a visit?
    Doreen also seems to have a bit of an issue with mice. My Lily is a “cat whisperer,” and has actually made a big difference in taming several feral cats. Maja is very smart, but did not appreciate a neighborhood cat hunting in her back yard. Do you think Maja would ever be able to learn yo accept a feline mousing expert? >^.^<

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your questions. And I’m sorry for your friend’s loss, it must be a big adjustment for everyone concerned, doggo’s included.

      I think if you can keep Lily’s meds schedule intact and after some time of adjustment for Maja, I don’t see any reason why taking Lily for a visit will be a problem.

      Although Maja might not be a socialized as possible, doesn’t mean that she won’t accept Lily. But the only way you’ll know is to introduce them and work to get them used to each other. The steps in this article will help and it might not be necessary to do step one which is total separation or step two which is introduction through scent.

      What I do recommend is before going into Maja’s home, meet her and Doreen in the driveway or pavement or at the dog park. Then walk both dogs together in close proximity. But make sure that the proximity doesn’t cause reactions like barking, growling, raised heckles or any kind of negative reaction. If it does, then move to a distance where this is not happening and then move closer slowly.

      Step three is very important. So make good things happen when they are close to each other and not reacting. So lots of praise, high value treats and attention.

      If you want to know which treats Maja and Lily see as the highest value, check out my article on dog learning. You’ll find the method under “The Power of Food in Dog Learning” section. If you have time though, you might want to read the entire article.

      Hope this helps. :)

  • Laura

    Hi Gabriella,
    My GSD rescue is between 1 and 2 yo. I think someone tried to train her as a police or attack dog. Her ‘bite’ is becoming more gentle (got her in November), but she still nips pretty good during play.
    I still have her separated from our rescue cats, but she runs back and forth between the two closed doors (as do the cats). I’m sure they want to play with each other, but she’s wayyyyyy too rough, slapping them with her paws and nipping. I’m afraid the prey instinct will kick in when they run. I would really appreciate ANY suggestions.
    Let me add that she is very smart, but we’re still working on her attention span.

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your comment.

      How long have you had your GSD and your cats separated? And have they been introduced to each other in a controlled way as described in this post?

      If you’re concerned about prey drive, I’d say go with your gut and take things very slowly. And work on your GSD more before any introductions.

      I highly recommend checking out a dog training program I have used for all my rescues. The program takes dogs from “pre-school” all the way through to “Einstein” levels. It focuses on using games as a way to tap into our dog’s natural intelligence and teach them how we want them to behave. It’s force-free and science-based. And I noticed calmness and confidence in my rescues from working with them through this program. I still use what I learned in the program today to teach my dogs new things.

      I wrote a full review of the program and also had the opportunity to do an in-depth interview with the dog trainer who developed this method of training. You can follow this link to read more about it.

      Teaching a focus command is a great way to build attention. And it’ll teach your girl to look to you for guidance in unfamiliar scenarios which is invaluable. It’s one of the many things I learned in the program I recommend.

      Please feel free to drop any other questions in the comments or email me if you prefer.

      Chat soon.

  • chloe

    my cats are 3 while my GSD is 2 what then?

    • Hi Chloe,

      Thanks for your comment.

      In this case, I’d work with one dog at a time on the process. This way they are not likely to become overexcited by the presence of your other dogs.

  • georgina

    hi I am looking to get a german shepherd but also really want a cat. I would love to get rescue but realise if I want both puppy might be the better idea. would you recommend getting the cat or the dog first or get them at the same time? currently no other pets in the house as only just moved into our first home

    • Hi Georgina,

      Thanks for your question. Usually, I don’t recommend getting 2 new dogs at the same time. But in your case, it might take a lot out of training and getting them used to each other if they grow up together. Especially for cats who can become “set in their ways” as they become adults. Kittens are usually more flexible and adjust easily to other pets.

      Also, cats are pretty easy to house train as long as they have their cat litter available for potty training.

