Need a Squirrel Dog? These are the Best Squirrel Hunting Breeds

Last Updated on April 25, 2023

When I speak of my experience with squirrel hunting, I frequently receive strange looks from hunters who aren’t used to this particular type of small game.

However, squirrel hunting is pretty popular across the southeastern USA and other regions.

A Squirrel Dog on hunt preying on squirrel on tree
A Squirrel Dog preying on a squirrel climbing a tree

Good squirrel hunting dogs are essential for squirrel hunting, and while any dog can act as a squirrel dog, some dog breeds are born for this job.

History: What kind of dog is a Squirrel dog?

This is a dog breed trained to hunt squirrels scenting, tracking, and treeing them. While many household pets instinctively chase squirrels, they’re not trained to hunt them.

Even untrained canines chase after small animals with passion, which makes many people think that dogs hate squirrels. They’re just merely acting on their instincts to hunt.

Some breeds don’t have a strong prey drive, especially if they grew up with cats or other pets. Dogs and squirrels can even be friends! Just take a look at this video:

This is rare because most dogs chase squirrels without hesitation. This trait is handy in places where wild game and big game are hunted for food like venison and rabbit.

Did you know that squirrels have been a part of our diet for a long time? They say squirrel meat isn’t only sustainable, but it’s also tasty and healthy.

What is the best breed of dog for Squirrel hunting?

I am a subscriber of the theory that any dog can be trained to hunt, but some have better hunting instincts, so they’re easier to train.

The supreme squirrel dog breeds are Terriers, including those breeds with a bit of Terrier in their bloodlines, such as curs and feists.

Some people consider them mutts but these dogs are usually standardized and are bred for hunting bushytails for generations.

Good squirrel dogs are intelligent and have a strong prey drive, but they also need a great nose to be able to “wind” squirrels, meaning to detect squirrels by scent, through air currents.

Once the dog catches the squirrel, visually or by scent, it has to be able to follow it by sound.

They also need stamina and agility to keep up with their prey, the ability to tree the squirrel, and the willingness to stay treed until the hunter arrives.

1. Airedale Terrier

A purebred Airedale Terrier dog standing on a rock
An Airedale Terrier standing confidently on a rock

The Airedale Terrier, also known as Waterside Terrier and Bingley Terrier, is a dog breed from England with distinguished hunting instincts, and it’s one the largest terriers.

The colossal size, along with intelligence and treeing ability, makes this dog the “King of Terriers” and an excellent squirrel dog.

2. American Blue Gascon Hound

An American Blue Gascon Hound dog patiently sitting
Source: @patterpawsanimalhospital / IG

The Grand Bleu de Gascogne or Big Blu is a loyal, protective breed known as a passionate hunter for raccoons and squirrels. Its loud baying and treeing ability separate him from other squirrel dogs.

3. Black and Tan Coonhound

A Black and Tan Coonhound dog looking back from walking
A Black and Tan Coonhound dog walking in the bush area

Derived from a foxhound and a bloodhound, this breed is well-known for its long ears and black and tan coat.

The Black and Tan Coonhounds are talented for many things, including tracking and treeing small and big game species.

4. Finnish Spitz

A Finnish Spitz dog standing on a tree trunk
A red Finnish Spitz dog being adventurous

Known by many names, such as Finsk Spets, Lulou Finnoi, and Suomenpystykorva, this dog breed looks similar to foxes with its long and fluffy reddish coat.

The Finish Spitz is famous for its vocal ability and hunting prowess, including big and small animals alike.

5. Fox Terrier

A happy Fox Terrier laying on the grass
A Wire Fox Terrier smiling while holding a dog ball and laying down

Fox Terriers come in two variations, with the only difference being the type of coat – these are Wire Fox Terrier and Smooth Fox Terrier.

These smart dogs are mostly known for hunting foxes even though they excel at squirrel hunting too.

6. Mountain Cur

A Mountain Cur dog sitting on a chair
Source: @riley_the_mtncur / IG

Also referred to as Original Mountain Cur, this breed arrived in America from Europe, and it is one of the most adaptable hunting breeds.

They were bred explicitly for treeing and hunting small game, but they are often used for baying big animals and as water dogs.

