How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Squirrels

How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Squirrels
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon1-3 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Most dogs love to chase toys, balls, and wildlife. One particular animal that seems to really get dogs going is the squirrel. While allowing your dog to hunt or sniff after squirrels might not seem problematic, this behavior can quickly escalate and cause potentially dangerous situations to occur. Anything from pulling you off balance while walking or graduating from chasing squirrels to chasing children or bikes or joggers can cause serious injury to you, your dog, and other people.

Training your dog to ignore prey animals like squirrels can take time and requires patience and consistency. It’s in your dog’s best interests to acquire this training for his safety. A dog who obsessively chases after squirrels is more likely to run into the street after one and possibly get hit by a car or get lost wandering away from the yard. Teach your dog to ignore squirrels and other small animals, and you’ll be doing yourself and your dog a favor.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

Dogs chase squirrels because it’s an enjoyable activity for them and one that is hard-wired into certain breeds. Hunting wildlife is a primal instinct in dogs, so the training process to control or override that intuition can be a lengthy one.

Certain breeds have a more intense prey drive and may take longer to train. It may be more difficult for herding dogs like Border Collies or a dog bred to flush out small animals, such as a Beagle or Wire Fox Terrier, to suppress their prey drive around squirrels. Extra patience and practice will be required for these breeds of dog. Regardless of breed, with dedication and concentrated effort, your dog can learn to ignore squirrels too.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

The three training methods require toys, treats, and a durable leash. Being creative as well as patient will make the training process easier and more enjoyable for you and your dog.

Remember to take a break if you become frustrated or angry with your pup and keep the training sessions short enough, so your dog doesn’t become bored.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Find It Game Method

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

2 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Place treats around your yard

Take some of your dog's favorite treats and hide them in areas around your backyard.

2

Put your dog on the hunt

Let your dog loose in your backyard so he can scent and "hunt" out the treats instead of focusing on chasing squirrels.

3

Repeat

Repeat the "Find It" game with treats up to two times per day, preferably around meal times. This process can redirect your dog's focus and energy away from the squirrels in the yard.

4

Change it up

Keep your dog engaged and on his toes by switching the "Find It" game up every few days. Instead of using treats, hide chew items or food puzzle toys around the yard.

5

Try alternative scent trails

To keep things interesting for your dog, consider using alternative scent trails on the dog's toys, like game scent.

The Leave It Method

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

0 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Teach 'leave it'

Begin practicing this command indoors with one of your dog's toys. Have your dog on a leash. Throw the toy and say "leave it" in a confident tone. Restrain your dog if he moves, then practice this step again. Once your dog masters this skill, you can move him outdoors for further training.

2

Observe your dog's body language

Watch your dog carefully so you can intervene with the 'leave it' command the instant he notices the squirrel.

3

Redirect

Keep your dog focused on you by immediately giving him a second command. 'Sit' is a popular and natural follow-up command to 'leave it'.

4

Praise and reward

Once your dog successfully completes this training, be sure to praise him and give him a small treat.

5

Go for a walk

When your dog is ready, leash him and take him for a walk while practicing these commands. Praise and reward your dog each time he does what you ask of him.

The Sound Aversion Method

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon

Least Recommended

1 Vote

Ribbon icon
1

Observe body language

Get used to recognizing how your dog responds when he sees a squirrel.

2

Choose your sound device

Pick a sound device that will make a loud noise, loud enough to distract your dog from the squirrel.

3

Make a noise

As soon as you see your dog being to chase after the squirrel, make a loud noise such as clapping or shaking coins in a bottle. Your dog will learn to associate chasing squirrels with a loud, unpleasant noise.

4

Repeat

As this training process takes time, be sure to practice this method repeatedly in short sessions until your dog has mastered this task.

5

Consider a hissing device

If loud sounds are not promoting success in breaking your dog's squirrel obsession, consider using anything that makes a hissing sound. This sound will distract the dog and force him to refocus on what you are doing.

By Erin Cain

Published: 12/08/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Ranger

Dog breed icon

Mini Australian Shepterrier

Dog age icon

3 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

We have large trees that hang over our back yard, they are the home of two squirrels…. They love antagonizing my dogs to the point that Ranger (our Aussie) is now climbing our 6 ft wood fence to our neighbors yard thinking he can get the squirrels .. we now have to watch him constantly while he goes outside when he used to be able to go outside anytime with the use of the doggy door .. we have to lock all the dogs inside while we are gone Help if you can my neighbor is getting frustrated with my dog in his yard as well

June 28, 2022

Ranger's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Angie, Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill livestock. To stop the killing you would need to pursue training like that, creating an avoidance of the squirrels or at least of the fence line. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Mild cat issue - teaching impulse control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWF2Ohik8iM Moderate cat issue - teaching impulse control using corrections and rewards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dPIC3Jtn0E Severe cat issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MLJV5PBh7Y More e-collar work with cats with the same dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8lkbX0dhT0 Work on impulse control in general with pup, by teaching things that increase impulse control and calmness - such as a long, Place command around lots of distractions. Practicing the command until you get to the point where pup will stay on Place outside while the squirrels are out. When you get to the point where pup is externally reacting to the squirrels as much, then reward pup also for choosing to ignore the squirrels when pup is outside, the squirrels are out and pup ignores them. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Below are some other commands in general you can practice to help pup develop better impulse skill/self-control. Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the room: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark You may also want to try to spray a predator urine based squirrel repellent around your property perimeter to decrease the amount of squirrels in your yard - this won't get rid of them completely but could decrease their numbers and frequency of visits. Sometimes putting a fake owl in a frequented tree can sometimes work to keep them out of that particular tree too, but many squirrels will eventually figure out that it's fake, so it would need to be relocated later. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 28, 2022

Dog nametag icon

Ruger

Dog breed icon

German Shepherd

Dog age icon

4 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

User generated photo

Ruger is a shepherd husky mix and constantly pulls on walks. It’s as if he needs to “be the leader” especially when we are walking him with our other dog. Treats do not work when trying to train him out on walks. He is so focused on the surroundings and looking for rabbits that he has no interest in food.

May 11, 2022

Ruger's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Katie, Check out the Turs method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 11, 2022


Training assistant
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.