The increasing popularity of squirrel dog hunting makes it one of the most ideal outdoor canine sports.
Squirrel Hunting Dogs
What is a Squirrel Dog? Squirrel dogs are used to hunt squirrels. Although a squirrel dog is defined as any dog that will hunt squirrels, specific breeds are simply more efficient for hunting smaller animals. Those breeds seem to have an instinct for it, for example, feists, and curs. The difference between a feist and a cur is more so in its size; with the feist being somewhat smaller than the cur.
Dachshunds and Terriers have lately become more and more popular for hunting squirrels, but unlike feists and curs, they require some training.
While it is true that most dogs can be trained as squirrel dogs, feists and curs seem to do it automatically or instinctively without any or much training. Some even learn easily by simply watching other dogs do it.
The basic duty of a squirrel dog is to scout the woods, scent a squirrel, stops, and barks at the base of the tree to announce squirrel presence.
It is rather amazing to watch a good squirrel dog following a fleeing squirrel. They detect a trail by listening for scratches on the bark and the noise of branches caused by squirrels jumping from tree to tree.
In this article we take a look at some of the most popular breeds used for squirrel hunting, being the Mountain Cur, Beagle, Feist and Jack Russel Terrier.
Best Squirrel Hunting Dogs
The Mountain Cur is by far the most used and most popular squirrel dog, for they are rugged and outdoorsy.
Mountain Curs are nowadays bred specifically for hunting. Although they are used mostly for treeing and trailing of small game such as squirrel and raccoons, they are quite successfully used for hunting big game such as bear and wild boar too.
What makes them ideal for hunting is that they can adapt easily to any kind of environment and surroundings.
In addition to this, they are widely used as all-purpose farm-dogs.In fact, the Mountain Cur was brought from Europe to America to guard farmhouses – something that they are extremely good at as a result of being so alert, protective, intelligent and courageous. In fact, they are so protective that they used to die for their masters while protecting them when being attacked.
Some of their other characteristics include that they are enthusiastic and neither vicious nor shy. Their great noses make them perfect for smelling and tracking their prey.
They are quite tenacious and will keep chasing their prey until it is cornered. Once they have located and marked it they will wait for you to take the shot. On track, they are mostly silent and will only bark when a squirrel is treed.
Physical appearance – they are medium-sized dogs with an average height of 16-25 inches, and an average weight of 35-45 pounds. They have short, rough coats usually brownish, tawny, black, brindle and black, or yellow.
They have distinctively wide heads which make them look super alert. This is complemented by their short, cur-like, high-set ears, their sturdy necks, and solid muzzles.
Beagles are extremely popular dogs for hunting squirrels. In fact, they are the ideal dog to include in your hunting trip for catching any small prey such as rabbits, foxes and, of course, squirrels too.
So what makes them so ideal for hunting? Firstly it is their excellent strong sense of smell – they are, in fact, classified as scent hounds as they are mostly used for tracking. Furthermore, they are ideal hunting dogs because of their alertness, speed, and good hearing. And don’t forget that their small bodies give them the advantage to get under shrubs and bushes where it might be impossible for larger dogs to fit in.
It is a well-known fact that the Beagle’s large, wet nose spots the trail of the prey and then, of course, their large, droopy ears will keep them focused on the scent.
One important fact to remember though, is that although they instinctively track scents, and then howl when they have found something, they do need some training to become proper hunting dogs.
Tips to train your Beagle:
It is extremely important that your dog build trust and confidence in you as his owner and leader.
After having followed all the steps above, your challenge is to make sure that he doesn’t forget what you have taught him – you have to continue practicing to brush up on his skills.
Although the word Feist is used by some people to describe any small breed of dog, a true Feist is a short-haired dog with specific defining characteristics. They are, for instance, famous for their hunting skills, scrappiness and size.
Characteristics which make them perfect squirrel hunting dogs are:
They have been around in the United States for quite some time and are, without a doubt, a squirrels biggest nightmare.
Looking at their physical appearance, they have a sturdy, compact frame, are quite appealing dogs, and are always ready for adventure.
Height – ranges from 10-22 inches
Color – black and white or black with tan.
Weight – typically 20 pounds, with some experts saying no more than 27 pounds, while others specify weight of up to 30 pounds.
Jack Russel Terrier
For their relative petite stature, Jack Russel Terriers might just have the strongest, almost out of proportion prey drive. They are extremely courageous and intelligent and as expected, have strong personalities.
They are energetic, driven to work and have an instinctive ability to hunt. In addition to being tough, athletic and determined, they are super friendly too.
Some interesting facts are that they can jump as high as five feet, they can run long distances and could wait days on end to chase out their prey – after all, they are all about endurance.
Other Excellent Squirrel Hunting Breeds
American Blue Gascon Hound
Black and Tan Coonhound
West Siberian Laika
American Squirrel Dog
Barger Stock Feist
Black Mouth Cur
Black Norwegian Elkhound
Cajun Squirrel Dog
Jack Russell Terrier
Kemmer Stock Hybrid Squirrel Dogs
Mountain View Cur
Original Mountain Cur
Parnell’s Carolina Cur
Southern Blackmouth Cur
Stephens’ Stock Mountain Cur
Treeing Farm Shepherd
Treeing Tennessee Brindle
Treeing Walker Coonhound
How to Train your Dog to Squirrel Hunt
Once you are ready to train your dog to squirrel hunt, the best advice you could follow is that of Allen Franklin.
According to Franklin, it all comes down to:
Bonding and yard work – this is the foundation of training and has to begin when your dog is still young. Of course, it will include the basic sit, stay and come commands, but during this initial phase, you also want to teach him to lead, speak and be comfortable being leashed.
Introduction to hunting squirrels – your dog has to become familiar with the scent of squirrels and to follow his prey instincts, and the most successful way to do so, according to Franklin, is by tying a squirrel tail to a pole.
The key element here is visual training which simply means your dog has to master the art of hunting not only with their nose (scent), but also with its eyes.
Once he is familiar with the scent of squirrels, you can move on to teaching him to “speak.” Reward your dog with a treat for each “treed” bark.
Live pursuit – once you are ready to introduce your dog to wild squirrels, you should aim for small steps at a time.
For instance, start out in small patches of forest with large amounts of squirrels. Set your dog up for success, meaning close to squirrel tracks and even in smaller timber to make it easy for him to see the squirrel.
It is extremely important to praise and encourage him when he spots a squirrel.
Short, positive training sessions – Franklin strongly believes that one of the elements for success is to keep your dog engaged in the learning process, especially early on.
He suggests short training sessions daily as opposed to long training sessions once or twice a week.
These short sessions should consist of:
In conclusion, the key to successfully train your dog for squirrel hunting, is ending each session on a positive note. This, together with the daily, short training sessions, will keep you and your dog engaged and looking forward to the next training experience.
This is the golden key to your success…
If you liked this article, check out our article on Squirrel Hunting Tips.