7. Norwegian Elkhound

Two Norwegian Elkhound dogs one laying and one standing on the sand
Two full coated Norwegian Elkhound dogs enjoying the sand

The Norweigan Elkhound, which is the National Dog of Norway and rarely found in the USA, is also called Norsk Elghund Gra and Norsk Elghund Sort.

It is a Spitz type of breed known for hunting, herding, and protecting people and property.

8. Rat Terrier

Rat Terrier dog leaping at a agility trial
A Rat Terrier dog doing the agility trial

The Rat Terrier is an American small dog breed used predominantly for hunting rodents like rats and squirrels.

They are infamous farm dogs, which is why they are considered a rare breed today with the diminishment of family farms. 

9. Treeing Cur

A Treeing Cur puppy standing and wearing a yellow collar
Source: @threejayeverayday / IG

These medium-sized size dogs have no restrictions regarding colors and markings, making it easier for breeders to focus on their hunting prowess.

Treeing Curs are fast, intelligent, and agile, and their treeing ability makes them quintessential for squirrel hunting.

10. West Siberian Laika

A charming gray West Siberian Laika dog half body portrait
A portrait of an attractive West Siberian Laika dog

The West Siberian Laika is also known as Zapadno-Sibirskaia Laika and WSL, and it is a dog that looks a lot like a Husky and has a bit of wolf in the bloodline.

They are bark pointers, which is precisely the trait that squirrel dogs need to possess. These dogs are great hunters, but they can also be aggressive towards other pets and strangers.

11. Beagle

A sitting Beagle dog enjoying the outdoors during a fall season
An adorable Beagle dog in a park sitting on the fall leaves

Beagles are remarkable companions and family pets that also possess exceptional scenting ability since they were bred as scenthounds for tracking small game, like rabbits, hare, and squirrels.

12. Jack Russell Terrier

A Jack Russell Terrier dog standing outdoors
A Jack Russell Terrier puppy enjoying day-out

Originally developed to hunt foxes, this small English breed is also known as the Parson Russell Terrier. They have considerable energy, so it can be challenging to keep up with them.

A well-trained Jack Russell Terrier is a great hunting dog with unparalleled agility and hunting instincts.

13. Border Collie

A happy Border Collie dog standing on a grass field
A purebred Border Collie dog enjoying the sunny day

Although Border Collies are famous as sheep-herding dogs, they can also become great at squirrel hunting since they are highly trainable and clever.

With their unlimited amounts of energy, exceptional stamina and agility, and highly developed sense of smell, Collies can be used for hunting any wild game.

14. Kemmer Cur

A sweet Kemmer Cur dog wearing a sweater
Source: / IG

Kemmer Cur is also known as the Kemmer Stock Hybrid Dog or Cajun Squirrel Dog.

This hybrid dog is almost indistinguishable from the Mountain Cur since they come from the same bloodline and they are equally adept at squirrel hunting.

15. Black Mouth Cur

A Black Mouth Cur dog lounging comfortably
Source: @backtalkingcooper / IG

Easily recognizable due to its black muzzle and golden brown coat, the Black Mouth Cur is a loyal, affectionate pet and a fearless hunter.

These dogs are strong, adaptable, and highly intelligent, with a great ability for treeing.

16. Bluetick Coonhound

A happy Bluetick Coonhound dog standing on a lake
Source: @dixie_thebluetick / IG

The beautiful Bluetick Coonhound is a large dog breed named for its mottled or ticked coat pattern of black and blue.

These dogs are muscled but also sleek and athletic, incredibly vocal, and with a high prey drive that needs to be adequately channeled.

17. Denmark Feist

A cute Denmark Feist dog looking up and laying down
Source: @pepper.depper / IG

This is a medium-sized breed that is a hybrid of Mountain Feists, along with Thornburg Feist, Kemmer Feist, and a few others.

Also called Denmark Treeing Feist or DenMark Treeing Feist, this dog is a champion when it comes to hunting small critters like squirrels and raccoons.

18. Leopard Cur

An American Leopard Cur dog leaping and running
Source: @abersoldoutdoors / IG

Perhaps better known as the American Leopard Hound, this breed is one of the most versatile hunters out there. It is a medium to large dog that is highly energetic and outstandingly adaptable to weather conditions.

