If your dog chases squirrels, you initially might think it's fun to watch, but you should really think about the dangers involved. Although he might be giving into his natural, predatory instinct, chasing these teasing critters can result in getting hit by a car, getting bitten and possibly contracting a disease. Rather than having to deal with these issues, learn how to nip your furry pal's chasing behavior in the bud.
A reliable recall, ideally taught during puppyhood, can make your dog come to you when you want. Start teaching the recall indoors in an area with no distractions. Arm yourself with yummy treats, say "Rascal, come" and briskly walk away. When he follows, praise him and hold a treat at your eye level when you give it to him. With consistency and gradual progression to areas with more distractions, he'll come to you in anticipation of the yummy treat instead of focusing on other distractions. Other commands worth teaching include "leave it," "sit" and "stay."
Stopping your furry pal from chasing a squirrel doesn't mean that his prey instinct went away. The pent-up energy that almost made him set in for the chase is still there. To burn some of this energy, exercise your dog. Go for long walks, practice obedience training, allow him to run and play games with him, such as fetch and tug-of-war. Providing your dog with mental and physical stimulation can tire him out and prevent undesired behavior.
If something unpleasant happens each time your dog sees a squirrel, it might discourage him from chasing it. A loud noise, such as that of an air horn, or squirting your dog with water mixed with citronella, can break his concentration. With consistency, he'll associate the appearance of the little critters with the unpleasant consequence and might prefer to ignore them. Sometimes a painful experience can also prevent your dog from chasing squirrels. To ensure these types of corrections remains safe and humane, work with an experienced, certified dog trainer.
When you're training or walking your pet companion outside, always use a leash so you can prevent him from chasing squirrels, especially when his recall isn't reliable yet. Since squirrels are most active at dusk and dawn, walking your dog during daylight hours can prevent running into them. Keeping your dog confined to a fenced backyard or kennel instead of letting him roam unsupervised can also keep him from setting in for the chase.
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