Dogs are man’s best friend ... not rattlesnakes. Snakes are an intricate component to our Arizona desert ecosystem but can pose a threat to our dogs if confronted. As prey driven animals, dogs are naturally curious and driven to new scents, sounds, and motion. If confronted with a snake, it is our goal to have control of our dog to ensure a snake bite does not follow.
With this said, there are a few basic commands and procedures to take that better the odds of having more control of your dog upon meeting a snake. Given the odds are higher of a snake encounter when living in the Southwest, take time to learn about the specific area in which you live and time of year when snakes will be more active. Below are a few tips to better your chances of a safe rattlesnake encounter:
1. “Leave it” and “stay” commands. “Leave it” is a simple “halt” or “wait” command. We want the dog to hear this and cease forward motion. Practice by gently holding your dogs collar, command “leave it,” drop a treat, wait two seconds, pick up the treat, pet your dog and reply “good leave it.” Also, the “stay” command is very effective in stopping your dog. Have your dog sit and then raise your hand and command “stay.” Walk to your dog and praise “good stay.” Both these commands will prove effective in controlling your dog from critters. If your dog is ever bitten by a snake, give them one Benadryl tab (25mg or less) and get them to the closest vet ASAP.
2. Simulated role play. Most snake training methods will use an E correction (shock) collar in the training of snake confrontation. I prefer to use this as a last resort. I’d recommend buying a $5 rubber snake from your local store. Then, with a metal pot and metal spoon, time it to where your dog approaches the snake and is within 4 feet of it, then RING THE POT WITH THE SPOON and command “leave it.” You want to condition or scare your dog into making the connection that snakes are not favorable to approach.
I always recommend leashing your dog on any desert hike for safety. Also, always look ahead on the trail for any visible movement or sounds/rattles of a potential snake. So, lace up your boots and leash up your dog and hit the trails. Just be aware of any slithery varmints that may be out for a cruise.
• Mark Siebel is owner of DOGGIE STEPS Dog Training, LLC. He has trained more than 400 Valley dogs, speaks regularly at local schools about the importance of dog safety and ownership, and donates time to youths wanting to learn more about dogs. Siebel is a member of the Arizona Professional Pet Sitters Association and Australian Shepherd Club of Arizona. Contact him at (602) 318-0122 or www.DoggieStepsDogTraining.com.