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Chasing squirrels

by Jim Bennett
(Shawnee, KS)

Good afternoon- I could really use some sound advice on working with my Jack Russell and squirrels. I adopted this little fellow back in March from a shelter and he is a very lovable little guy. I lost my best friend Dryfus greater Swiss mountain mix to cancer back in December.

Since we got Bailey in March I have spent so much time taking him outside to do his business and play. Unfortunately, we also have several squirrels who have made the trees in our back yard their home and every time we take the puppy outside, he becomes obsessed with the squirrels and either goes from tree to tree or just sits at the base of a tree and yelps at the squirrels.

I am so afraid that he will "get" one and get hurt, that I go out with him every time, and am constantly following him around. This is making for a not very fun relationship. My son has told me seem obsessed with the problem and perhaps I am; but only because I don't want to see the little guy get hurt. He did actually get over our fence when he saw a cat, and I almost lost him at that time.

I'm thinking about ordering one of those remote citronella collars to see if that might help with the squirrel problem. I really don't feel it's right to go the shock collar route, but am just beside myself on what to do. He was a stray at the shelter, although my vet believes he is a high quality pure bred JR.

I sometimes wonder if maybe his obsession with the squirrels is why he ended up a stray?? The shelter folks said he was a little under two years old and my vet thought that was pretty close to correct. Any advice you can offer sure would be appreciated as I really love this little guy, but all of my time has pretty much been consumed with watching over him. It is probably not any more healthy for him as it is for me. Thanks for your time. Regards, Jim Bennett

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Feb 25, 2011
Thanks to all!
by: Jim

Good Morning Everyone- I want to thank everyone for their comments. Especially to Gary, I sure am sorry you lost your best friend to cancer. I know how that is and it isn't fun. Three months before I got my little JRT, I lost my best friend to cancer of the spleen. Was one of the toughest days of my life. At least I din't have to have my vet put him down; I was able to be with him the morning that he passed away and he did so peacefully. He was only 10, so way too early. Anyway, thanks again to all for your comments. We still go out with our JRT everytime he goes outside, because we are still afraid of him jumping the fence when going after a squirrel or neighbors cat. He has jumped the fence twice and I just can't imagine losing him, so we just go out each time he needs to go outside. Is a pain, but considering how much this little guy means to us, it is worth every effort! Have a great day! Jim B. []

Feb 24, 2011
Sic'em Jasper!!!
by: Gary

Hunt and chase...It's the most natural instinct that a JRT has and they do it better than any other breed. I've buried more squirrels (and a few rats) on my acreage than Carter has liver pills and I'm convinced that if it hadn't been for Toby, my first JRT, the squirrel population around my place would have been far more destructive. We have 18 acres and lots of Oak trees and you would think that there would be plenty of room to spread out but instead, the pesky little varmits would chew on everything from the palstic on my truck to the lead vent stacks on my roof. I was 49 when I adopted 2 year old Toby from a friend of mine and he was the perfect companion. He and I bonded on the ride home and we never looked back. He was by my side for ten years until I lost him just a few weeks ago to liver cancer. I never had to fence him or contain him and he never cared to roam beyond the woods that he loved to hunt in. The woods were his world and he lived his life doing what he was born to do and honestly, you would be doing your JRT a severe injustice to take away the one thing that has been in his genes since his earliest ancestors. There's no squirrel alive that can inflict enough harm on a "Jack" to make him stop hunting...let him polish his skills and have at 'um...there's plenty of squirrels to go around but if you need more, let me know before Jasper, my new best friend get's his limit!

Feb 21, 2011
Squirrell issues
by: Jen

Hi Jim, honestly the last comment was correct. Jacks are "ratters" and its in his nature. Now, my little guy has chased down and killed squirrels and he has a blast. I reward him for it as squirrels are a pain with bird feeders. As a matter of fact...I point out my window and say,"You see that??!! You get that squirrel!" And off he goes like a horse at the derby. All you need do in my opinion is make sure hes up on his shots so he doesnt get worms if he catches one. Jacks are not a dog for the faint of heart and they are much tougher than you can ever imagine. They are a tenacious breed and the more pain they feel the more determined they are to hunt their quarry. They were bred to go into holes after animals for days at a time until they hear your command so just be sure he hears you. You should work on "COME" though. Its stimulating for his mind and gives him exercise. They are the quintessential dogs with a Napoleon complex aka little man syndrome. They think they are pit bulls! Also my jack lives most comfortably with a bunny and two ferrets. Hes fine with them since he realizes he cannot eat pack members when I(his pack leader said NO!" Best of luck and email me if you need to chat. :)

Jan 05, 2011
JRT's and remedies for behaviors
by: Anonymous

Citrus collars are to stop barking. Each time the dog barks it gives a spray in it's face that startles the dog and they soon learn barking = negative reinforcement.

This is what JRT's do. I'm surprised you didn't do a little research before choosing which dog matched your lifestyle. Everyone knows this is their trait and cannot be trained not to continue this behavior. Even with the collars, they don't care. They'll take the negative reinforcement because they just don't make the connection. Their natural instinct takes precedence over anything else.

A number of owners actually purchase live mice and rabbits from pet stores as "entertainment" for their JRT's. An abhorrent practice, but they do it all the time.

Leash walking is necessary if you don't want your dog to kill squirrels, cats, birds, cats and other animals he may encounter.

You may try using substitute toys inside the house. NOT squeaking or lifelike toys that are too similar to live animals. But chewing, bodas, and other non-action toys. Consistent reward for calm behavior, ignoring overactive behavior. He wants your approval. Reinforce your approval as prefereable to chasing squirrels and other animals.

A consult with a behavioral veterinarian is your only solution. If your veterinarian is not a specialist in this area, I strongly encourage you to seek the medical help and solutions by a board certified with a specialty in behavior training.

Good luck.

Jul 27, 2010
It's Natural
by: Chase

It may be frustrating for your JRT to tree squirrels and bark but its in their nature. Jacks are bred to hunt quarry including squirrels and its almost impossible to get them to stop. Our Jack will bark non-stop at squirrels, rabbits, birds, other dogs, and the deer that come to eat across the street. I'm used to it now so I don't pay much attention and I don't want to destroy his natural ability with a shock or scent collar. Your dog is probably best kept under supervision outside as Jacks can catch a scent and be gone forever.

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