I am fostering a pit mix. She is very gentle, and has not had a lot of attention her whole life. Long story. So, she responds really quickly to both "no" and to praise. She really likes making you happy.
One problem she has, is with cats. I can tell she's never seen one before, or been close to one. She approaches them with EXTREME excitement, and when she gets close she doesn't attack... she just is so worried / excited / crazy about seeing this thing, she cannot contain herself.
So... what I have read and tried thus far. I was first correcting her behavior with a "NO". but.... I realize she doesn't know "leave it" yet, she doesn't know these concepts yet, and she is out of her mind excited. So what we tried next was, while in the same room (my friend has a very tolerant cat), the dog was on her leash, and the cat was on the other side of the room. We tried to do normal things with the dog, and when she went nutso, pulling the leash, dragging, whining toward the cat, we did nothing, but the SECOND she looked away, I praised her lavishly. Got her attention over to me and the wonderful things across the room. Basically trying to just have her in the same room with it, and not focusing on it at all.
It didn't work very well. Although, probably SOME progress was made.
What I worry about is... the dog got very whiney, even backing into between my legs about this cat. She just does NOT know what to do. So, I figured just let her have her freak out, and after 100 times of seeing the cat, she'll be less and less surprised.
Any other ideas? The MAIN problem, is that the cat in MY house is like a ghost. She is scared of EVERYTHING, even my husband. So, there is not much time for them to tolerate each other, since the cat is out of sight. I don't feel like that is fair for my cat, and want the dog to not jump out of its skin at seeing her, but there are so few encounters, it would take 6 years for the dog to get accustomed to it.
"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else."
You were doing the right thing with the cat in the room, but I have a few revisions.
Try teaching her "okay release" (without the cat first). Simply say OK and back up three steps, if she comes with you praise and feed a tasty treat. Use Ok release with all commands ex: if she is in a sit and you want to move on to another command say ok and back up. Praise and feed. This 'command' is a great way to get her attention on you because you are saying "okay lets move on to something else" and she knows that means praise and food.
I would also teach her a Door Tie. Leash her up and clip her to a door or gate. Start with your back up agaist the door. Run your hand down the leash until you reach her collar. Grab her collar and gently restrain her against your side. Wait until she is still and say "I'll be back". Walk a few feet away and keep your back to her for a few seconds. Turn around, but dont look at her, look at the door. Walk past her to the door, if she is in your way just slowly walk into her until she moves. When you get to the door put your back up against it (like when you started). Dont look at her. When she comes back and stands or sits infront of you praise and feed. This is a good exercise to teach restraint and focus.
When she is in the room with the cat do a door tie to get her focus back on you, this will help teach her that she doesnt need to worry about the cat in the room because you have it under control.
I would simply have a few kongs available with something wonderful in them, frozen and have a bone time, kong time, but only when the cat is present. Cat walks in the room, Out comes a frozen kong. Keep it up for a good while and she will start to associate the cats presents with kong time. Don't use the punishment route, it doesn't teach anything. Well I guess it does really, fear.
When I look up into the sky, I think to myself, Wheres the ceiling?
This may sound ridiculous but I actually saw something on TV I think may help you.
I was watching "The Dog whisperer" (with a very cynical outlook on the show to begin with) and he had a dog on there that had a habit of chasing small animals, rabits, squirrels, kitties, etc. what he did with the dog was bring it to an enclosed area with a small animal (in this case it would be a cat) in a cage. he layed the dog on it's side in what he said is their calm happy submissive state next to the cage so the dog could see the animal but was more calm.
when the dog became excited with the animal he gently poked the dog and made a shhhht noise to grab the dogs attention and pet the dog. It looked ridiculous it really did however, with in a few minutes he was able to set the animal on the dog without the dog even caring. I was actually impressed considering when I first heard about this guy and his doggie methods I thought it was a gimmick.
hopefully I explained that well enough to give you some ideas!
The trainer I work with has a 15 year old Am Eskimo that she rescued. He was a small animal KILLER when she got him. He would go after anything. She has a few books out that you could take a look at, he name is Dawn Jecs and her training program is called "Choose to Heel." You could also try her website and email her for suggustions. http://www.choosetoheel.com/