I think it is safe to say that everyone has experienced his or her dog bolting after a squirrel on an afternoon walk or a trip to the dog park. If you haven’t experienced that before you are a lucky soul. Anyway, I have experienced countless times where my dog has chased a squirrel up a tree in the yard. It can be quite interesting to watch, but I have always wondered why dogs chase squirels. It is such a common mannerism for a dog that people do not think twice when their dog bolts after a squirrel. Yet, it is still a peculiar habit. So after doing some research, I discovered that there are two good explanations for why dogs chase squirrels.
For one, some dogs are simply trained or bred to help hunters help hunt other animals. Therefore, when a dog sees a small animal or an animal he or she would sometimes hunt such as a deer he or she will chase after it. It is an instinct that dogs act on because they are so used to chasing after them.
Furthermore, chasing squirrels or any small creature is in a dog’s DNA. This inclination for a dog or any carnivore to chase and/ or capture a squirrel, bird, or cat, mainly any animal that is small is called Prey Drive. Prey Drive is a sequential drive that begins with the search and ends with the kill. However, due to selective breeding only certain dog breeds have one prominent or obscurred step compared to the other steps in the process. For instance, the chase step is commonly found in Greyhounds, or any type of racing dog. Prey Drive is valuable because it helps dogs play games such as tug-of-war or fetch.
Speaking of games, the second reason to why dogs chase squirrels is because dogs think of it as an actually game. If you think about it, dogs search for squirrels and will chase them all around, but dogs do not always end with killing the squirrel. The point of the game is not for the dog to catch the squirrel in his or her mouth. All the game is is really a playful game of tag where the dog is”it” the entire game.
A lot of dog experts in the world write about or tell us about how if a dog begins to chase a squirrel it means that he or she means to kill the squirrel; however, that is not always the case. Sometimes a dog does intend to hunt and kill the squirrel, but people shouldn’t stereotype dogs that way. I think it is normal for dogs to occasionally play a simple game of tag and make new friends with a different species. Therefore, we should not discourage our dogs from chasing squirrels because no harm will come to the squirrel. If your dog were to hurt the squirrel, then there is reason to be concerned and to seek help.
Hope you find this interesting! 🙂