How to Train Your Dog to Ignore Squirrels

Hard
1-3 Months
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Find It Game Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Place treats around your yard
Take some of your dog's favorite treats and hide them in areas around your backyard.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Leave It Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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'.
Step
4
Praise and reward
Once your dog successfully completes this training, be sure to praise him and give him a small treat.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Sound Aversion Method

Least Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Observe body language
Get used to recognizing how your dog responds when he sees a squirrel.
Step
2
Choose your sound device
Pick a sound device that will make a loud noise, loud enough to distract your dog from the squirrel.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Erin Cain

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

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Daisy
Labrador
3 Years
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Daisy
Labrador
3 Years

My dog has a high level of energy and she is willing to please but I have a hard time when I take her out for her regular walks because she cannot stop pulling on the leash and gets highly distracted when there is a squirrel or other dogs out. She pulls constantly and lunges in other directions to the point where I almost fall. She does not listen to my calls and I am scared that she can get hurt if she tries running away if I let go of the leash and she tries going after a squirrel across the street. I just want Daisy to be able to walk calmly and not feel the need to chase things so that I can have some ease of mind when I go out with her. I take her out behind my building where there is a huge park but I don't want to make so much noise where all the buildings in my complex can hear me calling her. I constantly reward her when she does good things but it's like she forgets them once she sees a squirrel. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mina, I suggest working on the following commands: Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Collar fitting and intro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Herbie
Golden Retriever
5 Years
0 found helpful
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Herbie
Golden Retriever
5 Years

My dog has a hyper sensitive nose and will show extreme interest in elderly dogs; sniffing intensely and then often humping. Elderly dogs seem to not tell off other dogs. I think he's picking up on health issues like urinary tract infections etc. I've just started using a remote control spay(odor free) which is working on getting him to pay less attention to other dogs generally but we don't meet elderly sick dogs often enough to get repeat training in this crucial area. Should I just persevere with the spray?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sue, Since it seems to be working I do suggest continuing it but I would also see if any of your friend's have patient older dogs and practice what you are doing in regular sessioms involving those other dogs, while also practicing an Out command, Leave It command, and rewarding pup for staying calm arouns the older dogs to begin with. Leave It: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave that space: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Gibbs
Golden Retriever
5 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Gibbs
Golden Retriever
5 Years

My 90 lb., usually docile and well-behaved golden retriever, has become obsessed with digging holes in search of chipmunks when we walk in the park. He does not dig holes in our fenced yard.
This need to dig has developed over the past two years. I believe it began when he found, on a trip to the beach, that he could dig in the sand and find crabs. He is now applying that skill at home in the park. It has become an obsession.
Although I try to avoid walking him in the wooded section of our local park, he always seems to spot a chipmunk hole somewhere. He lunges for it, dragging me with him, and starts digging. Once he begins to dig it is as if he zones out.
I have tried bribing him with treats, spraying lemon juice on his "dig," using the "leave it" command, which works quite well in other situations, standing over the hole (he just watches and waits for his opportunity to start digging again), or dragging him away which is a battle of wills that he usually wins. If I do get him a couple of feet away from the hole, he will usually just lunge right back. Or, sometimes, if I get him a few feet away and can break the spell a little, he will respond to the command to sit. He will sit but not budge. If I try to have him walk away with me, he simply lunges back to the hole and commences digging. Usually this only stops when he becomes exhausted.
Yesterday, this drama went on for over 20 minutes, and it took the help of the groundskeeper with a noisy grass trimmer to get him to move away from his "dig."

