Skip to main content

3 Steps to Training a Squirrel Dog

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

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>

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.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

Bowfishing from the Bank (Video)

There aren't many better ways to spend a summer night than skewering fish in the shallows.

Yo-Zuri Hardcore NOI-Z Wakebait and Crank Series

Yo-Zuri Hardcore NOI-Z Wakebait and Crank Series

FLW Pro Circuit angler Spencer Shuffield tells Florida Sportsman executive editor Jeff Weakley that there are two new offerings from Yo-Zuri that take full casting distance advantage of the company's patented Magnetic Weight Transfer system. One of those new baits is the Hardcore NOI-Z wakebait, a hinged lure that uses a hard-knocking rattle, a rear prop and a feathered treble hook to draw ferocious strikes. The other is the redesigned Hardcore Crank 2+, 3+, and 4+ series, which can be cast a country mile, bounced off of cover, and retrieved silently to lure high-pressured bass into striking.

Yo-Zuri

Yo-Zuri's 3DB Pencil Popper, 3DB Jerkbait 110 & 110 Deep

Bass pro Clent Davis gives the inside info on Yo-Zuri's new-for-ICAST lures.

New from Old Town: Sportsman Autopilot 136 and Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman

New from Old Town: Sportsman Autopilot 136 and Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman

Brand ambassador Ryan Lilly highlights the features of the Old Town AutoPilot 136 motorized kayak and the Discovery 119 Solo Sportsman canoe.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together Wild Game

10 Recipes for Your Backyard Get Together

Game & Fish Online Staff

Celebrate with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes.

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths.5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Almost anyone can catch a bunch of small catfish. Hooking a true monster requires a different level of preparation, skill and effort.A Time for Giant Catfish Catfish

A Time for Giant Catfish

John N. Felsher - August 24, 2020

Almost anyone can catch a bunch of small catfish. Hooking a true monster requires a different...

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time.10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

See More Trending Articles

More Small Game

As habitat improvements accumulate, the future for rabbits (and rabbit hunting) and other wildlife will brighten.Rabbits: How to Manage Your Land for More Cottontails Small Game

Rabbits: How to Manage Your Land for More Cottontails

Keith Sutton - August 14, 2018

As habitat improvements accumulate, the future for rabbits (and rabbit hunting) and other...

 Traditions Crackshot (Photo courtesy of Traditions Frearms)

When Game & Fish editors decided2 Great Starter Rifles for Young Hunters Small Game

2 Great Starter Rifles for Young Hunters

Game & Fish Staff - December 15, 2017

Traditions Crackshot (Photo courtesy of Traditions Frearms) When Game & Fish editors...

From early spring right through the end of winter, Mother Nature plays her best hand, as hunters bet on when and where the ducks and geese will fly this season in the Hoosier State.Indiana Waterfowl Hunting Forecast 2018 Small Game

Indiana Waterfowl Hunting Forecast 2018

Jerry Pabst - November 20, 2018

From early spring right through the end of winter, Mother Nature plays her best hand, as...

We give hunters an edge on hunting public land close to home.Public Land Hunter Magazine Now on Sale News

Public Land Hunter Magazine Now on Sale

Game & Fish Staff - July 21, 2020

We give hunters an edge on hunting public land close to home.

See More Small Game

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now