What is a Squirrel Dog?

A squirrel dog is a dog that is suitable for and capable of hunting squirrels. This is a popular sport throughout parts of the United States and it calls for a well-trained dog with the instinct to flush out small prey. If you’re wondering what makes the best squirrel dogs, we offer everything you need to know about the best breeds, characteristics to look for, in a squirrel dog here.

What are squirrel dogs?

K9 Web explains that squirrel dogs are breeds that are born to hunt small prey such as squirrels and other animals of their size. They are born with an ancestral tendency that leads them to use their keen sense of smell to track squirrels and chase them up into a tree. There is a difference between chasing squirrels and being trained to properly hunt them. Certain dog breeds are natural hunters but they must receive the proper training to be useful in the field for hunting squirrels.

Characteristics of the best squirrel dogs

According to Great Days Outdoors, while most dog breeds that have any hunting instinct can be trained to hunt squirrels, some are better than others. The best breeds are those that have a strong instinct for hunting prey, they have a keen nose for detecting the scent of a squirrel, and they are intelligent breeds that are easy to train. Dogs that track are useful for hunting squirrels but those that instinctually “wind” squirrels are the best. Winding is an instinct for some dogs that causes them to detect the scent of a squirrel in the area, and to know if it has passed through or if it is still in the vicinity. This isn’t something you can teach a dog. It either does this or it doesn’t. If you find one that does he will make a superior squirrel dog over others that do not.

Another essential characteristic is a willing personality and desire to get out and hunt squirrels. Some dogs show more interest in others. When you have a dog that enjoys the thrill of the chase and is always ready to go, that’s a lot. Some are hit and miss. Look for a dog with an energetic personality that truly enjoys hunting squirrels and treeing them. The best squirrel dogs have good sense and they handle well, zig-zagging to find their prey and flush them out.

Which breeds make the best squirrel dogs?

Expert hunters at Wide Open Spaces share that even some mixed breed mutts have turned out to be exceptional squirrel hunting dogs. Most squirrel hunters prefer using feist and cur breed dogs over other suitable breeds because they tend to have the strongest instincts for winding and treeing squirrels.

  • A Feist – A feist is a small dog that is energetic, intelligent, strong hunters, and has a desire to please its owners. This makes them ideal because they have hunting instincts and they learn quickly when properly trained. There are a few different breeds that fit into the feist category. These include Thornburg feist, Denmark feist, Mullins feist, or a smooth fox terrier. Some feists are also mutts that are mixed breeds.
  • Treeing Cur – A treeing cur is a medium-sized dog that is bred for its hunting abilities. Characteristics include above-average intelligence, agility, and speed. These dogs can move with lightning speed. They are easy to train and love to please their masters. They come in a variety of colors and markings. Breeders focus mainly on pairing the best-hunting dogs to produce offspring.
  • Rat Terrier – Rat Terriers are small dogs that are bred mostly for hunting squirrels and rats. In history, they were known as ratters, used to keep the rat population down on sailing vessels and family farms. The rat terrier is an agile dog breed that will go deep into the bush or climb into a cavern when hunting its prey. He is determined and doesn’t give up until he accomplishes his task.
  • Airedale Terrier – Airedale terriers are also known as Bingley terriers or Waterside terriers. The breed originated in England, valued for its hunting instincts. This is one of the largest breeds in the terrier classification. It’s a big dog that is intelligent and has a natural tendency to tree its prey. They make some of the best squirrel hunting dogs. Airedale terriers are easy to train and they enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
  • Black and Tan Coonhound – Black and tan coonhounds were bred by combining a bloodhound and a foxhound. The combination results in a black and tan coat with long ears and a talent for tracking, treeing, and hunting all sizes of game. This breed is known for its keen sense of smell and ability to track a scent through difficult environmental conditions.
  • American Blue Gascon Hound – American Blue Gascon hounds are also referred to as a Big Blu. This breed tends to be passionate about hunting squirrels and raccoons. It is valued for its hunting prowess and loud baying after treeing its prey. Other characteristics of this breed include its loyalty and protectiveness towards its human family.
  • Finnish Spitz – The Finnish Spitz is an adventurous dog that loves to hunt. It has the appearance of a fox with a red-colored coat. It’s valued for its hunting prowess and vocal ability to let its owner know when it has treed a squirrel. This breed is used for hunting both large and small game animals.
  • Mountain Cur – The mountain cur is a breed of dog that originated in Europe. It was imported into America as a hunting dog that is one of the most adaptable breeds. This dog is exceptionally good for hunting small game, and especially for treeing squirrels. They have a loud bay and are vocal to let hunters know that the prey is successfully treed. The dog was bred for hunting small animals but they are also water dogs that are good for hunting fowl.

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