This has become both destructive and exhausting.
I hate to walk Gibbs only through the streets of our neighborhood, and I don't want to use a shock collar. But something has to change.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pat, First, keep treats in your pocket during the walk practice Leave It at home - to make sure he is brushed up on that command. Bring a pet convincer with you on the walk also - which is a small canister of pressurized, unscented air. Don't use the citronella - it lingers too long, just unscented air. Start the walk off by practicing a very structured heel, with lots of turns, changes in pace, pup's nose behind your leg, and periodic Down-Stay commands. You want to get pup in a more focused, calm and submissive state before you reach the park and holes - not full of adrenaline and ignoring you before he even sees the holes. Make him work during the walk on the way there - turning around when you get to the park if pup hasn't been calm on the way there. Pup will likely be tired by the time you get back home, even with a shorter walk, just because they had to work so hard mentally and use self-control on the way there. Practice just heeling to the park until pup can stay in a calm state on the way there. Once at the park, practice this heeling routine in the area of the park where he tends to find holes, but in a spot where pup hasn't detected a hole yet. You want pup's entire mindset to be more respectful and calm while in that location. Practice the structured obedience for a while there, then leave before pup finds a hole; do this until pup's entire demeanor while at the park is attentive to you and staying calm. At that point, practice the walk across the park - knowing you may run into a hole. Watch pup's body language and continue your obedience heeling routine through the park. As soon as pup stars to tense up, tell pup "Leave It" and if pup doesn't relax again and focus back on you but continues to get into a fixated state, spray pup's side with a puff of the Pet Convincer and turn around to go home. Repeat this every time pup starts to get aroused while at the park. The goal is to catch pup during those seconds when pup first catches a scent or sees an area and starts to get excited, before they have dragged you over there. You will only have a couple of seconds to respond, so probably won't catch pup in time every time. When you don't catch pup and they are already fixated, try to hold your ground, tell pup "Ah Ah", and spray the pet convincer. If you find that you can't catch pup early enough to stop pup from dragging you over there, and then pup is too fixated once at the hole to respond to the training, it's time to use a corrective collar to help with management while you work up to being able to keep pup in a calmer state. I suggest using a gentle leader or prong collar for this - it needs to be something that prevents pup from pulling you there. Don't use a choke chain, they can damage a dog's trachea and likely won't prevent pup from pulling you over to the hole. Prong collars are often fitted poorly, which makes them less safe and less effective, so spend time learning about them first if you go that route. The collar will not do the training for you, you ultimately need to practice pup's calmness and focus on you while in that location, but to do that, pup's ability to pull you over needs to be better managed. How to Introduce the Prong collar – plus how to connect to buckle collar with carabiner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23zEy-e6Khg How to walk with a Prong collar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVvy6fztL2Q&t=6s When pup responds to your leave it command or maintains their heel through park without looking for holes in general, then give a treat as you practice. Pup may not be able to earn any treats at first - that's to be expected. As pup improves and their focus on you increases, pup will likely be able to earn more treats, and the training will become more positive reinforcement than corrections as it progresses. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenen

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Louie
Cavapoo
Three Years
0 found helpful
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0 found helpful
Louie
Cavapoo
Three Years

My dog obsessively watches out the window at the bird feeders waiting for the squirrels and chipmunks and then barks so they run away. He goes absolutely crazy running all over the house from window to window looking for them. It's getting really bad, and he is running over our leather furniture and ruining it. How do i stop his obsession with the squirrels and chipmunks and regain some sort of peace?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, it sounds like this activity is the highlight of Louie's day and his intense drive may not be that easy to train out of him. I think the best way to start is to remove the temptation by putting a barrier between him and the window so that he cannot see the prey. Give Louie lots of diversions in the form of interactive toys and treat feeders when he is inside. When on walks, keep him focused so that he does not have the time to react to the animals.Work on the Turns Method here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. You can also train him to get off the furniture when asked: https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-off-the-furniture. Good luck!

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sailor
Fox Terrier
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
sailor
Fox Terrier
2 Years

Part fox terrier part flat coated retriever and he won’t stop pulling as hard as possible any time he sees a squirrel

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sydney, First, I suggest laying a good foundation of communication by practicing commands like Leave It, Watch Me, Out, and Heel. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Heel - Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Work on teaching those commands first, since pup needs to know what you are asking of them before they can be expected to comply, have the skills to remain self-controlled, or understand why they are being rewarded or corrected. Since the animal chasing is happening while pup is on a leash, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have his mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with him having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if he isn't calm. He should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk he should be in the heel position - with his head behind your leg. That position decreases his arousal. It prevents him from scanning for other animals, and ignoring you behind him. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused he is. Additionally, when you do pass other animals, as soon as he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Remind him with a fair correction that you are leading the walk and he is not allowed to break his heel or stare another animal. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. This also makes the walk more pleasant for him in the long-run. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo The below videos are of dog reactive dogs - but they are good examples of keeping a dog calmer on the walk through structure and obedience exercises - to build focus on the handler and teach pup to ignore distractions. Reactive dog - example of interruptions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Example of interrupting an aroused dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Once pup is focusing on you regularly and ignoring distractions - at that point, you can also begin rewarding pup with small treats, further increasing their attention on you. You will need pup to be in a calmer mindset first though - so that you are rewarding the focused, calm attitude and not the aroused, predatory state. I would also specifically pursue teaching pup to avoid squirrels. Check out the videos below for information on that. I suggest hiring a trainer with experience in this area and who uses a similar training style to the trainer in the video - combining rewards, proactive communication, and correction. 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 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Blue
Blue Nose Pitt
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Blue
Blue Nose Pitt
6 Months

