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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-27-2015, 07:43 PM Thread Starter
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Rattlesnake Training

For those living in rattlesnake country, how do you train to keep dogs AWAY from rattlesnakes?
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-27-2015, 09:03 PM
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I make them carry their own dose of Antivenin!

Serious, though... We hike on trails on the North side of the Columbia Gorge in Washington. In the late spring and summer, there are rattlesnakes. Generally if the dogs stay on the trail, it is not an issue. The snakes tend to sun or cool in the rocks of the talus slopes. The dogs don't like walking on that surface because it hurts their paws. So they stay on the path.

The exception is when baby snakes are around. They will lie under ferns right on the trail and their venom is equally dangerous.

So the bottom line: When unsure.... Leash up.

This is also true with respect to large cats, bucks in rut, porcupines, skunks, bears, moose, etc. (My boys walk on/off leash in the Yellowstone area at our cabin)

In general, my rule of thumb is that unless I am quite sure the trail or field is clear of danger,
they walk on a lead.

Hey! Better safe than sorry.

Oh, BTW, this is also true of geological hazards. Many a dog has been lost by falling/jumping off a cliff or trail.

John
Portland OR
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 07:12 AM
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We have plenty of Copperheads here, much less dangerous than Rattlesnakes but still can cause a lot of problems. Boon has been bitten three times so I did some positive training this past summer and no bites after that. I also raised 18 guinea fowl and let them roam all around the house and gardens this past summer and fall. They are known to mob, kill, and eat snakes. I have not seen a single Copperhead since last July! Here's a good article:

Snake Aversion Without Shock - Whole Dog Journal Article

Excellent article:


Snake Avoidance Training – the good, bad, and wrong of it all | Nancy Tanner

THE BOONDOGGLE
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-28-2015, 01:16 PM
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Thanks Tricia. That 2nd article was one of the better ones I have ever read on the subject of snake aversion training. I would never do it. JMO

We have also spent a lot of time in Central Oregon. Lots of Northern Pacific rattlesnakes. They will tend to avoid trouble. Still....

Personally, I will sometimes carry a 22 Mag with alternating "snake loads", when out in snake area (like the Deschutes) and with my dog(s).
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 12-29-2015, 08:47 PM
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I never did any training with Max, but on 3 occasions she alerted us to rattlesnakes on the ranch that were very near the house. My husband shot each of them. What we learned was that my husband is not able to hear them. But Max barked, pointed and showed us where each one was. She was about 8 years old at the time and to my knowledge had not seen a snake before. One was a baby and was under the Bar B Que.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 01:58 AM Thread Starter
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They are having a "Rattlesnake Avoidance" class. They use real live Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes that had their venom glands surgically removed.

The dogs are trained using safe, humane and effective negative reinforcement to recognize and avoid the sight, smell and sound of a rattlesnake.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 02:45 PM
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Pettrix, those terms are often a bit confusing. "Negative reinforcement" means the dog is being punished (usually with a shock) and the punishment is removed (that's the "negative" part of the equation —*the subtraction of something) when the dog does the desired behavior (leaves the snake alone). That's the "reinforcement" in this case — the removal of an often painful punishment is reinforcing (rewarding) to the dog. The class you described sounds like the type referenced in triciakoontz's post. It sounds like they might be shocking dogs at the sight of the snakes. If that's not what you're looking for, you might ask a few more questions and clarify the specifics of this class.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 02:52 PM
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Pettrix, those terms are often a bit confusing. "Negative reinforcement" means the dog is being punished (usually with a shock) and the punishment is removed (that's the "negative" part of the equation —*the subtraction of something) when the dog does the desired behavior (leaves the snake alone). That's the "reinforcement" in this case — the removal of an often painful punishment is reinforcing (rewarding) to the dog. The class you described sounds like the type referenced in triciakoontz's post. It sounds like they might be shocking dogs at the sight of the snakes. If that's not what you're looking for, you might ask a few more questions and clarify the specifics of this class.
Yeah...Wouldn't be my first choice in avoiding snakes. Still If I lived in Australia or anywhere else where the chance of my dog interacting with a seriously deadly snake, I would probably go for it.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Yeah...Wouldn't be my first choice in avoiding snakes. Still If I lived in Australia or anywhere else where the chance of my dog interacting with a seriously deadly snake, I would probably go for it.

