Snake Aversion Training
Put your mind at ease when you play or work with your dog in rattlesnake country. It’s common for dogs to approach rattlesnakes in the wild for further investigation with their noses when they see or hear them. Dogs or snakes can get bitten, injured, or even killed by this. Aversion training will help the dog identify rattlesnakes through its sense of sight, sound and smell and avoid them. This should also alert you to potential danger as the owner.
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One Trial Learning
This training is based on the principal of one trial learning, which states that if a stimulus is strong enough it will create a lasting impression and create a permanent change in behavior.
For scent recognition, the rattlesnake will be secured in a box with sufficient ventilation holes to allow air to flow through and create a scent cone. You will walk the dog up to the box on a leash, and once the dog picks up the scent, we will give it stimulation, and you will pull the dog away from the scent.
Sight and Sound
With the sight and sound aversion, the snake comes out of the box but don’t worry; you will be at a very safe distance. The trainer will stand by with snake tongs to keep the snake from getting away so we can see your dog’s eyes. The owner and dog will approach on a leash, keeping the dog a minimum of 10ft away at all times, and when the dog first sees the snake, the dog will receive the second stimulation, and the owner will pull the dog away from the snake.
The training is tested by getting the dog to approach the snake while on a leash. If the dog does not show an apparent aversion to the snake and continues to approach, it will be re-stimulated. Once we are sure the dog knows to stay away, training is concluded.
Training is accomplished
Once the training is accomplished, if the dog detects a snake, it will either try to go around it or run the other way. If the dog exhibits this type of behavior, try to find an alternate route if possible. Has it been a while since you had it done? We recommend refresher training once a year.
A rattlesnake bite disrupts the integrity of the blood vessels. Combined with the change of normal blood clotting mechanisms, this can lead to dramatic swelling, with up to a third of the total blood circulation being lost into the tissues in a matter of hours. Sometimes, if the swelling persists despite anti-venom treatment, so much blood is lost from circulation that the dog dies of shock.
Keep your dog on a leash
A lot of people mistakenly believe that rattlers are active only during the hottest hours. Actually, they usually rest during the heat of the day, sheltered from the sun. Rattlesnakes are instead most active during the evening, night and morning hours. Keep your pet on a leash when hiking or exploring rattlesnake habitat so that if you hear a rattle, you can pull your dog away from the rattlesnake.
What to do if your dog is bitten. Should I tourniquet it or not? Does icing it help? (Not that I typically have any ice with me but it is something good to know.) Should I suck the poison out like they do in the movies? Is there anything I can do to minimize the effect? If your dog is bitten by a rattlesnake do not use ice or other cold applications and do not apply a tourniquet as these may increase the dog’s anxiety and cause him to struggle, making the effects of the snake bite worse. Instead, keep your dog as calm and quiet as possible and drive immediately to the nearest veterinarian.
Most species of rattlesnakes have hemotoxic venom. This type of venom works by destroying red blood cells. Disrupting clotting and in severe cases can cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage (which can include the loss of a limb). Furthermore, this venom creates a wide variety of issues that are usually fatal without treatment. Exposure to hemotoxic venom is also very painful. Part of the function of this venom is to help the snake digest its prey. Death from hemotoxic venom is much slower than death from a neurotoxin which affects the nervous system.
The Mojave rattlesnake found in Arizona also uses neurotoxins which can cause an animal bitten by one of these snakes to collapse from shock. If your dog does get bit don’t put on a tourniquet because it may cause the dog to struggle. This will force the venom to travel quicker due to an elevated heart rate. Try to keep your dog calm and do not freak out. Do not try to suck the poison out, that’s just silly. Ice won’t help either. Keep your dog calm and seek veterinary attention. I have heard that some vets are giving out anti-venom shots but I am not sure how reliable or effective they are. I have heard mixed reviews. The best thing to do is prevent your dog from getting bit in the first place.