Fixates on squirrels and areas he has seen them every time he goes outside. Barks and wines like crazy. Even seeing them through the window.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
213 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the squirrels. Blue needs to learn that the squirrels is just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach him to become less reactive by them. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching him "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking him around the squirrels while on leash. Any time he even looks at a squirrel, you give the command leave it. Once he breaks his attention away from the squirrel, you reward him with a treat. Ideally, you want to him to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as he isn't focused on the cat, you can reward him. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the cats until he is no longer interested in the squirrels. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The squirrels need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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Sundae
Staffordshire
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Sundae
Staffordshire
2 Years

The dog is perfect and lovable in the home but when walking her she yanks real hard on her leash to was soon as she sees a squirrel. other animals don't seem to interest her. she is friendly with other dogs/cats/people.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
213 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize her to the squirrels. Sundae needs to learn that the squirrels are just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach her to become less reactive by them. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching her "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking her around the squirrels while on leash. Any time she even looks at a squirrel, you give the command leave it. Once she breaks his attention away from the squirrel, you reward her with a treat. Ideally, you want to her to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as she isn't focused on the cat, you can reward her. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the squirrels until she is no longer interested in the squirrels. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The squirrels need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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Leo
Goldendoodle
15 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Leo
Goldendoodle
15 Months

Leo used to walk on a leash very well. Recently he has become CRAZY about squirrels and rabbits. He goes nuts barking incessantly and pulling like crazy. But he only does this in the beginning of the walk. He eventually settles down and walks better by the end of the walk. It is very frustrating, and I have no idea how to stop it. He also goes bolting out the back door barking his head off every time, thinking there is a squirrel in the tree (even if there is not). Help!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, It sounds like pup has become overly excited about squirrels from chasing them in the backyard, and is developing a habit of looking for them and getting aroused in anticipation of them. For the door bolting, attach a thirty or fifty foot leash to a padded back clip harness that he can't slip out of. Attach the other end of the leash to something sturdy like a stairway banister (the leash is a safety measure). With the leash slack and only there "just in case", act like you are going out the door. Start to open the door and whenever pup tries to go toward it quickly close it. Your goal isn't to hit him but he may get a slight bump if he is especially pushy. Practice opening and closing the door until you can open it and he will wait until it is open further. When he is waiting a bit, then get between him and the door and play goalie with the opening. Opening the door wide enough for you to get through, then whenever pup tries to get through, firmly but calmly take several steps toward him to make him back up. By doing this you are communicating that you own that space and asking for his respect. Don't worry about bumping into him a bit if he won't move out of the way - your attitude needs to mean business but be calm, without being angry at all. Once you can open the door and he will stay back and not try to rush through, then you can click and toss a treat. You will gradually practice opening the door more and more and blocking him from getting through and walking toward him to make him back up and wait. Take steps toward him until he is at least two feet from the door AND two feet away from you - those two distances often equal him giving you respect (and not simply waiting to get past you when you move), and waiting at the door (instead of trying to bolt). It will feel a lot like you are a soccer goalie, having to be quick and focused. When you can open the door completely and he will wait, take a step through the doorway. If he tries to follow, rush toward him, making him backup again quickly. This serves as a natural consequence and encourages him to stay back. If he waits patiently, then click and toss a treat as his paws. Practice at that distance until he will stay back. As he improves, take more and more steps, moving outside, onto your porch and into your yard eventually. Be ready to quickly rush toward him as soon as you see him start to move, to keep him from getting outside (this is why you back the long leash on him, just in case he gets past you, but for training purposes the goal is to keep him from getting out so he isn't rewarded for bolting). When he will stay inside while you stand in the yard, then recruit others to be distractions outside. Expect to stay a bit closer to him when you first add a hard distraction. For the walk, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have his mind on scanning the area in search of animals. The walk should start with him having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if he isn't calm. He should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through the door. When you walk he should be in the heel position - with his head behind your leg. That position decreases his arousal, reduces stress because he isn't the one in charge and the one encountering things first. It prevents him from scanning for squirrels as pup too, and from ignoring you behind him. It also requires him to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused and reactive he is. Additionally, when you do pass animals, as soon as he starts staring them down, interrupt him. Remind him with a gentle correction that you are leading the walk and he is not allowed to break his heel or stare another dog down. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. Staying in a calmer mindset also makes the walk more pleasant for him in the long-run. How hard this is to do will depend on your timing, if you can interrupt pup as soon as he sees something, before he takes off. Once pup can walk past animals more calmly, you can carry small, soft treats hidden in a treat pouch or plastic bag in your pocket. When pup's body language stays calm, they remain focused on you, or are very obedient when other dogs are within sight, reward pup with a treat and very calm - almost monotone praise (too much excitement can make the situation harder for pup). One example of interrupting a dog's arousal and adding more structure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiDe0GNnLQ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Lulu
Mixed herding
5 Years
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Lulu
Mixed herding
5 Years

