Most dogs absolutely love squirrels, and they enjoy chasing after them, but why do dogs chase squirrels in the first place? Do dogs want to kill squirrels? Find out the answers to these questions and more below.
Reasons Why Dogs Chase Squirrels
Some dogs go nuts when they see a squirrel, but why do they do this? Your dog may chase a squirrel for a few different reasons, and we are going to go into more detail about each.
Dogs have a natural prey drive instinct which makes them want to hunt, chase, or even bark at prey. The dog comes from the ancestor, the wolf, which gives your dog this natural prey drive trait. Some dogs exhibit this trait more than others.
While nowadays, the prey drive trait has diminished quite a lot, it can still be prevalent in certain dogs. Especially dogs that come from a hunting or retrieving background.
If your dog has a high prey drive, it will become obsessed with chasing the squirrel down and catching it. Some dogs will even release it after it’s been caught just to catch it again. Here are some dog breeds with the highest prey drive:
- Afghan Hounds
- Bull Mastiff
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherd
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
I am not saying just because you have one of these dog breeds that it will always chase a squirrel. I am saying that these dog breeds are more likely to have a strong prey drive, leading to the chasing of squirrels and other small animals.
A Strong Nose
Dogs have very strong noses that can smell things from farther away and heighten the smell in their nose. So, dogs can sense if there is prey nearby without even being able to see the squirrel just by its nose.
Your dog’s nose will store information like the smell of a squirrel. This will stay in their memory, so every time your dog smells that scent, it will know a squirrel is nearby. This is another reason why your dog may chase after a squirrel because they can’t help but smell the squirrel.
Feel Good Hormone
As you may already know, dogs love to catch and chase after a variety of things. When your dog is catching or retrieving, it actually releases a hormone called Serotonin.
This makes your dog feel good doing what your dog naturally loves to do, which is to chase squirrels. Since this hormone gets released, it makes your dog repeat this behavior over and over again.
Do All Dogs Chase Squirrels?
Not all dogs have that desire to chase down and catch a squirrel. Each dog does have the natural instinct to chase down prey, but some dogs can’t even be bothered by the entire activity to chase a squirrel.
This really comes down to your dog’s personality. Younger dogs have much more energy and may chase squirrels more than older dogs. Also, the dog breeds in our list below are more prone to having a higher prey drive.
When Dogs Chasing Squirrels Become a Problem
While I don’t think letting your dog chase a squirrel now and then is a big deal, there are instances when it does become problematic or unsafe. Here in this list are the times that you shouldn’t let your dog chase a squirrel
Squirrels can be exceptionally fast, darting from place to place in the yard. When dogs are chasing a squirrel, they usually forget about what around them or what they are doing. This can make your dog out of control, and this can be dangerous depending on what’s around your yard.
If your yard has broken pieces of fence or dangerous objects around your yard or at the park, your dog could get hurt. You don’t want your dog to get injured because your dog may have to go to the vet if the injury is bad.
We get that squirrels are a dog’s natural prey, but it becomes a problem when your dog starts bringing dead squirrels home. The last thing I want I’d for my dog to kill the squirrel and bring it home. If this happens, your will be the one that will have to deal with the mess and clean it up.
Most dogs are usually incisively barking at the squirrel, so depending on where you live, your neighbors might get upset with your dogs barking. You may have some neighbors complaining about your dog if the barking doesn’t stop after a while.
Can Squirrels Get Dogs Sick?
Squirrels don’t usually carry anything extremely worrisome, such as diseases. Squirrels can get fleas and ticks just like dogs. A squirrel could pass them to your dog if your dog were to catch the squirrel with its mouth.
As you may already know, fleas and ticks carry diseases that can be harmful to both you and your dog. It is important to make sure your dog has been treated for fleas and ticks to keep them away from your dog.
If your dog likes to chow down on squirrel poop, you may have a worry there. Not only is that completely gross, but squirrel poop can contain Salmonella or Leptospirosis. This, of course, is a more serious condition that you will need to notify your veterinarian for.
How to Train your Dog Not to Chase Squirrels
Some people have found different methods to stop their dogs from chasing squirrels, and I will talk about them below. You can try these ways out and see if they help. Some dogs are very stubborn and just adamant about catching that squirrel.
Get Your Dog Tired
You can reduce the chances of your dog chasing after a squirrel by making your dog tired first. You can play with your dog before you go on your walk to get some of that energy out. Exercise is the key to making a dog tired. This should work well because when you finally go on your walk, chances are your dog will be too tired to chase after the squirrel.
Keep Your Dog on a Leash
Puppies can get very excited seeing a squirrel for the first time. Your dog may just instinctively chase after the squirrel. A leash can keep your dog next to you to ensure your dog doesn’t chase after the squirrel.
Most people walk with their dog on a leash already, but if you don’t and you are experiencing these issues, I highly suggest you get a leash.
You can teach your dog some basic commands such as leave it or the basic no. This can be useful not only for stopping your dog from chasing a squirrel but also in other ways during training.
To train your dog to do this, you need to practice by throwing a stuffed animal and telling your dog to leave it. This will take quite a while for your dog to get this training method down. You can also do this by saying “no” to your dog and reward your dog with treats when it stays by your side.
Teaching your dog not to go after a squirrel can be a very challenging task. Many dogs can help but to go after their natural instinct of chasing a squirrel. Sometimes you can allow your dog to chase a squirrel, and other times you should prevent the action to keep your dog safe.
Now you know exactly why dogs chase squirrels. Does your dog chase squirrels in your yard or at the park? Let us know in the comment section below.