GENERAL BREED INFO

Squirrel Hunting Dogs: 10 Most Popular Breeds

Squirrel Dog breeds
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Squirrel hunting dogs are those breeds that are excellent at hunting smaller animals (specifically squirrels) and they also have the instinct for that. Almost any dog can become a squirrel hunter, however, they can never be as good as the breeds that have the drive for it in their nature, e.g. the feists and curs.

In this article, we are going to cover 10 most popular and unique squirrel hunting dog breeds, their characteristics and what makes them so great at what they do. However, please note that they are not only working dogs – they can be great pets as well, because they deserve and give love as much as any other dog breed.

Airedale Terrier

The Airedale Terrier, also called Bingley Terrier and Waterside Terrier is a terrier dog breed that originates from England and can be used as both a working and hunting dog. He is one of the largest of the terrier breeds so it is no wonder that he is also called the King of Terriers. This breed exhibits herding characteristics very often and it is not unusual for them to chase small animals, which should be taken into consideration.

Airedale Terrier

The Airedale is very intelligent and independent which makes him an excellent hunter. They should be trained very well in order to work with cattle and livestock and if they are raised as pets, they should be introduced to other smaller animals as a puppy, in order to go well with them and not annoy them.

All of this means that the Airedale is a great squirrel hunter and his breed has been used for a long time for this purpose. They know how to track the squirrel and bark until the hunters come and get there. That place is usually a tree so they also belong to the group of tree dogs. Their instinct is the main reason that makes them great hunters.

American Blue Gascon Hound

The American Blue Gascon Hound also known as BignBlu and Gascon Blue is a dog breed that is very loyal and devoted to their family. Besides that, he does not mind living outdoors or indoors and he can be a great guardian. The American Blue Gascon Hound is known as a great and passionate hunter who does well as a pack leader.

American Blue Gascon Hound

However, you should never trust him with smaller animals, especially if he was not socialized at the early age. He is known as a great dog that can work in bad weather and over difficult terrain. This means that The American Blue Gascon Hound that he is not only a great raccoon hunter but also the great squirrel hunter.

The American Blue Gascon Hound has a strong instinct to tree non-canine pets, which means that he hunts down the animal and pins it in the tree by the method of barking. This breed has a loud bay cry which is a very recognizable trait in the breed, and he can also be used for tracking cougars and foxes by using his amazing scent.

Black and Tan Coonhound

The Black and Tan Coonhound is a dog breed that was derived from a bloodhound and a foxhound. He is recognizable by long ears and tail and the black and tan color of the coat. Besides being a working dog he is also a famous trail and tree hound, capable of hunting raccoons and squirrels. He hunts entirely by scent, like most of the dogs, and he is also able to find deer, bears, mountain lions and other ‘big game’ animals. He is powerful and stubborn and he almost never gives up.

Black and Tan Coonhound

The Black and Tan Coonhound also makes a great pet, even though he prefers being outdoors. He is very loyal to family members and can be very mellow and calm indoors. He is very reserved with strangers and can bark and howl at them. He is known for wandering away when having caught a specific scent, so be careful when you choose an area for his walks and exercise. When they catch a squirrel, they tree it and bark until the master comes to get it. They also make sure that the small animal in question does not run away or they continue following it.

Mountain Cur

The Mountain Cur is a working dog breed that has been bred specifically for hunting and treeing small animals like squirrels and raccoons. They can also be used for baying bigger animals such as wild boars and deer, and it is not unusual to see them being used as water dogs as well. That means that they can adapt to almost any environment.

This breed was originally brought from Europe to America and they were used as guardians for farming houses. Since the 1940s this breed has become rare because many families abandoned the rural type of life. When it comes to their appearance, they are short coated with hung ears and come in various colors: yellow, brown, blue or multi colored.

Mountain Cur

The Mountain Cur is a very intelligent dog that is never vicious or shy. He always strives to please his master but he can easily get bored if left without any job for too long. That means that you must exercise your Mountain Cur regularly and with passion. Their lifespan is up to 16 years and they have been known as very brave dogs that used to die for their masters while protecting them from attackers.

Rat Terrier

The Rat Terrier is an American dog breed that is used as a rat or squirrel hunter. He is a known farm and hunting dog that makes for a great companion. The Rat Terrier is considered a rare breed because there are no family farms as they used to be. He is an intelligent and cherished dog because he is not only destroying pests but also makes a great family pet.

When it comes to his appearance, he comes in a variety of colors and sizes. However, he is usually a small sized breed with pointed ears and protruded muzzle. His coat hair is short. The Rat Terrier can be very stubborn if not trained properly and they are known for getting what they want, one way or the other. They are very active, full of energy and cute. They need much exercise because of their playful nature.

