If I had to guess what the two biggest mistakes guys make when getting
into the squirrel-dog sport (with a pup) it is:
1) expecting way too much out of a pup too soon and overworking one to the point where the
dog will lose total interest in treeing anything.
Imagine a man with a two-year old boy trying to groom him to be an NFL quarterback.
"That's ridiculous", you say! But that's what a lot of guys are doing to these
pups. These pups are just that - PUPS, INFANTS, KIDS. The pup loses interest and doesn't
respond and the guy thinks the pup is no good. GO EASY AND SLOW with a pup. Make a GAME
out of PLAYING with a squirrel hide - AND - KEEP THE SESSION SHORT. STOP BEFORE the pups
loses interest - NOT AFTER. As he gets older, increase the time of the sessions and make
them more complex. BUT NEVER over do it. When starting out, take the pup to the woods and
let him explore and play, and get what Reddog calls 'woods wise'.
But even with that don't wear him out to the point it's not fun anymore. Don't take a 3
month old pup out and expect him to keep up with a grown dog all day! He's not ready for
If the pup has good breeding, he'll eventually come around and make you proud - if you
don't ruin him.
I know how anxious guys are to get a pup going - so was I.
2)Second mistake (I made this one too): shooting game out when a dog just Gets Up On The
Tree WITHOUT BARKING. If the dog don't bark - he ISN'T Treed! I said to myself, "I'll
just shoot this ONE out for him so he'll know that's what we're hunting for and to fire
him up" If you start doing that, he may never bark treed! Be patient! If he gets up
on the tree and shows interest and is excited and you can see the squirrel, by all means
hiss the S### out of him, slap the tree, pull vines, whatever. If he barks,
"Good-boy" him and hiss him some more. If he keeps it up (and has been
conditioned to gun-fire) THEN shoot the squirrel out for him.
You have to make a BIG DECISION when you take a young dog to the woods. A) Do I want to
train this dog? - OR B) Do I want to shoot squirrels? If you chose B) leave the dog at
Probably another mistake some will make is not conditioning the dog to gun fire before
shooting around it. (That's a whole different article, and I'm all typed out for now.)
I'm not trying to "rain on anybody's parade" or be a Mr-Know-It-All, because I
Don't Know it all. Just trying to help some new guys avoid some of the mistakes I made.
If you're too anxious to get going in the sport to let a pup mature and teach him the
right way - buy one of these year-old dogs that guys are selling out of good breeding.
Hopefully, they haven't 'burned' the dog out while he was young or made him gun-shy.
Better yet, buy a dog that's already treeing. You'll be out some bucks up front, but if
your patience is thin, you'll be way ahead in the long run.
By Dennis Smith