3 Steps to Training a Squirrel Dog

3 Steps to Training a Squirrel Dog

<p>Once a dog understands the game, it will provide squirrel success for you for years to come. (Photo by John Geiger)</p>

From curs to feists, squirrel dogs come in various forms. But the best ones come from good bloodlines.

When it comes to training squirrel dogs, James Parnell has forgotten more than most folks hope to learn in a lifetime. Parnell, a lifelong breeder and trainer of Mountain Feists and Stephens Stock Mountain Curs, set out to develop a dog that showcased the best of both breeds.

He wanted a small-framed, hard-hunting tree dog that was easy to maintain.

In 1998, the first litter of Parnell’s Carolina Curs was born. To ensure your next squirrel dog helps fill your ears with the sweet sounds of a canine cantata and your hunting vest with bushy-tails, Parnell has a few training tips for you.

TIP 1 – START WITH A GOOD DOG

While hunt tests, field trials and detailed pedigrees aren’t as common for squirrel dogs as they are for the pointing and flushing breeds, you still need to find a puppy with good bloodlines. When searching for a pup, look for a breeder with a proven track record of producing quality squirrel dogs. Find a breeder willing to guarantee their product.


According to Parnell, “Besides myself, I only recommend people buy my dogs [Parnell’s Carolina Curs] from a few breeders that I know stand behind them. If you’re unsatisfied with the pup, they will take him back – no questions asked.”


TIP 2 – EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE! EXPOSURE!

You need squirrels to make a squirrel dog. Parnell likes to place a trapped squirrel in his yard for the puppy to find. According to Parnell, once the puppy discovers the squirrel, the puppy will have to work to build up enough courage to try to get the squirrel out of the trap, but “eventually they’ll bust loose and go to barking and trying to tear the trap up to get to that squirrel.”


A word of caution: Use this technique sparingly. According to Parnell, if you repeat this exercise too much, the dog will associate the trap with prey and bark at it and not the squirrel.

The best exercise for training a squirrel dog involves a slight twist on the trapped squirrel routine. Parnell suggests that, again, you start with a trapped squirrel but this time in an area where there are a few (not too many) trees. Set the trapped squirrel down, and let the pup find it.

Once the pup starts to bark and work himself up, let the squirrel out of the trap. The squirrel will run to the nearest tree. The dog should chase and, once the squirrel trees, the dog should start to “bark the tree.”


Once the dog trees, praise him. Let him know that this is what you want. If possible, shoot the squirrel in front of him. Performing this exercise will cement in the dog’s mind that finding squirrels and putting them in trees is the name of the game.

According to Parnell, this exercise can be repeated as often as you like.

TIP 3 – TAKE HIM HUNTING!

Just like Tip 2, you can’t make a squirrel dog at the house. You need to take him to the woods. According to Parnell, a puppy must be “hunted” at least once a week from the time you bring him home until he begins to understand what’s expected of him.


It’s also important that you take the dog to woods with a large population of squirrels. According to Parnell, “Taking the dog to woods that doesn’t have squirrels is hurting him more than helping.”

Finally, be patient. For the first couple months, your hunting trips will be more about building the pup’s confidence. It will take him a while before he puts it all together.

Don’t be discouraged. Stick with it. If given enough time and opportunities, a well-bred squirrel dog will soon learn what it is you are after.

According to Parnell, once a dog understands the game, he won’t forget it. It may take him a few trips at the beginning of each season to get “tuned up,” but he will always understand his purpose in life — to provide squirrel gravy for you and the family for years to come.

Recommended for You

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think? Bass

MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it. Fishing How-To

Why You'll Lose Your Next Big Bass

Larry Larsen

Now that you know you might screw it up the next time a big fish bites, let's fix it.

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

Major League Fishing pros Alton Jones, Jeff Sprague, Anthony Gagliardi and James Watson share their thoughts on how to approach fishing a new lake for bass.

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

We all have our Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper - April 02, 2015

We all have our "swear by" bait for catfish. For me, it is chicken liver, live shad or my...

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

See More Stories

More Small Game

From curs to feists, squirrel dogs come in various forms. But the best ones come from good bloodlines. Small Game

3 Steps to Training a Squirrel Dog

Justin Goethe - June 27, 2019

From curs to feists, squirrel dogs come in various forms. But the best ones come from good...

As the soft red-tinged light from my headlamp panned across the edge of Eunice Peck's buckbrush Small Game

Tips For Fox Calling

M.D. Johnson - December 07, 2016

As the soft red-tinged light from my headlamp panned across the edge of Eunice Peck's...

Squirrels, rabbits, doves and quail are somewhat underappreciated game options. And October is a great time for all of them.  Small Game

2018 Texas Small Game Roundup

Robert Sloan - November 20, 2018

Squirrels, rabbits, doves and quail are somewhat underappreciated game options. And October is...

See More Small Game

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×