Ray is probably typical of his breeds (Shepherd/Rotti) in that he is prey driven. When he is in the garden, he loves to chase rabbits and squirrels and, when inside, will often play a rather rough game with various squeaky toys.
When he plays with his squeaky toys, he whips his head from side to side so rapidly that if he did that with any small animal in his mouth, it would soon have a broken neck. I would assume that this is an intuitive technique for killing prey.
Ray’s history with us dictated that he was not very good at catching squirrels or rabbits. This was no doubt due to the time it takes him to reach full speed, our relatively small garden, and the limitations of his size when cornering. He can always be out maneuvered! However, I really believe that our local squirrels understand his limitations and deliberately tease him. I have often seen Ray accelerating across the garden clearly heading for a squirrel which is just sitting there and, at the very last moment, the squirrel makes a flying leap for our maple tree and scurries up the trunk. This was Ray’s pattern until one afternoon when a squirrel either badly over estimated its own abilities, or badly under estimated Ray’s performance.
We were looking out the window which overlooks the back garden when we saw Ray, clearly with something quite large in his mouth, heading in our direction. We rushed outside and were greeted by Ray with a firm grasp across the hind quarters of a squirrel. The squirrel was squeaking (not a smart move as it might trigger the squeaky toy game!) and obviously trying to escape. Unfortunately, with Ray’s jaw firmly clamped across its hind quarters, it was not going anywhere.
We tried to “share” with treats – he gives us the squirrel and we give him treats, but to no avail. Greenies! He loves Greenies! Carol rushed inside to get the bag of Greenies and then Ray let go of the squirrel however, it somehow got one of its feet tangled up in his collar and so while Ray was contemplating what a cool way this was to get a Greenie, the poor squirrel could not escape. Whenever Ray moved, the squirrel swung around just beneath his mouth and we could not get hold of it because its “business end” (mouth) was free to bite whatever came within range.
We needed some really thick gloves however, before we could get them, the squirrel did manage to free itself and fell to the ground where it tried to move away from Ray. Unfortunately it could only pull itself along with its front feet so we assumed that its hips had been damaged. We eventually managed to pick it up and take it to our local Humane Society (feeling pretty sure its condition would dictate that it be euthanized).
What a crazy few moments and, while Ray was happily wandering around the garden once again without a care in the world (and probably planning his next Greenie), we were totally stressed out (“Is there any beer in the fridge?”). He has not caught a squirrel since but, whenever he takes off across the garden, I am thinking “Oh no! Here we go again!”