The cliche of a dog chasing a cat, bird, or squirrel is based on a real trait of any canine. All dogs are ultimately prey animals at heart, but some dogs have a higher prey drive than others. If you notice that your dog keeps careening after every squirrel it sees, there are ways to help manage this behavior and give the backyard squirrels some peace. Below you’ll find out more about why your dog chases squirrels and what you can do about it.
Why Do Dogs Chase Squirrels?
As mentioned above, all dogs are ultimately prey animals, descending from a predator in the animal kingdom. Therefore, although not all dogs will chase squirrels and other small animals, some are more likely to have this instinct, depending on their breed. For example, terriers and hounds are bred hunting dogs. When someone thinks that a dog is being naughty for running off and ignoring your calls to come back, it is actually completely normal for many dogs. Instead of thinking of your pet as disobedient, consider it as exhibiting an instinct.
While chasing might be instinctive, it is not impossible to manage. Curbing your dog’s prey instinct starts with controlling your dog’s access to squirrels. When taking walks, one should keep the pet on a leash. When your pet runs around in the backyard, make sure that you are available to supervise it. If your dog goes barking mad when seeing squirrels from the window, it is best to start training by shielding your dog from the view with a frosted film, curtains, or shades.
Training Your Dog
Aside from passive measures like keeping your pet from seeing squirrels, there are more active measures that will help train your dog successfully. The goal is to show your dog that it will receive a much greater reward in following you than chasing after a squirrel.
The first step is to give your pet treats, a toy, or both. Scatter treats on the ground, have your pet do a trick, or play a game like fetch. Reward your pet with treats when it does well. Eventually, your pet will understand that it gets more satisfaction out of being by your side than getting a thrill out of a chase. After practicing these games, it will make more sense to command your pet to sit and stay when it sees a squirrel.
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At Everhart Veterinary Medicine, our veterinary professionals strive to provide your pet with the very best of veterinary care. We believe that the best care for your pet should be provided by experienced, compassionate, and knowledgeable veterinary professionals. With two Maryland locations in both Baltimore and Pasadena, we are always ready to welcome your pet as a new patient! Give us a call today at 410-355-3131 or 410-793-7670! For more information, as well as updates on veterinary news and topics, visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!