On rare occasion lulu will attack our shitzu Railey. It happened once while getting ready for a walk and the backyard gate closed and both dogs were at the gate when an attack happened and two months later. Railey got attacked while the dogs were walking (off leash). This time I think Lulu mistakenly thought Railey was a squirrel and lulu attacked when Railey popped out from behind a tree that lulu was chasing squirrels.
It's not an everyday event as these two have been together for about 5 years and these 2 attacks just happened recently and about 2 months apart.
I'm ready to get rid of lulu because I can't have Railey get beat up. Not something I want to do but can't risk Raileys well being.

Any suggestions are welcomed.
Kurt

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, yes it is tough to monitor a situation like this when it is so random. I would recommend contacting a trainer used to dealing with aggression, even though the incidents have happened only a few times. They can come to the home to advise you once they meet Lulu and see the interaction that normally takes place between the two dogs. I would also work on Lulu's obedience skills. Train her from day one and reinforce what she already knows - and teach her new things - to remind her that behaving is expected. Train and train, 10 - 20 minutes every day. Teach her Leave It as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite. This may work when Lulu starts a fight, although it depends on how intent she is when she is aggressive. Take a look here as well: https://robertcabral.com/. There are a lot of resources and you may be able to speak to a trainer. Good luck and all the best to Railey and to Lulu!

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Storm
Cavapoo
1 Year
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Storm
Cavapoo
1 Year

Hello,

When I walk my pup I first take her in a field and then in the woods next door.

In the field she is very well behaved, she’s off leash and her recall is great. She listens to me no problem.

The second we step foot in the woods she is staring up at the trees and on constant high alert for squirrels, birds, anything. It’s like she’s suddenly totally deaf to her name and anything I say. She would run off into the bushes and be barking up the trees and running round very excited with no recall what so ever.

I have treats with me and have tried taking them out in the packet so she can hear when I’ve got them out, but still nothing.

I have resorted to keeping her on the lead in the woods now because I’m scared she’s going to run off and get herself into trouble. She will always come back to me eventually, she just petrifies me in the process!! She then spends her whole walk in the woods pulling on the lead and trying to dart into the bushes.

We also have her sister who is perfect walking round the woods and field but she sometimes chases after Storm if she notices somethings up.

It’s just very odd that she has been walked in these woods all her life and only recently have we started to have this problem.

Anything suggestions on what I can do would be wonderful, walks have become slightly stressful!!

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
213 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize her to the squirrels. Sundae needs to learn that the squirrels are just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach her to become less reactive by them. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching her "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking her around the squirrels while on leash. Any time she even looks at a squirrel, you give the command leave it. Once she breaks his attention away from the squirrel, you reward her with a treat. Ideally, you want to her to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as she isn't focused on the cat, you can reward her. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the squirrels until she is no longer interested in the squirrels. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The squirrels need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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Nolan
Corgi Basset mix
2 Years
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Nolan
Corgi Basset mix
2 Years