Rat Terrier

They should not be mistaken for Jack Russell Terriers because they have different temperaments. Another interesting fact is that the earliest known Rat Terrier is a dog that belonged to Henry VIII in the 16th century – named “Hatch”. He and similar dog types were often brought on board to get rid of rats.

Treeing Cur

The Treeing Cur is a dog breed that originated in the mid-west America. They are the dogs of medium size that are unique because they are no restrictions when it comes to their colors or markings. This allows breeders to raise them freely without feeling restricted by the color standards like other hounds.

Treeing Cur

The Treeing Cur is a fast and intelligent dog that is known for his agility in hunting. They are athletic and able to perform multiple tasks: hunting, guarding and controlling livestock. As his name suggests, he is a great treeing dog so you can assume that he is also a great squirrel hunter. It is his natural instinct to scent a small animal and corner it on a tree. He demands regular walks, in nature preferably, and he should also be trained regularly because he can be very dominant, even more than his master.

Fox Terrier

Fox Terriers represent two different dog breeds: the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier. Both of them originated in the 19th century and share similar traits. There are also other types of this main dog breed group that diverged from them, such as: the Jack Russell Terrier, Miniature Fox Terrier and Rat Terrier. The only different between the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier is the one being in their coat and marking / colors.

Fox Terrier

The Smooth Fox Terrier has a short coat which is predominantly white and it has been identified as a vulnerable native breed in the UK. The Wire Fox Terrier has a crisp and hard double coat and recognizable whiskers. The coat is so dense that his skin cannot be seen at all. As the name suggests they are excellent fox hunters but they also can catch squirrels.

They are alert, quick, intelligent, fast and playful. They can also chase cars and bicycles so they should be trained from an early age. If you want to keep this breed as a family pet, you should train and exercise them regularly in order to subdue the instinct for hunting.

Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound, also known as Norsk Elghund Grå and Norsk Elghund Sort, is the ancient Northern Spitz-type breed of dog and is he is also the National Dog of Norway. He has served as a famous hunter, guardian, herder, and defender. The Norwegian Elkhound’s specialty is to hunt down the moose and hold it at bay.

Norwegian Elkhound

He distracts it by barking and signals his master to come and get it. This breed is extremely hardy (accustomed to harsh environment) and of medium size.

Norwegian Elkhound infographic

Another interesting fact is that this breed is rarely seen or bred outside of Norway and they have a lifespan up to 16 years. The related breeds are: Finnish Lapphund, Swedish Lapphund, Lapponian Herder, and Jamthund. Even though it is rarely seen in other parts of Europe and the USA, the dog is a great squirrel hunter even though he is primarily bred for tracking larger prey. They are known for being able to track wolves and bears as well.

West Siberian Laika

The West Siberian Laika, also known as WSL and Zapadno-Sibirskaia Laika, is a hunting dog breed originated from Russia. The Mansi Laika and Khanty Laika are two most known types of this breed. Almost any Laika is a bark pointer, which means that after tracking the animal down, the dog barks at the animal and stays near it until the hunters arrive.

West Siberian Laika

Having in mind that this breed has the wolf traits in their nature, it is not unusual that they are great hunters because of that. They have pointed muzzle tail, and ears, a square body and gray coat with red tones. Their size is small to medium and they even resemble gray wolves a bit. The West Siberian Laika is very devoted to his family and master and protective of property. It is also not unusual for them to be aggressive towards strangers.

They also only hunt in a group of familiar dogs which means that they are not only suspicious of unfamiliar humans, they also do not like to work with unfamiliar dogs, even if they are of the same breed; they are after all pack breeds.  The dog has inhabited the northern parts of Russia for centuries so he is accustomed to harsh environments and bad weather.

Finnish Spitz

The last dog breed in this article is the Finnish Spitz, also known as Suomenpystykorva, Finsk Spets, and Loulou Finnoi, is a dog breed originating from Finland. This dog was bred to hunt all kinds of animals, especially rodents and squirrels. He is another bark pointer, which means that he catches / hunts down the prey and then barks at it, which is a signal to his master to hurry up and come. He also was used for hunting bigger animals such as bears and deer.

When it comes to his appearance, the Finnish Spitz resembles a fox – he has a reddish soft coat which consists of a dense undercoat and long guard hairs. The double coat enables the dog to survive in the harsh environment and that means that grooming your dog’s coat is an essential part of the care. When it comes to his temperament, he is very active and lively. He needs regular exercises, at least twice per day.

Finnish Spitz

This breed does not adapt well to kenneled lifestyle and they suffer if forced to live indoors. Just like the previous hunting breed, their nature and instinct make them explore the nature and move a lot. And when it comes to training, they are very independent, strong-willed and intelligent. You should train them with gentle touch and voice, just like any other animal.

