squirrels...dog training...rat poison...argh

Fori is not pleasedMay 24, 2012

My dog has been driving me bonkers with his squirrel obsession. We are in a pretty densely populated suburb with squirrels. They strip our fruit trees and they tease our dog. He is a good dog, but lately he's been barking at the squirrels.

I have managed to train him to avoid me when he's barking at squirrels because I'd haul him inside out of consideration for the neighbors. Oops. Obviously that needs correcting.

Any tips on training a dog to not bark while squirrel hunting? He finally got one today (I didn't think he ever would, but the rodent made a miscalculation) and I fear that will only encourage him now that he knows there is hope. I would actually like the squirrels to all be eaten or frightened away, but barking doesn't do that.

Is it even possible? Teach a dog to chase squirrels quietly?

As far as squirrel eating goes, I'm a little concerned about poisoned squirrels. I can't be the only one who is tempted! (I wouldn't of course--we've got a weirdly high raptor population here, plus housecats, plus those stomach poisons are so cruel.) People do put out rat poison and I don't know if squirrels get into that.

Can an 80 lb dog get a lethal dose of rat poison in a single squirrel?


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I think anyone who poisons a squirrel is sick. I have lived with tons of squirrels for 30 years and even raised abandoned babies. One I've had for five years ,and he comes and eats out of my hand. We have had no destruction and they have never gotten in my house. The worse thing they've done is enlarge holes in a Martin house to have their babies. My Dachshund barks at them all the time. They ignore him.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:29PM
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Fori is not pleased

I can't allow my dog to bark all day. I have wonderful neighbors and they deserve better so I would like to train my dog to express himself quietly.

It looks as though I don't need to worry about poison this time. The dog buried the squirrel. When he wasn't looking, someone rolled a paver over it so it won't be back.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:48PM
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Fori, I know your neighbors appreciate your considerations and hopefully the squirrels will too once you have your guy trained.

We have tons of squirrels and chipmunks, birds and deer and we've successfully trained our Lab to ignore them all. Oh she looks at them once in a while but doesn't chase or bark at them.

First you need to start getting the dog to come to you when you call him. Practice the come command and reward him with a treat when ever he/she comes to you. And try to avoid taking him in every time he does come to you. You also need to work on the "leave it" command. Put something with a strong yummy scent in your hand and when the dog tries to get it, say leave it. The minute he backs off, reward him. I always added the word sit for a leave it/sit command which seemed help our girl to understand better. It's really important for them to know that command. The other day we playing ball at a dog park and she found a large snapping turtle. When I said leave it/come, she immediately lost interest and came running. (I was so proud!! LOL)

You also need to go outside and sit with the dog. Keep him on a long leash so he can't run and when the squirrels show up, bring the dog close to you (affectionately) and just say leave it/sit when it sees the squirrel. Reward it with praise and a treat when it obeys but don't scold him when he doesn't. Just try to get his attention diverted to a toy or something instead. It does take dedication and practice but eventually the dog will get the idea, at least ours did and she's a hunting breed.

When teaching commands, always accompany the treat with the word "Yes" and a pat gentle sign of affection as you give it to him. This will eventually replace the treats altogether and will be what the dog looks for when he does good.

I also have to say to be careful with all the treats. Our girl started gaining weight so fast I had to stop with the real treats and just give her a piece of her favorite kibble instead. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:13PM
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Fori is not pleased

Thanks for the tips, Lukki.

The dog is pretty good with "leave it." It works with socks and kid toys and even a cinnamon roll he found in a campground. I wonder if it would work with squirrels if rewards were at hand!

It seems that the dog's nemesis squirrel is the one that's now dead--the others don't hop from tree to tree mocking him. That should help too.

I don't mind a few barks, and I don't want him to ignore them completely because they will destroy the veggie garden.

This dog is smart and trainable but he's just over a year old and can get a little excited. But--as we say whenever he's not perfect--at least he doesn't eat the kids! :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:55PM
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You're welcome. I'm just passing on what I've learned through experience as well as our girls training programs :c)

That's great news that he already responds some to the leave it command! Now you just need to expand on it outside with distractions like the squirrels. Walk him around the parameter of the yard on a leash and say leave it when he sees the squirrels or at least keep him on a longer leash so you can pull him close when he sees them.

