Exactly how do you celebrate Squirrel Appreciation Day?

Squirrel!

How many of you have seen the movie Up!, with it’s hilarious cast of dogs and their obsession with all things squirrel? Of course, if you have a dog who has been outside much, you’ve likely seen this very behavior in action as they fixate on the twitchy, bushy tail of the nearest squirrel as it scampers up a tree. Or maybe your pup likes to hop at the bottom of such a tree, being chittered at by numerous squirrels as it barks for them to come down and play. A lot of people are amused by this, but squirrel/dog interaction can actually pose some serious threats to your pup’s health if not monitored and handled correctly. So, in honor of Squirrel Appreciation Day, let’s look at how best to approach and prepare for the next time your dog wants to give chase to one of these nutcases.

Foremost, if your dog is off-leash or slips its collar because it wants to chase after a squirrel, you might have trouble getting it to return when you call–and if it chases the squirrel too far, it could become lost (which reemphasizes the importance of have up-to-date collar ID and a microchip with your contact info embedded by your vet ASAP). Not only that, but a dog can be so distracted by chasing a squirrel that it runs out in front of traffic, or through other people’s property, where other less-friendly dogs might be waiting.

Secondly, what happens if your dog is successful in chasing down and trapping or catching the squirrel in question? If cornered or caught, squirrels are known to attack dogs (and cats) in return, and can inflict a nasty bit of damage with their sharp claws and teeth. This might necessitate a trip to the vet for stitches, or could pose an even bigger hazard by transferring a wide variety of diseases squirrels are known to be carriers of.

Also, don’t forget the squirrel’s well-being! If a squirrel has been chased, it has to burn up a lot of precious energy–energy it normally would use to forage for food and prepare for the winter. You don’t want your dog to be responsible for an innocent animal starving to death during the colder season. Or if a female squirrel has a nest with babies, if it feels threatened, it may feel forced to move to a different location, which puts the baby squirrels under great stress and once more forces the mother to use up a lot of energy she would’ve otherwise needed to care for and feed them properly.

So be aware of squirrels in the area, both for their sake and your dog’s. Keep your pup on a leash, especially when walking a trail or around the neighborhood, and if you do have a squirrel feeder or the like, keep it far off the ground, yet easily accessible via trees or rooftops so squirrels don’t have to brave your yard to get to the goodies.

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