Other squirrel hunting dogs worth mentioning

  • American Squirrel Dog
  • Barger Stock Feist
  • Black Mouth Cur
  • Black Norwegian Elkhound
  • Bluetick Coonhound
  • Cajun Cur
  • Cajun Squirrel Dog
  • Camus Cur
  • Canadian Cur
  • Catahoula Cur
  • Denmark Feist
  • English Coonhound
  • German Jagdterrier
  • Henderson Cur
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Jamthund
  • Kemmer Cur
  • Kemmer Feist
  • Kemmer Stock Hybrid Squirrel Dogs
  • Leopard Cur
  • Mountain View Cur
  • Mullins’ Feist
  • Original Mountain Cur
  • Parnell’s Carolina Cur
  • Redbone Coonhound
  • Southern Blackmouth Cur
  • Stephens’ Stock Mountain Cur
  • Thornburg Feist
  • Treeing Farm Shepherd
  • Treeing Feist
  • Treeing Tennessee Brindle
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound

The conclusion

Even though the primary topic of this article is dogs which are best used as squirrel hunters, this does not mean that this is their only activity. Most of them are amazing guardians and livestock controllers as well.

Cajun Squirrel Dog

They can also hunt bigger animals such as deer, bears, wolves, foxes and cougars. Additionally, most of them are bark pointers – which means that they use the method of barking in order to point at the hunted prey, and make them afraid so they do not move until the hunters arrive. When it comes to squirrels, they are also “treeing dogs” which means that they bark under the tree and point at the squirrels up there.

Another important thing that should be remembered is that these breeds are primarily outdoor dogs; they do not respond well to being forced to live in kennels or small apartments. They do make wonderful family pets and companions since they are loyal, fearless and protective; but they should be groomed and exercised regularly, preferably in the nature, not in the city.

These breeds deserve as much love as other indoor dogs and they should be trained with positive reinforcement, gentle hand and voice. Another characteristic is that they can be very stubborn and instinct driven; so they can wander off, chase moving objects and smaller non-canine animals.

All of this should be taken into consideration when the dog is still a puppy. It is not unusual for them to not adjust well to new masters and families if they are already adults. That just proves how loyal and loving they can be when raised from an early age. Show them patience and love and they will respond with even more love and loyalty.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Anna Tomson

    My cousin who lives in another state rescued a terrier mix mutt from a shelter. The dog is awesome (we visited them last year) and very friendly. Except when we’re all outside. When she sees a tiny animal like a squirrel, she goes berzerk! Does she think she’s hunting? Is this instinctive?

    • Even mixed breeds retain their hunting instincts, Anna. This is something that is not readily wiped off from their genes.

  • Mary Ong

    I have a lab. I almost freaked out when I first saw him carrying a dead rat in his mouth. Oh my, I really hate rats! Haha. Well, I am quite proud of him because that was his first hunting experience. I was just a little worried because he started to stalk other small dogs, seemed like he’s waiting to attack them too.

  • While Golden Retrievers are not ratters, they still have the tendency to ‘retrieve’ vermins given the chance. It can be a rewarding and fun experience for your dog that is worth trying.

  • Carrie Phelps

    I honestly feel it’s every animal’s instinct to hunt smaller and easy targets. I have seen my dog rip a chicken into two for no reason and it was quite horrifying and he is a golden retriever! I laughed it off but I sure did reprimand him and he obviously felt bad, hasn’t done it again since!

    • Wyatt Robinson

      It is innate for dogs to chase smaller animals due to their preying instinct. Regardless if they are retrievers or lap dogs, dogs will chase and catch what they think is «food» or «vermin». Correcting your dog is a good thing as to curb such behavior.

  • Gwen Hanson

    I once had a dachshund that killed a new born kitten living at our backyard! The kitten posed no threat but my dog thought it best to eliminate the “vermin” is this a natural thing for dogs? Like I know dogs hate cats, but sometimes it just makes no sense. I think they are trying to protect their territory.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      You are right. Your dog must be thinking that way. What breed do you have? Some dogs are more prone to this kind of behaviour due to their breed and innate instinct to protect.

  • David Dasen

    I have a Lab/German Shepherd mix that is a natural hunter. I have a fenced in city lot. (The back yard I’d approximately 75×75.) She regularly catches rabbits and squirrels. Last week I noticed her grabbing a mouthful of food on the way out the door. She dropped it at the base of a maple tree in the yard, then hid at the corner of the garage, waiting for a squirrel to come down. I didn’t know dogs had the intelligence to employ baiting tactics.

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