Unfortunately, you'll really need to decide whether you want him to leave the squirrels or get the squirrels, it's very black and white for them. They just don't have the logic of reasoning to know it would be okay once in a while, but I'm sure he'll try to sneak some barking in from time to time! LOL

He sounds adorable and it's nice that you have a great sense of humor about it. I should say too, that while 80 lbs is a larger sized dog it's the same size as a child. Poisons will still kill them or at the very least make them very ill, so please don't treat your yard with pesticides or poisons as they can be very harmful.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:38PM
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Fori is not pleased

Awww I DO want him to get the squirrels! I just want him to do it quietly!

We don't use pesticides or much of anything (that's why I have to have my dog be nice for the neighbors--so they don't resent the weeds as much! :) ). I'm the type to let a trail of ants build up enough so that I can tell where they're coming in and stop them there than to spray pesticides all over. I wouldn't be surprised if our yard has the only salamanders within 5 sq miles.

I have, however, poisoned a mouse in the house after I couldn't trap it. I have little kids and we may have Hanta virus in the area so mice aren't permitted. Hated doing it though. I'm more worried about the dog getting something that has been in a neighbor's rat poison, so I'm glad he is burying instead of consuming. Organic soil amendments. Ewwwww.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 5:03PM
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Yeah, unfortunately, I don't know how that can happen and doubt it's possible, but I'm not a professional either. Maybe you can call a professional dog behaviorist in your area and inquire. If it is possible, you can arrange for a training session so he/she can teach you a good technique to train him.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Fori is not pleased

It's been two days since the Bad Squirrel passed on and I haven't heard a bark. Perhaps another squirrel will take its place and start teasing my pup, but until that happens, I think we'll just work on basic training. That way, when the barking starts up again, we'll be able to take care of it some way other than burying the squirrel.

I see them out there. They are running about their business. But they aren't taunting the dog. Maybe it was just the one bad seed. :P

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 7:52PM
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That's great Fori! The training can be really rewarding especially when they do what they've learned in front of strangers. Some guy walking past the dog yard today was watching our dog fetch and play, he was really amazed at how trained she was. :c)

We don't have any squirrels that taunt either, we do have one that seems a little more curious in the dog than scared though. Sometimes he sits next to the base of a tree eating and watching. The dog and I will only be about 20 feet from it and it doesn't seem intimidated at all.

Saw your post about the muzzle, good luck with that one, yikes!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 1:30PM
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Fori is not pleased

Gee dogs are gross.

He dug up the squirrel today in spite of the rocks and decided it wasn't any good and left it. So it's been disposed of properly now. Eww.

And he did a very proper "leave it" of a dove that dazed itself on a window this morning. Not a drop of slobber. (It recovered and flew off.)

The muzzle will be interesting. If he hates it we'll probably avoid that sort of situation where he needs it. We're softies.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Your funny too! LOL Love you're sense of humor with it all. Is there a reason you're taking him with you? If not, maybe you can put him in camp while you're gone. We use a franchise called Camp Bow Wow and she absolutely loves that place; all I have to say is Bow Wow and she goes nuts. It's not like Petsmart, the area they have to play in is quite large and they have an out door area too. She goes a couple times a week for a half day (she's actually there now) and we left her there for a week when we traveled to California. They are supervised and have web cams so I can see her online when ever I want to. Just in case you're interested here's their website so you can see if they have a location in your area.

Here is a link that might be useful: Camp Bow Wow

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 3:13PM
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Fori is not pleased

Nope, they're not in our area . We do have a pretty good daycare/boarding place--after a weekend there he sleeps for two days. He loves it. He just plays with dogs until he passes out. But I'd hate to leave him for more than a week. And he does enjoy hiking and hanging out with the family. Any muzzling would be a very small portion of a trip, and not used at all on most. We just want to have the options available to be able to take him everywhere possible on camping trips (but we wouldn't consider taking him to the pet store. Go figure!).

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 4:06PM
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Aren't those dog places the best! Ellie comes home exhausted too. Bummer there isn't a Bow Wow in your area, it's such a cute place. I get it about taking him with you, that's great actually. I work from home and always have my girl with me even when I'm on the road. The only exception is when I might have to leave the car. I hate seeing dogs left in cars and refuse to do it. I do take her into the pet stores though. It helps to train her with distractions (ha as if the squirrels, birds and chipmunks weren't enough!)

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 6:12PM
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