Training your pup to tree a squirrel in just the right way can be quite challenging. Especially if you have very little experience in training dogs. While you could buy a dog that has been professionally trained or pay to have someone train your pup, what's the fun in that? You can start the process almost the day you bring your pup home, and the sooner you start the better.
The big thing is that puppies love to play chase, which if you get right down to it, is pretty much what treeing a squirrel is all about to your pup. No matter what age your pup is when you start training him to hunt virtually anything, you need to also make sure he has been trained to ignore the sound of gunfire up close and at a distance.
The task at hand is to train your dog to find squirrels and chase them up a tree where it will be easier for you to shoot them. There are, of course, many different methods to do so, but each has the same end result. Your pup will also need to either be learning the basic commands ('sit', 'stay', 'come', 'down') during his hunting training or have already mastered them. This is all about your pup doing what you have trained him to do while still seeing you as the alpha pack leader.
You will also need to decide on a command word you are going to use to tell your pup to hunt squirrels. The simpler the better, you could simply say "squirrel" or "hunt." It really doesn't matter what you use as long as you use the same word every time. Your pup needs to know what is expected of him when you give him this command word.
Depending on the age of your pup, you may be able to combine basic command training along with your hunting training or you can always do it once your pup has completed "Basic Training." Also, your pup will need to be trained not to be gun shy. Beyond this, there are a few things you will need to make the training easier. These include:
The biggest things you can bring to each training session are a happy fun attitude and plenty of patience. You will also need an area with plenty of trees and squirrels as a training ground for your pup.
My name is Audrey and I would love to start squirrel hunting with my dog, he is very obedient and smart. He loves to stay outside and fetch and chase the squirrels in the yard. I have been trying to get him into getting excited when a tail is in a tree but he doesn’t bark and doesn’t stay on the tree for long. I’m a little lost on how I should further his training.
Hello Audrey, Right now, he has learned that once the squirrel is in the tree the fun is over and nothing exciting will happen, so at that point he walks away - you will need to reward him for staying there and reward him for barking after giving him a "Speak!" command (which has to be taught first) to teach him to stay at the tree and to bark when he sees a squirrel. First, teach him Speak by following one of the methods from the article linked below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Next, I suggest following the "Bonding" method from the article you commented on: (https://wagwalking.com/training/hunt-squirrels) and using a squirrel tail (real squirrel tail) on a pole to drag the scent along the ground, then hold the tail-end of the pole against the tree out of his reach. Have an assistant let him go and help him stay on the scent trail, praising him when his nose stays to the ground and he follows the scent, and leading him back to the scent when he wanders away. When he arrives at the tree you are holding the tail against on the pole, command "Speak" and reward with a treat when he barks, wiggle the tail with the pole and when he looks up at it, also reward with another treat. Practice rewarding him for obeying your "Speak" command, for looking up at the tail, and again if he continues looking up for a couple of minutes. Practice the tracking and the looking up at the tail, and barking at it on command until he gets better at following the trail without needing to be guided, will bark before you have to tell him to when he gets to the tree, and when he keeps looking at the tail constantly. When he can do all of the above, then nail the tail to the tree and practice tracking, rewarding his barking, and rewarding him for looking up at it. Pin the tail higher and higher as he improves - continuing to reward him for barking at it and looking up at it. - At this point the tail will be still since it's not on the pole, which is a bit harder. When he will stay focused on it and bark when he finds it, then use a live trap to trap a live squirrel and put the cage in the tree and practice rewarding the same things - moving the cage carefully along the ground to the tree for him to track before putting it up in the tree. When he can track the live squirrel, bark at it when he finds it and keep watching it in the tree, then move onto real squirrels. While practicing this, reward him again when he continues to watch the squirrel, such as every one minute, then two minutes, then five minutes, then ten minutes - gradually spacing your treats further apart as he gets better at staying focused on it for longer. When he has mastered the training with the caged squirrel, then move onto wild loose squirrels. Make sure you practice all of the training in multiple locations and trees so that he will generalize the training and be able to do it in other locations too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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