We've had some success with restraining Nolan from going after squirrels when we're on a walk using a prong collar. However, inside the house when he spots a squirrel from the living room window, he barks, paces around, whines and is pretty much uncontrollable. We've tried comforting him--he resists--clapping our hands and saying no, and putting on the prong collar inside. There's not been much success.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
213 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Your best bet in this situation is to go with a method to desensitize him to the squirrels. Nolan needs to learn that the squirrels are just a normal part of the environment. So we need to teach him to become less reactive by them. If you are up for this, it is going to take about a month of consistent practice before you see results. You will want to start out by teaching him "leave it". Leave is great for anything you want your dog to leave alone. Instructions on leave it will be at the end of this response. After about a week or so of working on the command, you can start taking him around the squirrels while on leash. Any time he even looks at a squirrel, you give the command leave it. Once he breaks his attention away from the squirrel, you reward him with a treat. Ideally, you want to him to be sitting and looking at you. But in the beginning stages, as long as he isn't focused on the squirrel, you can reward him. You will literally practice this over and over, while moving closer to the squirrels until he is no longer interested in the squirrels. While this method takes a while, it is the best in relaying the messages across to your dog. The squirrels need to be left alone! Here are the steps for "leave it" Teaching a dog 'leave it' Teaching “leave it” is not difficult. Begin the lessons inside your home or in an area with very few distractions. Here are the steps for teaching “leave it”: Make sure you have two different types of treats. One type can be fairly boring to the dog, but the other type should be a high-value treat that he finds pretty delicious. You will also want to make sure that the treats are broken up into pea-sized pieces so it won’t take him too long to eat them. Put one type of treat in each hand. If you like to train with a clicker as your marker, you can also hold a clicker in the same hand that holds the high-value treat. Then, place both of your hands behind your back. Make a fist with the hand that is holding the treat of lower value and present your fist to your dog, letting him sniff. Say “leave it” and wait until he finishes sniffing your fist. As soon as your dog is done sniffing, you can either click with the clicker or say “yes.” Then offer him the higher-value treat in your other hand. Repeat until your dog immediately stops sniffing your hand when you say “leave it.” When you say “leave it” and he stops sniffing right away, leash your dog and then toss a low-value treat outside of his reach. Wait until he stops sniffing and pulling toward the treat. As soon as he does, either say “yes” or click and then give him a high-value treat from your hand. Practice this exercise a number of times. Over time, by practicing “leave it,” your dog should stop pulling as soon as you give the cue. When rewarding him with a treat, make sure that it is something good, not plain old kibble. By doing so, you are teaching him that asking him to leave some food doesn’t mean he won’t get anything, but that in fact he might get something even more delicious. When your dog is reliably responding to the cue, you can teach him that “leave it” can apply to other things as well, not just food on the floor. Repeat the exercise with five different items that are fairly boring to your dog. After using five different “boring” items, start using slightly more exciting items. You know your dog, so you alone know what items he would consider more interesting, but don’t jump to high-value items right away. To increase his chances of success at learning the cue, you want to work up to high-value items gradually. If Kleenex or a piece of plastic, for instance, would attract your dog on a walk, don’t start with those. Choose the items based on your ultimate goal: Anytime you say “leave it,” you want to be confident that your dog will indeed leave whatever you are asking him to leave. . The reward he receives when he leaves an item can change as well. If your dog has a favorite toy, squeak it and play for a moment when he comes running to you after leaving the other item of interest. Most dogs love interacting with us, so a moment of praise or play with a toy can be just as effective as a treat. Keep it fun Even though you’re practicing “leave it” as a way to keep your dog safe, you want him to see it as a fun game you play. When your dog is proficient at the game in your home, start practicing in a variety of locations with more distractions.

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Nova
Eurasier
10 Months
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Nova
Eurasier
10 Months

When walking nova in woody areas she is consistently looking up in the trees, and once she sees a squirrel she will bark (high pitch) until they are out of sight ? Wanted to know how to stop this or at least stop the barking no stop towards them once she sees them ?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
780 Dog owners recommended

Hello Matt, First, I suggest laying a good foundation of communication by practicing commands like Leave It, Watch Me, Out, and Heel. Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Heel - Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Work on teaching those commands first, since pup needs to know what you are asking of them before they can be expected to comply, have the skills to remain self-controlled, or understand why they are being rewarded or corrected. Since the animal chasing is happening while pup is on a leash walking with you, I suggest working on the structure of your walk first. You want pup to be working during the walk - having to stay behind you, focus on you, perform commands periodically, and not have her mind on scanning the area in search of other dogs. The walk should start with her having to exit your home very calmly, performing obedience commands at the door if she isn't calm. She should wait for permission ("Okay" or "Free" or "Let's Go") before going through the door instead of bolting through if that's an issue. When you walk she should be in the heel position - with her head behind your leg. That position decreases her arousal. It prevents her from scanning for other animals, and ignoring you behind her. It also requires her to be in a more submissive, structured, focused, calmer mindset - which has a direct effect on how aroused she is. Additionally, when you do pass other animals, as soon as she starts staring them down, interrupt her. Remind her with a fair correction that you are leading the walk and she is not allowed to break her heel or stare another animal. It is far easier to deal with reactivity when you interrupt a dog early in the process - before they are highly aroused and full of adrenaline and cortisol, and to keep the dog in a less aroused/calmer state to begin with. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel The below videos are of dog reactive dogs - but they are good examples of keeping a dog calmer on the walk through structure and obedience exercises - to build focus on the handler and teach pup to ignore distractions. Reactive dog - example of interruptions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY8s_MlqDNE Example of interrupting an aroused dog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Once pup is focusing on you regularly and ignoring distractions - at that point, you can also begin rewarding pup with small treats, further increasing their attention on you. You will need pup to be in a calmer mindset first though - so that you are rewarding the focused, calm attitude and not the aroused, predatory state. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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