How To Stop Your Dog Chasing Squirrels, Birds & Other Wildlife
Something that’s instinctive for many breeds of dog is the desire to chase.
At a primal level, dogs have always been predators and scavengers, so this desire is very common and it can be hard to suppress entirely.
However, it is possible to teach your dog the obedience that’s required to stop your dog chasing (and possibly harming) squirrels, birds, and other wildlife you may come across when you’re walking your dog.
So in this guide, we’re going to explain why your dog chases wildlife, and what you can do to stop the behavior from occurring so often (and reduce the chance of him causing another animal harm, too).
Why Does Your Dog Give Chase?
The main reason your dog chases wildlife is because ultimately, it’s enjoyable to chase.
As previously stated, the desire to chase is very innate and primal, so while it can be difficult to stop entirely, it is possible to redirect the behavior to some degree.
Because dog’s primarily rely on their sense of smell to hunt, a good tip is to give them the same excitement by hiding treats for them to sniff out and find in your home.
This will give them a similar sense of satisfaction, so you won’t need to worry about depriving your dog of their natural desire to chase when it comes to teaching them that they aren’t allowed to chase other animals.
The Power Of Prevention
If you’re looking for the quickest and easiest way to stop your dog from chasing wildlife, then you need to look at preventative measures first.
To begin with, you’ll need to keep your dog on the leash whenever you’re in a situation where they may give chase. This means you’ll have full control over your dog at all times, so there’s no chance they’ll be able to catch another animal.
But sometimes, you still may wish to have your dog off the leash to give them some additional freedom to run around unhindered.
In these situations, you could attach a noisy collar to your dog (something with bells, for example). This means the sound will alert the other animals, and give them a chance to escape before your dog manages to catch or harm them.
Also, it may help to change the time of day when you walk your dog. Commonly, wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk – so if it’s possible for you to walk your dog in the early afternoon, you may have a better chance of avoiding the usual animals they may like to chase.
If your dog listens to your “come” command at all times and in any situation, then you shouldn’t have too many problems if your dog does decide to give chase. Of course, this means that teaching recall is one of your main priorities when you’re dealing with any sort of chasing behavior.
Ideally, you’ll begin this type of training when your dog is still a puppy, too. This gives the best chance of the training “sticking” and being effective as your puppy grows older – but don’t fear – because this doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope of training an older dog.
The basics of recall training is to begin in an environment with few distractions, and praise your dog when they come to you, using treats and positive reinforcement.
You can then gradually increases the distractions around your dog – just enough to provide some additional stimulus, but not enough to make your dog ignore your commands.
You then gradually teach your dog to come when called. Once this is mastered, your dog should prioritize returning to you over any other distractions (such as squirrels, birds, or other animals they may enjoy chasing).
Often, you won’t need to use any negative reinforcement tactics, because positive reinforcement techniques are more effective and kinder to your dog overall.
However, in some instances, you may use a loud noise (such as a clap of the hands, or something louder, like coins in a plastic bottle) to take advantage of sound aversion.
You will only need to do this when your dog is getting ready to chase an animal. This will cause your dog to associate the unpleasant noise with the desire to chase, which should reduce the chances of them pursuing the animal they’re interested in.