Why Do Dogs Chase Squirrels? Here Are The Reasons

Have you ever observed your four-legged friend suddenly dart off in hot pursuit of a scampering squirrel? This behaviour, seemingly universal among dogs, might seem perplexing, if not a tad amusing, to us humans.

Yet, there’s a method to this madness, a deep-seated instinct woven into the very fabric of a dog’s genetic heritage. Understanding this instinctual behaviour not only strengthens the bond with our pets but also allows us to manage it effectively.

Which Dog Breeds Like Chasing Squirrels The Most?

Dog breeds with a strong prey drive or hunting heritage are most likely to chase squirrels. Breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, Border Collie, and Siberian Husky often can’t resist the temptation.

The Beagle, with its exceptional sense of smell, and breeds like the Greyhound and the Whippet, known for their speed, are also prone to pursuing squirrels.

However, squirrel chasing isn’t exclusive to these breeds. It’s an instinctive behavior that can manifest in any dog, regardless of its breed. Remember, a dog’s individual personality also plays a significant role.

Why Do They Chase Squirrels?

Dogs, as descendants of wolves, possess innate predatory instincts. Spotting a small, fast-moving creature like a squirrel triggers these primal urges, prompting the chase.

This behaviour is reinforced by the “thrill of the chase”. Dogs find chasing squirrels exciting and mentally stimulating, making it a self-rewarding activity.

Lastly, some dogs may chase squirrels out of territorial instincts, protecting their space from what they perceive as an invader.

Running dog.

What Do Dogs Think About When Chasing Squirrels?

Driven by primal instincts, dogs view squirrels as potential prey when a chase is initiated. This hunter’s impulse, inherited from their wolf ancestors, is a fundamental thought driving their actions.

The thrill of the chase itself provides mental stimulation and excitement. During the chase, a dog might be purely focused on the exhilaration and anticipation of possibly catching the squirrel, rather than any long-term goal.

Lastly, for some dogs, the squirrel represents an intruder infringing upon their territory. In this case, the dog’s primary thought is likely about protecting its domain and eliminating the perceived threat.

How Do I Stop My Dog From Chasing Squirrels?

To discourage your dog from chasing squirrels, start with obedience training. Commands like “leave it” or “stay” can be very effective when your dog is tempted to give chase.

Another strategy is to provide alternate forms of stimulation. Regular playtimes, puzzles, and interactive toys can engage your dog’s hunting instincts without involving any real prey. A well-exercised dog is less likely to find squirrels an irresistible distraction.

How To Prevent Your Dog From Chasing Squirrels

Preventing your dog from chasing squirrels involves a combination of training and alternative stimulation. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Basic Obedience Training: Teach commands like “leave it” or “stay”.
  2. Distraction Techniques: Use toys or treats to divert their attention.
  3. Provide Adequate Exercise: A well-exercised dog is less prone to chasing.
  4. Mental Stimulation: Use puzzle toys to keep their minds occupied.
  5. Leash Training: Ensure control during walks.
  6. Positive Reinforcement: Reward your dog for obeying commands.
  7. Consider Professional Training: If the issue persists, hire a professional dog trainer.

Can Squirrels Hurt Dogs?

While squirrels are generally more frightened of dogs than dogs are of them, a cornered squirrel can indeed pose a danger. In defense, a squirrel can bite or scratch, potentially causing injury to a dog.

Beyond physical harm, squirrels can be carriers of various diseases and parasites. These include ticks, fleas, and other potential vectors for disease transmission.

Lastly, in rare instances, squirrels can carry rabies, a deadly virus. Though such cases are rare, it’s a possibility that underscores the need for rabies vaccination and avoidance of wildlife encounters.

What To Do If Your Dog Catches Squirrel

In the event your dog catches a squirrel, it’s crucial to remain calm and manage the situation promptly. First, use your trained commands to get your dog to release the squirrel. Then, check your dog for any visible injuries, such as bites or scratches that could have resulted from the encounter.

Contact your vet to discuss the incident and any necessary steps to prevent potential disease transmission, such as rabies or parasites. If the squirrel is dead, dispose of it carefully, wearing gloves to avoid direct contact. Lastly, clean any areas where the squirrel may have had contact using pet-safe products.

Running dog.

Things Not To Do If Your Dog Catches Squirrel

In the event your dog catches a squirrel, certain actions should be avoided to ensure the safety of both you and your pet:

  • Don’t panic: It’s important to stay calm and composed.
  • Avoid touching the squirrel: Don’t handle the squirrel bare-handed due to potential disease transmission.
  • Don’t neglect possible injuries: Don’t ignore any wounds on your dog; they may require medical attention.
  • Don’t delay vet consultation: Do not put off contacting your vet about the incident.
  • Don’t punish your dog: They were acting on instinct, and punishment won’t help in this situation.

Activities For Dogs That Like Chasing Squirrels

If your dog enjoys chasing squirrels, consider activities that can tap into their natural instincts while keeping them safe and engaged. One such activity is playing fetch with a frisbee or ball, which can simulate the chase.

Introducing puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation, reducing their need to chase. These toys often involve a treat reward, engaging their scent and hunting instincts, much like tracking a squirrel.

Finally, consider agility training or setting up an obstacle course in your yard. This activity not only exercises their bodies but also challenges their minds, mimicking the dynamic nature of a squirrel chase.


Have you ever wondered why your furry friend seems so fixated on pursuing squirrels at every opportunity? This seemingly inexplicable behaviour, common in many dogs, actually has deep-rooted explanations.

This intriguing dog habit primarily springs from their primal predatory instincts. Spotting a small, quick-moving creature such as a squirrel triggers these innate urges. The chase itself provides a mental and physical workout, and sometimes, it’s a territorial response, keeping ‘intruders’ away.

About The Author

Marc Magny is a seasoned dog owner and breeder, lending his expertise to captivating and informative articles. His deep understanding of dogs and their behavior, health, and breeding practices enriches his writing, offering invaluable insights to readers.

With his practical experience and passion for dogs, Marc’s articles serve as a comprehensive guide for dog lovers. His work resonates with the joy of dog ownership, positioning him as a trusted voice and resource in the pet parenting journey.