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How to Train a Squirrel Dog!
Many squirrel enthusiasts have different ideas for training squirrels. My opinion is that you should start with a good hunting bloodline first. This increases the puppy’s chances of making a squirrel dog. Below are some suggestions…
Step 1: Socialize the puppy early. Whether you adopt the puppy at 6 weeks or 12 weeks, give him as much human interaction as possible. If you have children, allow them to play with the puppy as much as possible. It really is the fastest way to socialize a puppy.
Step 3: At around 8-12 weeks of age, work on basic obedience and be sure to get the dog used to wearing a collar and work on breaking to walk on a leash. Doing this early can save you a lot of headaches hunting in the woods!
Step 4: Start your puppy on 10-30 minute walks in the woods at around 12-14 weeks of age. This allows the puppy to get what I call “Woods Wise”. Woods Wise is all about getting to know the various sights, sounds and smells that the forest has to offer. It also makes a huge difference in the puppy’s overall maturity.
Step 5: At around 3-6 months of age, start pulling and fooling around with the pups with squirrel tails, skins or dead squirrels. Use this time to have the puppy look up at tree tails, skins, or dead squirrels. Once your pup starts barking at these, move on to the next step. There are many different ways to get your puppy to “look up”…
Step 6: caged squirrel. This step can be skipped if the puppy has already barked at a wild squirrel. I personally don’t like using caged wildlife as a training method, but it can be useful if resources are limited to take the pup to an area with squirrels. In any case, trap and place the live squirrel in a cage, and place the caged squirrel in a higher location, such as a log, picnic table, brush, etc…. Lightly walk the pup near the area where the caged squirrel is located. This allows the puppy to find the caged squirrel on its own. Once the pups’ curiosity gets the best of them, move closer to check it out! In such cases, the sight and smell of the squirrel excites the puppy. If the puppy starts barking at the caged squirrel, pet it and encourage it. You can also do this by having a rope tied to the caged squirrel. The rope allows you to lift the squirrel up a tree to bark at the cub. After the pup keeps barking at a tree hanging from a caged squirrel, move on to the next step. Please be careful to never overdo the caged squirrel. Once or twice is enough!!
Step 7: Catch and Release! Release the caged squirrel in an area where the squirrels have a limited selection of trees and let the pup chase it and HOPEFULLY chop it up. If he doesn’t, reward the puppy with treats and praise. Be careful and never release the caged squirrel more than once!
Step 8: From the age of 5-6 months it’s nothing but “Woods Time”. Woods Time is nothing but a puppy hunt! This is a key ingredient in making a squirrel dog. Everything else is just tips and tricks to speed up the training process… Good luck!!
Note: All of the above ages can vary greatly depending on the puppy’s development. Always keep in mind that you are basically dealing with a child, so don’t invest too much in them too soon. Let the puppy be a puppy. If it’s in it, it will come out… I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “I’ve never been able to teach a dog to hunt or be cold. I can only give him the opportunity to do what he was treated, obeyed and bad habits I can work on, but the kid’s instincts and bloodline will take care of the rest.” Again, this is just my personal opinion and nothing else. This is what works for me… Hope this helps.
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