Introducing a dog to a cat–even if the dog has not been socialized with cats–is doable. The good news is that the process is simple if instructions are followed carefully. The bad news is that simple processes are not always easy to follow. A new process will take some time to get used to.
There are two real dangers when allowing dogs and cats who are not used to each other to be together. Of course the first one is that the dog will chase and injure or kill the cat. The second is that the cat holds her ground and swats the dog in the face, possibly injuring an eye. It is very common for dogs to lose an eye after a cat’s claw injures it.
Begin the process of introducing the dog to your household from a leadership stance. The first order of business for introducing a new dog to our cat is establishing our leadership of the dog. The dog must understand that he is being controlled at all times around the cat. Make sure you know how to properly handle a dog on a leash. (The leash should never be tight. The dog should never be pulling people around by the leash.) The dog must stay on a leash or in a crate at all times until he has learned that the cat is no big deal. Of course, the dog should spend plenty of time with his human in the house, on a leash. It can take weeks to months of staying in a crate or on a leash at all times, to get a dog with strong prey drive and no previous exposure to cats to quit focusing on the cats. Any exposure of the cat to the dog must be under the owner’s control. Be sure to control every little thing that can possibly go wrong, which means planning ahead. In the beginning, make sure–before the dog enters the house–the cat is in another room secured by a door. Make sure the dog is leashed on the way to a crate. When the cat is loose in the house, make sure the dog is secured in a crate.
Meanwhile, start doing obedience with the dog. Training for simple things like sit, stay and come/here establish the owner’s leadership. Make sure there is a perfect recall on the dog, even around severe distractions–especially cats. I have even done obedience with the cat in the crate right in the middle of the obedience lesson! Leave the cat in the crate and take the dog for a ride in the car. Upon returning, if the dog pulls on the leash to get to the cat in the crate, he is not ready to be loose with the cat.
At this point I recommend training the dog with a remote training collar. (Using low level stimulation for training is much more gentle than using a choke or prong collar. It is also much more humane than having the dog killed because he won’t get with the program of a “positive only” philosophy. It is important to invest in learning how to use the collar before putting it on the dog and pushing buttons. You might get the wrong results by doing it incorrectly.)
You must have crisp, immediate recall on your dog before allowing him to be with the cat. Even after allowing the cat and the dog to be loose in the house together, it is important to keep an eye on the dog at all times for a long time. If the dog shows any excitement toward the cat, (even looks interested in the cat) say “no” and give a low level tap with the remote collar. Then redirect the dog to a “place” that he is used to staying on, such as a rug, dog bed or other object where he can stay and lie down comfortably. Do not let the dog get away with scooting even an inch off that object. When you have made your point, remove the dog from a situation where he has access to the cat, or visa versa. Do not leave anything to chance.