Rattlesnakes pose a deadly threat here in desert SW. A dog was just bit a few days ago and died.

How else can you train a dog to avoid rattlesnakes except with fear & avoidance of the actual rattlesnake?

I don't know of any positive reinforcement rattlesnake avoidance training. That's why they use live rattlesnakes with surgically removed venom glands.
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 06:12 PM
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I don't know of any positive reinforcement rattlesnake avoidance training.
It's a bit harder to find because it's a relatively new concept, but it's out there. Did you see the first link triciakoontz posted? There was mention of a step-by-step training book. I've also seen online classes that teach snake avoidance without using shock, so that could be another option to look into, if you're interested.

Anyhow, it comes down to whatever you're comfortable with and whatever you think will work best with your individual dog(s).
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 08:08 PM
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My friend in Arizona paid for rattlesnake training for her dog. It involves a shock collar and is hard to watch. She says better shocked than dead and insists it has saved her dog's life. Me, I am just glad I don't have to make that decision... I live on an island with no venomous snakes, porcupines, skunks, or large predators.

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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-05-2016, 09:50 PM Thread Starter
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My friend in Arizona paid for rattlesnake training for her dog. It involves a shock collar and is hard to watch. She says better shocked than dead and insists it has saved her dog's life. Me, I am just glad I don't have to make that decision... I live on an island with no venomous snakes, porcupines, skunks, or large predators.
I am of the same mindset. I've heard and even seen quite a few dogs bitten by rattlers and end up dying or suffering debilitating injuries. Rattlesnakes pose a unique challenge to an untrained dog because dobes are curious and prey driven. They will always approach the snake and the results will be deadly.

Like humans, we learn sometimes from negative reinforcement.
Touching a hot stove = nerve pain signals to brain = don't ever touch a hot stove or anything that is hot

That's why the class uses REAL rattlesnakes. This is something that cannot be trained without using real snakes and using negative reinforcement to learn to STAY AWAY from rattlesnakes.

I was almost bitten by a rattler just by walking down a path. I never even saw it until I was only a few feet from it.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-07-2016, 02:07 PM
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I have a friend and former coworker who owns a wildlife removal company and provides "muzzled" wild snakes to a well respected trainer in our area for avoidance classes. The snakes are housed for for a very short period of time then released after the class.

I once owned a dog that was bitten by a large shedding snake when he was retrieving a thrown stick. It was a terrible bite and the poor dog's front leg swelled to the size of a human thigh and he almost died. It cost a fortune in antivenin, but after that he never went near a snake again... Even a tiny scrap of shed skin would send him packing! I now believe that he could have learned the same lesson with far less pain if I had attended avoidance training classes.

I find it disturbing that my dog's value is based on myth and exaggeration, as though their reality wasn't good enough. ~ Jean Donaldson




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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-07-2016, 03:01 PM Thread Starter
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I once owned a dog that was bitten by a large shedding snake when he was retrieving a thrown stick. It was a terrible bite and the poor dog's front leg swelled to the size of a human thigh and he almost died. It cost a fortune in antivenin, but after that he never went near a snake again... Even a tiny scrap of shed skin would send him packing! I now believe that he could have learned the same lesson with far less pain if I had attended avoidance training classes.
Sorry to hear about your dog and his rattlesnake bite. Snake avoidance classes using live snakes (de-fanged) and negative reinforcement is something that can save a dogs life. In the desert SW, it's not IF you run into a snake but WHEN you do, how will your dobe react? Naturally they will try and sniff and investigate it up-close which will result in disaster. Once they are trained with snake avoidance the dog will remember that snakes = pain and therefore avoid going near it.

Dogs brains are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain/discomfort. Just like human beings. With rattlesnake avoidance the method that works best is using live snakes and negative reinforcement. There is no other way around it. The dog is not hurt during training but quickly learns that rattlesnakes = pain/discomfort and will then avoid them.
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