dog suddenly chasing the cat, but only when they’re alone

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My partner's dog is a 6 year old cattle dog mix. He's lived with cats for years and while he's been interested, he's never hurt them. He does have an active prey drive (his favorite thing is to chase squirrels and, if we're not watchful, deer), and he's a little prickly with other dogs but he does great playing with my 20 lb boston mix.

He used to go with my partner to his work but this last summer he was suspected of killing a chicken, and at least of catching and harassing one. He was kicked off the work site and now spends the workday at my house with my dog and cat and my housemate's cat. (I usually get off work first and take the dogs out to the woods for 1-2 mile walk/run). My cat is fine with my dog but doesn't like my partner's, and typically stays out of site while he's here. For months the dogs and cats lived peacefully together but suddenly my partner's dog is all over the cats, but ONLY when no one is around. At first I just found stuff knocked off a shelf in the basement, then a basement couch torn up, but we weren't sure what caused it. Then my partner came home and found his dog barking at my cornered cat. We decided to shut the dogs in my room during the day. Today I came home, let the dogs out, went out to shovel, and in that half hour he had presumably chased one of the cats under the couch. I came in to the couch shoved away from the wall and the dust ruffle torn away from some of it. My dog isn't really a suspect since he's so small, is submissive to everything, and has never had an issue chasing the cats.

I know he's just a dog and is just doing what his instincts say, but I'm sort of stunned by this sudden increased prey drive. When we're home and he goes to trot off after one of the cats, we call him back and he listens, but obviously when he's alone he can't be trusted anymore. How can we reacquaint him with NOT chasing cats, especially since it only seems to escalate when he's not being watched? I feel terrible to all of the torment my poor cat endured trying to keep away from him. I know that maybe we can never trust him unsupervised again but if there was some way to head off this behavior before it gets worse I want to do it.

submitted by /u/FredTheBarber
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