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Stalking Squirrels


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Hello -  I've been here before, lost my boy Duke in May, and recently adopted our new girl "Ruth."   Duke was 13 when he went so it is hard to really remember his chasing, energetic prey driven days.   

Ruth is two years old, fresh off the track, learning the rules and adjusting well.  She is very sweet and friendly and three weeks in she is really showing her personality, which is bold and independent. 

She is destined to get a squirrel; she is young and fast and we have huge oak trees in our yard that the squirrels obviously reside in.  She loves to spend hours outside; my husband and I are off so we have been able to indulge her in this routine.   However, she is becoming increasingly more predatory in the backyard. She takes on the stalking stance, walking slowly, staring up at the trees and sitting and waiting.  How do I  address this?  I redirect her, give her her toys and call her in when I see that she is fixated but she loves being outside. Some of what she thinks she sees is just leaves or bushes rustling but definitely she is waiting and pointing in the direction where the squirrels come from another yard into ours. Thoughts?

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It will be difficult to impossible to actually change her prey drive behavior, which is something that is hard wired into their physical and mental make up.  One thing that will help is to limit her outdoor time.  Give her something fun to do inside that will take up some time - long lasting (safe) chews, playing with a toy or ball inside, bursts of short training sessions.  You can also take her for car rides to different places to try and use up some of her energy, or try obedience classes.  A dog with her prey drive will probably enjoy something like lure coursing or straight line racing - non competitive akc events that will give her an outlet other than hunting.

And as much as she loves it, I would probably limit her outdoor time.  If she doesn't have access to the squirrels the behavior may extinguish itself over (a long) time.  My 12+ year old still stalks and chases squirrels/birds/outdoor cats, though he has no chance of catching them anymore.  You should also think about what you might do if she actually does catch one and start teaching her the command to "drop it!" or "leave it!"

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)

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Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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  • 2 weeks later...

I guess I don't understand what you are asking here.  All of my greyhounds (I'm on number 8) loved stalking squirrels in my backyard.  Some actually caught squirrels.  It did not impact how they dealt with other animals--they all lived with my cats without any problems.  The only problem I ever had was once Mindy's prey fought back and scratched and bit her.  She dropped it immediately and was careful to never get too close to the furry beasts again.  I cleaned the wounds and watched her carefully--it healed quickly.  

I don't think it is possible to stop them being interested in squirrels, it is part of our dog's natural instincts.  I consider this to be part of natural selection.  Slow stupid squirrels used to be eaten by coyotes, wolves, bobcats, etc.  Most of those predators are gone from our cities so the dogs fill a niche.  And grey squirrels are not endangered and are not native.  If I had the native squirrels in my backyard,  I would feel different.

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