We know they're out there, but California's seven species of rattlesnakes are inherently shy critters that will get out of your (and Rowdy's) way if they sense your approach. Problem is, snakes strike when provoked, and curious dogs won't hesitate to investigate that deliciously tempting smell in the brush pile alongside your hiking path.
Venomous snakebites can be fatal, and at the very least will cause injury to your dog and panic in both of you. It's all well and good to avoid snake territory, but any DogTrekker who seeks out open space where Dottie can run unleashed should dress appropriately, be visually familiar with snake species native to our area, and know the rudiments of snakebite first aid. Because few of us urban dwellers are conditioned to snap to alert at the leaf-rattling sound a rattlesnake makes before striking, our reaction to it can be as slow as our dogs'.
A recently developed canine vaccine can buy time if not offer 100 percent protection; ask your vet if he or she recommends it. One last tip: If you and your dog spend a lot of time in the rough, rattlesnake avoidance training can be a lifesaver. We'll let you know when dates have been set for clinics in our area.