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Snakes and Oils!

You may know that this past weekend I hosted Natural Solutions Wildlife Enterprises for our bi-annual Rattlesnake Avoidance Training.

Many of you may be thinking what the heck am I talking about and some of you were there.

We actually trained 271 dogs over 3 days… yes you read that right!! Talk about CRAZY!!!

This has been the largest clinic I have hosted to date, we actually filled the original 2 days of training within the first week of having registration open. That prompted me to add Friday as an option. Which to be honest, I figured that would allow us to add a few dogs, maybe training just in the afternoon.

NOPE! We started at 8 am and went till dark ALL THREE DAYS!!

Putting on a clinic and organizing this many dogs/people is a huge challenge, but you know what, we do this because we are making a difference, helping to keep dogs safe from being bite by rattlesnakes.

Whether your dog is hanging out in their yard and they encounter a rattlesnake (yes we do have that problem in So Cal) or you are out hiking and stumble upon one on the trail. Our goal is to teach the dogs to avoid interactions.

It’s funny, as a positive trainer (one that does not use aversive methods to train), I am not averse to a properly fitted, properly used e-collar in a life or death training situation. This may shock some of you, and trust me, it has got me banned from some “purely positive dog trainer groups”.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to snake avoidance being aversive and one being positive.

Here is the breakdown:


As by definition, this is done with treats and praise. Obviously, there is more to this, but I am trying to keep this on the shorter side.

In a nutshell, the dogs do what we ask to please us. BUT what happens when we are not there to reinforce it? Meaning our dog is out in the yard and a snake is curled up on the back porch. 99.9% of dogs out there are not going to leave it alone and go seek you out to get a cookie. Curiosity will get the better of them.

The other problem with this type of training is these trainers generally do not have legal access to real live rattlesnakes and often choose to use other types of snakes for their training. But guess what? Different species of snake smell different. So you are really not teaching your dog to leave a real live (and very tempting) rattlesnake alone.

AVERSIVE METHODS (what got me in hot water) This is correction-based training. I personally will only use this type of training when it is a life or death situation. A rattlesnake bite can kill your dog.

Dog does “x”, “y” then happens. As an example, the dog puts his nose right on a baby rattlesnake to investigate (“x”), then the dog gets a stimulus from the e-collar (“y”).

Here is the thing, an e-collar is not what most people think it is. It is not electricity, they are not getting shocked like you would if you stuck your finger in a light socket.

The sensation is the same as a tens unit, the medical device that is used by physical therapists and chiropractors all over the world. The device tightens the muscle, creating a small cramp-like sensation that startles the dog (yes, I have tried it on myself). It is not, nor has it ever been about “lighting them up” as many people think.

Think of it this way. You touch a hot stove, you instantly do not want to go back and do that again. This training is the same concept for our dogs. We do this while covering sight (baby and adult snakes), sound (the rattle), and smell (shed skin). Having an outstanding trainer, with impeccable timing is key, which my guys are!


#1 The muscles in a dog’s neck are much like our thigh muscles, it is not weak and frail like our necks. So, when we see those videos of people putting bark collars on their necks and barking. It is not the same and should NEVER be done. If you want to test out how it feels, put the collar in the palm of your hand, or on your leg, NOT your neck.

#2 You should NEVER allow your dog to approach a dead rattlesnake. Once it is dead, it obviously does not move or smell like a real live rattlesnake. Therefore you are adding confusion to a dog that has already been trained. Or giving permission to approach strange things on the ground for those that have not.


I bet you are wondering how I am going to tie in oils with today’s topic. I got this!!

Let’s talk about Frankincense and Basil. I carry both with me when hiking, camping, and of course, I have them at home. If I were ever to have a rattlesnake bite, I would immediately apply both topically for support and head right to the vet/doctor for immediate care. If time allowed I would also use Balance and Vetiver to help keep them calm while en route for help.

So, there you have it! If you live in the So Cal area and are interested in being on my rattlesnake avoidance notification list feel free to sign yourself up here.

I send out about 4 emails per year, 2 in the spring and 2 in the fall, which include “save the date”, and “registration is open” emails.

Have more snake training questions, make sure to check out my snake training Q&A.




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