How to teach your dog to avoid snake bites -

Teach your dog to avoid snake bites

Scientists have identified more than 30 species of rattlesnakes -- and a lot of them are slithering around the American Southwest.

The snake's venomous bite can be deadly to humans, but even more so to man's best friend. Our pet pro, Luciano Aguilar, shows how you can train your dog to avoid a snake bite.

"Rattlesnakes kill and injure thousands of dogs every year," says Luciano. "But you can actually train a dog to detect a rattlesnake's presence and quickly get out of its deadly strike zone."

Animal Training Specialist Karen Singleton offers three reasons you want to teach your dog to be snake-savvy:

  • The dog becomes an early warning system for you, keeping you out of danger.
  • The dog can protect itself.
  • So you can take them off-leash no matter where you go and know that if they're off in the bush, they know not to mess with a rattlesnake.

"Most dogs that are struck by a rattlesnake are bitten on their faces," says Luciano. "That's because they usually come into contact with snakes while out exploring the world with their noses."

While it might seem like a natural thing for dogs to know, Singleton says they need to be taught that snakes are dangerous.

"It's not a lizard," she explains. "This is a lizard packing a big punch! They need to give it a very wide birth."

Karen uses an electronic collar as part of her rattlesnake avoidance training. These collars are controversial, but modern e-collars deliver very low-level shocks and are an effective tool for training like this.

"The electronic collar allows me to associate over and over and over again that the snake bites, and when it bites, it hurts," she says. "It's the only way to do it, unfortunately. I mean, people have tried it with clicker training and food. And as much as I am a clicker trainer and a food trainer, this is the only way to rattlesnake-train."

The dogs that Karen trains are exposed to real, un-caged rattlesnakes.

"It's not an all-day event," says Singleton. "It's about 15 to 20 minutes. We want to impact the dog, but we don't want to traumatize the dog. So we keep it short and sweet. I think it's as important as vaccinations, because it's protecting your dog. And our jobs, as their guardians, is to protect them."

If you live in rattlesnake country and enjoy outdoor adventures with your dog, Luciano strongly recommends rattlesnake avoidance training.

"An ounce of snake-bite prevention could prove well worth a pound of snake-bite cure for both of you," he says.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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