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John's Journal... Entry 100, Day 4

How to Train a Squirrel Dog

click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: In years past, you would find squirrel dogs as common as front porch swings, big black pots in the backyard for canning and a smokehouse for preserving meat. You expected to see a squirrel dog in a neighbor's front yard, just like you'd know he had a garden in his back yard. But as the country's population migrated from the farm to the city, a good squirrel dog became as scarce as hen's teeth. This week we'll look at why every outdoorsman should own a squirrel dog.

click to enlargeWhen Jim Rhea and rode back to camp after trying to squirrel hunt in the rain at White Oak Plantation near Tuskegee, Alabama, I asked Rhea how he trained his squirrel dogs. Rhea explained that to produce a quality squirrel dog, you must start with a dog that comes from a bloodline of tree dogs. These dogs can pick up a scent, follow it, realize that the animal has gone up a tree and bark to let you know their positions and where they have the critter treed. By simply exposing the dog to squirrels, it often will learn quickly to chase and tree them. "To help my squirrel dogs learn to tree quicker, I catch squirrels and put them in a rolling cage," Rhea explained. "When the dog tries to get the squirrel, the cage will keep rolling away. This game makes the dog want to get that squirrel even more. A rolling cage works well to put desire in a dog and teach him what to do when he sees or smells a squirrel."

click to enlargeIn the next step after a few exercises with the rolling cage, someone holds the dog while you move 30 to 40 yards away with the caged squirrel. Rhea instructs you to, "release the squirrel so he'll have to run a short distance to a tree. Just as you release the squirrel, let go of the dog. The feist should chase the squirrel to the tree. When the dog barks on the tree, really praise him to let him know he's done right. This technique will not produce a finished squirrel dog, but it will enable a started pup to learn what he's supposed to do." Check you state game regulations to make sure you can trap and release squirrels. You also need to know what time of year the state will permit this trapping.

click to enlargeIf you really want to produce a top-notch squirrel dog, you must hunt that dog during the season and take squirrels in front of the dog. When the season's over, you still can hunt and tree squirrels without shooting them. The more time you spend with a dog, the better opportunity this dog will have as a squirrel hunter. You'll find feist squirrel dogs affectionate and eager-to-please. Since registered treeing feists make terrific pets, often they evolve into beloved family pets and become dual-purpose dogs.

TOMORROW: Why Every Family Should Have a Squirrel Dog and Where to Find One




Check back each day this week for more about Everyone Should Own A Squirrel Dog ...

Day 1 -Defining a Squirrel Dog
Day 2 -How To Breed A Squirrel Dog
Day 3 -How to Test and Buy A Squirrel Dog
Day 4 -How to Train a Squirrel Dog
Day 5 -Why Every Family Should Have a Squirrel Dog and Where to Find One

John's Journal