Have you ever noticed dogs in a park running around chasing after birds and if you're lucky to see one, a squirrel?
In particular, have you noticed how they pounce on squirrels using some pace and try to attack them?
Well, if you weren't aware, now you are. The truth is, we see dogs running about all the time in the parks but often take their movements for granted, like chasing squirrels.
But have you ever really wondered why they chase squirrels?
Why do dogs hate squirrels?
One of the main reasons dogs hate squirrels is because of their scent. Just like their ancestors, the wolves, they love to hunt; it's their primal instinct. This means that they love to sniff out prey and hunt them. It's like they have an innate desire to go after small creatures.
Once they've found a small animal i.e., a squirrel, from hunting, they see it as a reward and become happy in their quest.
Which is part of the reason dogs hate squirrels.
However, dogs also have a strong sense of smell. So strong that they can have up to six million more receptors than us humans! Well, according to Phoenixvetcenter, dogs alone have 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, where we have only 6 million!
Their strong sense of smell means they can detect small scents and those that are particularly concentrated too, which is why the police constantly use dogs to detect drugs and bombs on people.
Now, coming back to squirrels…
To a dog, a squirrel's scent is powerful and often high up on its strong scents. So strong that even after a squirrel has left, the dog can smell it for some time in the area it was formerly habituating.
You may find certain breeds of dogs that are more prone to chasing squirrels than the others. For example, if you have a Beagle, they may be more distracted by the squirrel's scent, as their nose can detect up to 50 distinct odors.
Whereas certain breeds have a low sense of smell and hate squirrels but are too lazy to chase them.
How to control my dog's chasing behaviour
Are you fed up with your dog chasing squirrels? Sometimes when dogs chase squirrels, they can be prone to killing them, like birds and bringing them into your house.
We know it's not a nice sight to see or clean up either.
As an owner, though, you can do your part to try and restrict this behavior. You can't restrict or stop it fully as it's their animal instinct, but you can do a few things to curb it.
First of all, you could undergo a strenuous play session with your dog before you take them on a walk. If you do this, it may tire them out a lot more and leave them with little energy to chase a squirrel.
When you're walking in an area that's bound to be filled with squirrels, keep your dog on a leash. That way, you can restrain them when they try to chase after a squirrel.
Another method you can attempt is using vocal commands. Do note, though, this may take a lot of time to achieve, and you will have to have a lot of patience. You can teach a dog to leave the squirrel, but you'll have to do it with a toy. You will need to practice throwing the toy and providing positive reinforcement to drop it.
Like any small creature, sometimes it can be inevitable for you to stop your dog from chasing squirrels. Dogs have this innate instinct where they love to hunt by sniffing out and chasing their prey.
It's a reward seeking behavior.
Some dogs like the Beagle, Bloodhound, and Basset Hound have stronger scents than other breeds. But do note, most of the time, a dog will want to chase them.
You can do things like tiring them out before play or putting them on a leash in a squirrel filled environment.
But after all, they're just dogs, and most of the time, they're just themself.
We recommend leaving them be, that's if they don't kill squirrels and chase them regularly. Why suppress the behavior they've been built for?
Alex Wrigley is a professional writer and blogger who loves travel, technology and dogs. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in Nepal with her three dogs: two pugs and a golden retriever.