Help! My dog is obsessed with squirrels!
(Q) Our lovely rescue dog, Molly, a three-year-old Border Collie watches every tree in the park for squirrels. I can stand at her side and call her away but she does not move or even acknowledge I am there. Apart from leading her away every few minutes, what can I do?
(A) Behaviourist Steve Goward says: I can sympathise with you as my previous dog, a beautiful Lurcher, was also obsessed and became instantly deaf when he caught sight of a squirrel.
My method was not to try to stop his chase behaviour but instead channel it on to something more appropriate. I will always ask clients to try to fulfil the needs of their dog, rather than trying to stop behaviours because they don’t fit in to our version of dog ownership.
For Simba that was a soft toy that made a peculiar sound when squeezed. He loved it and only ever got it when he recalled away from other interesting things. I built up his obsession with the toy by playing in the garden with it on a lunge line and running about like a possessed person making it the best game ever for him.
I won’t lie, my Lurcher never totally ignored squirrels but we had fun trying to find ways to be more interesting than the furry fiends and this helped in so many ways with other issues he had.
Remember things that are rewarding for dogs will be repeated so she is having fun watching the trees and it’s up to you to find a game that is more rewarding than the potential sighting of a squirrel. Try a Frisbee, soft toys, ball on a rope, and the squeaky toys too. Be animated and engage in games that your dog loves.