Rattlesnake Avoidance, Is It For My Dog?
The weather is warming up here in So Cal, as well as many other places in the country. Which means the snakes are starting to come back out, which does not seem like a big deal, except some snakes can be deadly for our dogs....specifically rattlesnakes.
Now, I will be the first to admit that avoidance training is on many positive trainers "hot topic" list.
Many positive trainers adamantly oppose avoidance training as it introduces a punishment to the dog in the form of a stimulus collar.
You may have heard the term "shock collar" used before, this is really a poor choice of words IMO. This implies that the dog is getting hit with electricity like we would if we stuck a screwdriver in a light socket. This is far from true.
A stimulus collar is much like a TENS unit, used extensively in the medical world to help stimulate muscles and nerves.
It is also important to note that the muscles in a dog's neck, are much like the muscles in a human thigh. Very strong and muscular, not weak the flimsy like the front of a human neck.
Now the point to my blog today is to give you information to help you make an educated decision for your dog. I will be the first to admit, this training is not for everyone and there are trainers out there that have created a "positive" based training.
Sadly the reality is we are not seeing the success rate with positive methods (redirections and cookies) being used, when a dog is not directly supervised by their person. If their human is not around to give them a cookie for leaving the fun looking wiggly thing on the ground, what do you think they are going to do? Yep, they are going to investigate and potentially get bit. Chances are they will get bit right on the face.
If that is not bad enough, if they survive the bite, the action of the snake biting them was not that painful. It is like getting pricked with a needle. The pain sets in when the swelling starts and the venom starts to do damage. Dogs do not associate that with the actual snake.
Which means the dog has not learned to stay away from rattlesnakes.
Do I support the use of stimulus collars for daily training? No.
Do I support the use of stimulus collars for snake training? Yes.
Here is why.....
When it comes to teaching my dogs to stay away from a potentially deadly situation, regardless of if I am with them or not, I will choose to use punishment-based training. The reality is, if I am not there to stop my dog from making a really bad choice, that could kill them, then I want them to be scared of the "thing" and not engage.
With that said, I have, posted on my site, some commonly asked questions that I normally get, as well as things you should be aware of if you choose to have your dogs trained. Scroll to the bottom of the page to read them.
It is important to mention, that just like regular dog training, not all "snake trainers" are created equal.
When considering who should train your dogs, it is important to ensure that the professionals you choose have impeccable timing, are good with both dogs and reptiles, are licensed to handle venomous snakes (and are actually using rattlesnakes...yes, that is super important too), and are willing to take the time needed for each individual dog.
It is also important that the trainers set up the scenario so that dogs and snakes are safe, and that the area looks natural. Which means no cones or cages on snakes, no snakes in cages, no "tunnels" forcing the dogs to go up to the snakes. If it does not look like you found it in nature, then you are not getting the best training for your money and chances are your dog will not associate the training properly.
For this reason, I have been using for my personal dogs and for my client's dogs Rattlesnake Aversion Training by Natural Solutions. They are the ONLY trainers that I will allow to train my personal dogs and who I trust to host for our local clinics.
Avoidance training may not be for every dog, but it is our job as responsible owners to do our homework, and do what is best for our four-legged family.