As the weather warms, rattlesnakes come out of hiding—and sometimes into the path of dogs and their people. Although they are inherently shy and will get out of your (and Fido’s) way if they sense your approach, rattlers strike when provoked, and curious dogs who don’t know the consequences can provoke merely by investigating the source of an unfamiliar smell.
Snakebite prevention should be on the mind of anyone who ventures into nature with a dog. If the two of you spend a lot of time hiking or hunting, you may want to check into the benefits of formal aversion training.
Rattlesnake aversion training (also called “snake-break” or snake avoidance training) isn’t fun for you or your dog, but without it, your curious canine could end up with a pair of fangs in his face—and you could end up with an astronomical veterinary bill for treatment that may or may not save his life.
In spring and summer, snake-avoidance training is available all up and down the state. The most prominent provider is Natural Solutions, a company specializing in snakebite prevention. It’s training sessions, priced at $80 and open to all sizes and breeds of dogs, are sponsored by veterinary hospitals, dog-training clubs, breed clubs, dog-park enthusiasts hunt clubs and others with an interest in the well being of dogs who spend time in the outdoors.
Natural Solutions employs a multi-step process to teach dogs to recognize venomous snakes by sight, smell and sound, and to thereby avoid encounters in the wild. The program, which utilizes remote-control training collars and live, muzzled snakes, is spelled out in detail on Natural Solutions website, and the company claims to have put more than 30,000 dogs through its program in the last 10 years. Another provider is High On Kennels, which puts on many clinics in Southern California and a few in Northern California each spring and summer. Look for more dates to be scheduled by both providers (and others) as the weather warms.
Natural Solutions 2013 Northern California schedule: April 26-27, Sonora; April 28, Chico; June 22, Carson City, Nev.; June 23, El Dorado Hills; June 24, Quincy/Portola; July 13014, Dunnigan; July 27-28, Livermore
High On Kennels 2013 Northern California schedule (check website for details): April 26-27, Rancho Murrieta; May 4-5, Placerville; June 29-30, Placerville.