Dogs are active, playful creatures. Once they get excited, it is quite difficult to keep them calm. It doesn’t matter how obedient or loving they are; they will run off if they find something worth getting distracted by.
At that moment, it wouldn’t matter whether you are on a peaceful walk or getting some exercise. Keeping them under control will be near impossible.
These impossible situations often occur due to furry rodents. One moment everything is calm, but the next moment your dog will run after it, dragging you along too.
One of the favorite critters that your dog would love running after is squirrels. A sight or even the smell of squirrels will drive them crazy, turning up the desire to chase. So, why do dogs love chasing squirrels?
Dogs will get desperate to chase squirrels around, no matter how much you try to stop it. The main reason for this is their hunting instincts.
When in the wild, dogs hunted prey animals for food. Later on, when humans domesticated them, they were trained to aid in hunting and helped retrieve hunted game.
Any breed that was used for this has strong hunting instincts. Particular breeds like terriers, hounds, and retrievers were trained for hunting for generations.
Many people look for poodle rescues for adoption due to their intelligent and obedient nature. But, even poodles tend to chase critters, so you can see that it is a drive they find difficult to ignore.
This is why dogs act hyper when out in the woods, parks, and any places with trees where small critters may live. Their senses get heightened by a squirrel’s sight, sound, and smell, so they chase after it the way they would with prey.
How Is It A Problem?
Chasing squirrels is something hard-wired in some breeds of dogs. This playful chase is often harmless, and most people find it mildly inconvenient. But, it can be a huge problem when it happens frequently, and you don’t have the time or patience to humor your pup.
Unsafe For Squirrels & Other Critters
Squirrels(and most other critters) are fast and difficult to catch, but not impossible. It will only take a particularly intelligent and fast-running dog like a Goldendoodle or a Greyhound to catch one.
Squirrels are beautiful creatures and make wonderful pets, and we shouldn’t let our pets harm them. It is crucial to ensure that our dog’s wild instincts don’t lead them to a rodent blood bath. Giving your dog a taste of fresh kill is not good either, and it will be disgusting and difficult to clean.
Getting Lost & Running Away
Another big problem is when a dog gets lost or runs away while chasing a rodent. Sometimes when a dog is left on its own in the backyard, and they find a squirrel, it might follow it out through a break in the fence or the back door. They might even jump over the fence while enthralled by the chase.
Keeping Your Dog Safe
To ensure your dog’s safety and that of the wild critters, you need to take some steps. Try the following things to keep your dog safe.
- Your dogs will show signs of prey drive. Observe if it suddenly becomes overly aware of its surroundings. This can be a sign of heightened senses. This will be followed by a search. Your overly excited dog will search the animal and then stalk it noiselessly. So, keep a close eye on your dog and be aware of signs while outside.
- Keep your dog on a leash when you take it out for a stroll or run. Your dog might try to run off suddenly, so keep a stronghold of the leash. However, there is another catch. If you hold the leash too tightly, your dog might get injured.
- This is why you should consider getting a harness. A harness will protect the dog from getting hurt when chasing after the critter.
- If your dog is violent, consider getting a muzzle. Of course, it is better to give your dog proper training than making them wear a muzzle, as it can further frustrate them.
- If you leave your dog unattended in your backyard, ensure that the backyard is always closed. You should also try getting higher fences just to ensure that your dog can’t run out of the yard.
- If there are any large openings in the fence, mend them as soon as possible, and don’t leave your dog outside unsupervised until the mending is done.
Finding A Permanent Solution
As much as you might try to protect the rodents from your dog and your dog from injury or getting lost, it is not always possible. This is why you must try to find a permanent solution.
When you go for a hike or a run with your dog, keep an eye out for signs of prey drive. Once your dog starts showing signs, use a whistle or any sharp sound to distract it. You can carry a bottle of coins or a bunch of keys to ensure that the sound is sharp enough to cause a distraction.
Dogs can get easily distracted, so the sharp sound will take their attention away long enough for the squirrel to getaway. You must intercept the chain reaction before it gets to chasing, so keep an eye out for behaviors.
Dog Impulse Training
Dog impulse training is another way of taking care of this problem. Even though teaching them something against an instinctive impulse is difficult, if you are strict and patient, you will get positive results.
There are a few different types of training methods, and with a little research, you will find plenty of resources online. You can also find training and instruction videos that will help you understand and execute it better.
One such method is the “leave it” method. Start with harnessing your dog. You command your dog loudly and with a firm voice to “leave it” whenever it tries to reach for something it is not supposed to. If your dog still reaches for the object, you grab onto the leash and stop it from reaching.
You start training with regular stuff at home and then move the training outdoors. Start with something like the TV remote or a scrunchy that he can’t leave alone. Once your dog starts responding to the training, move your training outdoors and test it out in a real-world situation.
Never encourage behaviors you are trying to get rid of. You have to be strict and remember that you are the ‘boss.’ Strongly discourage disobedience. Praise, encourage and reward the behavior you are trying to promote.
Retrain Prey Drive
There are ways you can retrain your dog’s prey instincts. Try out “scent games,” which will help them use their drive for a playful pass time and retrain their desire to run after the critter. You can hide pet treats or kibble and train them by commanding “find it.”
To be on the safe side, hide it in a few places in your backyard. You can also try this with pieces of fruit your dog likes to eat. When you bring your dog into the yard, it will immediately smell the treat, so you must command it not to do anything until you say the commands.
You can try this game around two times a day. It is a great way to play with your dog while satiating their prey drive. Your dog will be happy to spend time with you, and it will keep him away from the playful squirrels in your backyards.
Hire A Professional
Not everyone is good at training their dog. Some people are so soft and loving towards their dogs that the dogs think they own their owner.
These dogs often become spoiled and disobey their owners, becoming unwilling to take them seriously. This is likely to happen with playful dogs like Siberian Huskies and Bernedoodles.
Consider hiring a trainer if you have tried to train your playful and disobedient dog and failed miserably. Professionals are adept at rewiring your dog’s unwanted behaviors.
Not only can they train your dog to behave right, but they can also help you become more strict so that it becomes obedient and starts taking you seriously.
Your dog’s instinct is to chase squirrels and other small rodents. Distract your dog from these killer instincts and train it not to do something you wouldn’t want it to do.
Remember that you should make your dog see you as its “alpha.” Don’t just be a loving owner, be its leader. If you train it right and be consistent and firm, it will act according to your lead and listen to you when you ask it not to chase that lucrative squirrel.