By Guy Billups, Wildrose Texas
Our dogs face many dangers afield, from barbwire and thorns, to more dangerous situations such as venomous snakes. While many of us will not face snakes during our hunting seasons, summer months across the United States are filled with the possibility of running into a venomous snake.
First aid kits handy, vaccinations, and good obedience on the trail so that we can be well prepared for possible snakes are all good precautions we can take. One more step that many take is actual snake avoidance training.
This process involves bringing in live snakes such as rattlesnakes, moccasins and copperheads, whose fangs have been removed and mouths taped shut. This ensures the dogs safety but live snakes are key to identify the specific sight, smell and sound of a dangerous snake.
Dogs are brought into the area by a trained professional and immediately after the dog alerts and or shows an interests through sight, sound, or smell of the snake pressure is applied using an e-collar. This pressure is let off as soon as the dog turns away from the snake. Through precise and intentional timing the dog develops an association between the snake and the e-collar correction, resulting in an avoidance behavior.
With so many snakes around Texas and many pack members coming to us for advice we have booked Wayne Lain of Snake Breakers to come in and provide this training. The snake breakers clinic is $100/dog. It is open to all dogs, we recommend sporting breeds. There is no hard set minimum age but we would suggest 6 months. Dogs are introduced to 4 types of snakes (Western Diamondback, Eastern Diamondback, Copperhead, and a Moccasin) and allowed to approach each type of snake. They complete the training when they demonstrate avoidance behavior as a response to the snake, such as backing away or running around the snake instead of approaching it. This is negative reinforcement training which has been proved as the best way to produce an avoidance response to the smell or sight of a snake.