      Although I do recommend that you separate them when you are not home, to begin with, just until they are older and you’re 100% sure they can’t hurt each other accidentally during unsupervised play.

  • Kim

    Hi, I adopted our German Shepherd mix from a shelter 9 months ago. Ever since the adoption my two cats have been in our bedroom. I am ready for them to be out but Charlie, the shepherd, doesn’t seem to be getting that the cats don’t want to play. They hiss, growl, and swipe at him. He pounces, barks at them through the window if he is outside(they sit and stare at him), if he is in his crate and the bedroom door is open and one of the cats come out he barks and they run back into the bedroom. I think I should try your steps to get them to hopefully tolerate one another. My question is should I only do one training at a time or can I do other training along with it? Charlie sometimes reminds me of a ADHD kid, he is hyper and hard to get focused! Maybe more walks and being more consistent. I read a little about the Brain Training, maybe that. Help, he is like a gigantic puppy who is 2 years old!!!

    • Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment and questions.

      You can do other training with your boy as well as working on the steps in this article. Charlie sounds like he’s a high drive boy. I can relate because both my Shepherd and Shepherd/Collie cross are high drive. And it does feel like ADHD sometimes! LOL!

      The brain training for dogs program has been invaluable to me in training all my dogs to make the right choices in a situation and the fact that the program focuses on using a dog’s natural intelligence through games makes the training very stimulating for them.

      As an example, my Shepherd/Collie mix, Lexi is very vocal and used to love standing at the window barking at anything that moved outside. The program helped her unlearn that behavior. And what you learn in the program can be translated into teaching other behaviors too.

      In my experience, it’s an excellent foundation for training and keeps my dogs stimulated which helps promote the behaviors I like.

      I’m not sure if you read the interview I did with Adrienne, but you can check it out in this article.

      Let me know how you get on with the training in this article. I’m around if you have any questions.

      Chat soon,

  • Ronald Paseur

    Hi. I have somewhat of a different situation… I rescued an older (7-8 y/o) GSD from Animal Control. I have an older small terrier mix with whom she, for the most part, gets along with. I also have three cats, 5, 4, and 2, that all three grew up with my terrier, and get along absolutely great with her. Enter my GSD… she “screams” at and lunges after, and chases all three cats. Two have learned to seek hiding places when I have the GSD out, but the youngest, who is bonded to my terrier, won’t move when the GSD tries desperately to get into his face. I need to teach my GSD that chasing and lunging after cats is TOTALLY unacceptable, before she hurts one of the cats, or I’ll have to rehome her. Help?

    • Hi Ronald,

      Thanks for your question.

      Your GSD’s reaction is most likely because she was never socialized with cats or poorly socialized overall. The window for socialization closes at around 16 weeks. But that doesn’t mean this situation is not solvable. It totally is, it’s just going to take some time.

      The first thing I recommend is putting management strategies in place to stop your girl from practicing any lunging, screaming, and chasing. This is the first step in changing behaviors. On your part, it’s going to take some planning but it’s worth the effort. And it does mean you’ll be juggling space and time.

      So for example, create an area where the cats can be with your Terrier and let them interact for a few hours, while you for example work with your GSD somewhere else (where she can’t see the cats). Then move your Terrier to where your GSD is so that she can have some fun interactions with your other dog.

      Then start implementing the steps in this article to slowly desensitize your GSD to your cats. Once she’s able to see them without lunging, screaming or trying to chase, you can counter-condition by asking for and rewarding behaviors (taught beforehand), that are incompatible with lunging, screaming and chasing. Even simple behaviors like sit, down, high five are all incompatible with the behaviors you don’t want.

      If you feel at any point that the training is stagnating or she’s reached a plateau or you feel the situation is unsafe, I recommend enlisting the help of a certified dog trainer to work with you one-on-one.

      Please feel free to reply to me here with questions about my recommendations or if you prefer, you can email me directly. I’d like to help where I can so she can live in harmony with your cats and not be rehomed.

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