Many squirrel dog enthusiasts have various ideas on how to train a squirrel dog. It is my opinion that you should start with good hunting bloodlines first. This will increase the chances of your pup becoming a squirrel dog. The following should give you some suggestions…
Step 1: Socialize the puppy early. Whether you pick up the puppy at 6 weeks or 12 weeks, provide as much human interaction as possible. If you have children, let them play with the puppy as much as possible. This really is the fastest method of socializing a puppy.
Step 3: Then, around 8-12 weeks of age, work on basic obedience and by all means get the pup used to wearing a collar and work on breaking it to walk on a leash. If you do this early, he’ll save himself a lot of headaches later while hunting in the woods!
Step 4: At around 12 to 14 weeks of age, start taking the puppy on short walks in the woods for 10 to 30 minutes maximum. This allows the pup to get what I call “Woods Wise”. Woods Wise is nothing more than becoming familiar and comfortable with all the different sights, sounds, and smells that the woods have to offer. It also makes a big difference in the overall maturity of the puppy.
Step 5: At around 3 to 6 months of age, start pulling and playing with the puppy with squirrel tails, fur, or dead squirrels. Use this time to make the pup look up at the trees for the tail, fur, or dead squirrel. Once the pup starts barking trees, move on to the next step. There are many different methods that can be used to make the puppy “look up”…
Step 6: Caged Squirrel. This step can be skipped if the pup has already barked at a wild squirrel. I personally don’t like to use crate play as a training method, but it can be useful if you have limited resources to get the pup into an area where there are squirrels. Regardless, trap and place a live squirrel in a cage and place the caged squirrel in an elevated spot such as a stump, picnic table, brush, etc… Casually walk your pup near the area where the squirrel is. caged This will allow the pup to locate the caged squirrel on its own. As the pups’ curiosity gets the best of her, she’ll lean closer to check it out! At this time, the sight and smell of the squirrel will excite the pup. Once the puppy starts barking at the caged squirrel, pet and encourage him. You can also do this with the squirrel caged with a string attached. The rope will allow you to lift the squirrel up a tree so you can make the puppy bark. Once the pup consistently barks at a caged squirrel hanging from a tree, continue to the next step. Be careful never to overdo it with the caged squirrel! Once or twice is enough!!
Step 7: Catch and Release! Release a caged squirrel into an area where the squirrels tree options are limited and let the pup chase it and HOPEFULLY tree it. If he does, reward the puppy with treats and praise. Be careful and never release a caged squirrel more than a couple of times!
Step 8: Starting at 5 or 6 months of age, it’s nothing more than “Forest Time.” Woods Time is nothing more than hunting the pup! This is the key ingredient to make a squirrel dog. Everything else is just tips and tricks to speed up the training process… Good luck!
Please note: All of the above ages can vary greatly, depending on your pup’s progress. Always keep in mind that you’re basically dealing with a child, so don’t make a big deal out of it 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 have never been able to teach a dog to hunt or a tree. I can only give it the opportunity to do what it was.” bred to do Handling, obedience, and bad habits I can work on, but the puppy’s instincts and bloodline will take care of the rest.” Again, these are all my personal opinions and nothing more. This is just what works for me. .. I hope this helps.