19. Treeing Tennessee Brindle

A magnificent Treeing Tennessee Brindle dog standing on snow
A Treeing Tennessee Brindle dog being the snow dog

The Treeing Tennessee Brindle is a type of cur dog that has a proficient nose and a powerful voice. These dogs are sturdy, intelligent, and dependable, with short and smooth brindle coats.

When should you start training a squirrel dog?

Squirrel dog training should start while they’re young, preferably three to six months of age.

It’s best to develop a bond with your fido as early as possible, and you can teach him basic commands that will be useful while hunting.

Take this time to introduce your pup to squirrels by tying a squirrel tail at the end of a stick or pole.

This will help him get familiar with the scent, then tie it to a tree to encourage him to bark whenever he’s treeing squirrels. Some owners use live bait.

Hunters have a saying: “A dog can’t learn to hunt in the kennel.” That means you have to take your dog for a live pursuit.

Start in an area with plenty of squirrels so that it’s easy for your dog and it will raise his confidence. Then try different locations later on.

Keep the sessions short and positive to produce the best results as a dog trainer.

How to Successfully Squirrel Hunt with Dogs?

A Mountain Feist dog standing while looking up
Source: @hoofangler / IG

Squirrel hunting may sound simple – follow your dog while he locates the tree where a squirrel is hiding, or chase one up a tree – but in reality, it’s more complicated.

Before anything else, you should know that some squirrels are harder to spot, like gray squirrels.

You should also have a canine companion with a great nose to determine where the squirrel exactly is before you shoot it.

It’s also best that you learn these hunting terms before you and your squirrel dog hang out with fellow hunters:

  • Bark Treed – The sound that a dog makes when he locates the squirrel in a tree
  • Timbering – A term for a squirrel running through the trees, trying to escape
  • Toenailed – When a dog pins the squirrel by positioning himself on the bark of a tree
  • Has the Meat – When a squirrel is confirmed on the tree
  • Range – The distance between the hunter and the dog while searching for a squirrel

Frequently Asked Questions About Squirrel Dogs

What Time of Day Are Squirrels Most Active?

Squirrels are usually active all day, particularly in the fall and spring when they look for food. However, they are most active during dusk and dawn.

What Happens When a Dog Catches a Squirrel?

A Jack Russell Terrier dog biting a squirrel
Source: @jack.the.squirreldog / IG

Well-trained squirrel dogs will kill the squirrel when they catch it, but they will not eat it. Untrained dogs might eat the squirrel after they catch it.

Will My Dog Get Sick from Eating a Squirrel?

If the squirrel is freshly killed, and your dog is healthy and on parasite control, he will most likely be fine. However, squirrels are hosts to many parasites, so the risk of transmission always exists.

What Diseases Can Squirrels Transmit to Dogs?

Some of the more common diseases transmitted from squirrels to dogs include plague, rabies, and Lyme disease. In some parts of the United States, squirrels can also carry a deadly disease called Leptospirosis.

Can a Squirrel Kill a Dog?

Squirrels can harm your canine with their sharp teeth and claws, but a dog getting killed by a squirrel is highly unlikely and borders on impossible.

Should I Let My Dog Chase Squirrels?

Unless you are training your dog for squirrel hunting, you should discourage such dangerous behavior in public places.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Chasing Squirrels?

Starting obedience training when the dog is young can be very helpful when you try to control his hunting instincts. Get your dog to concentrate on you during walks.

How Much Does a Good Squirrel Dog Cost?

Squirrel dogs from a good stock cost $100 to $200, but you can buy experienced treeing dogs with a price range of $500 to $5,000.

These amounts depend on the dog’s age, gender, whether it was trained, and if it’s squirrel season.

Verdict: Should you get a Squirrel Dog?

A West Siberian Laika dog having five squirrel down
Source: @munchbeast / IG

If you plan to go squirrel hunting, it is critical to have a good squirrel dog and know how to utilize him.

Otherwise, it might be preferable to choose another breed – squirrel dogs are tremendously energetic and require a job to be healthy and satisfied.

Are you an avid squirrel hunter? Do you have something to add or contribute to more training tips? Let us know in the comments.


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