Dogs are typically one step ahead of us when it comes to reptile detection, especially if they're a breed with an extra knack for sniffing out danger. Many reptiles, snakes included, will give off particular odors that might be undetectable to us - our dogs, however, with their 300 million sensory receptors on their nose, are far more susceptible to pick up the scent of a reptile that lay in wait.
It's possible that if your dog picks up on a reptiles scent, he or she will try to give you some kind of heads-up, so make sure you know the signs your dog is trying to alert you to! Check out some of the signs below, and figure out the best ways to keep your dog from tracking down dangerous reptiles.
Signs Your Dog is Sniffing Out a Reptile
If you suspect your dog might be trying to tell you that he or she is sniffing out a reptile, look for signs of pointing - this will include a stiff tail, a paw up, and a nose facing toward the direction the scent is coming from. It's also possible that your dog will take off running toward the scent, bark excessively, raise their snouts high in the air, and sniff obsessively.
You can also potentially expect your dog to growl, howl, bite, nip, or lick at objects where they find the scent, which, unfortunately, can be incredibly dangerous when it comes to reptiles - especially snakes.
- Sweaty paws
- Back hair on edge
- Tail tucking
- Ears back
- Pupils dilated
- Exposed teeth
- Whale eye
- Swelling or bruising
- Collapse or paralysis
- Limb weakness
- Muscle contractions
- Bloody urine
- Shaking or tremors
- Pain in a specific area
- Puncture wounds
The History of Dogs Smelling Reptiles
But did you know that dogs have also actually been trained to sniff out certain reptiles - snakes, in particular? According to Time magazine, trainers at Auburn University have been teaching Labradors to sniff out and help hunt down Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
The dogs are taught how to do this through fringing, a method where a dog follows a smell toward the source, but is trained to stop before they actually happen upon the source itself - this is said to keep the dogs away from harm. It's also been noted that specific breeds are perfect for reptile sniffing, especially dogs like Jack Russel Terriers, Bloodhounds, Labradors, Basset Hounds, and Beagles.
The Science Behind Reptile Scent
Snakes and other reptiles are equipped with special cloacal glands that are situated on their tails. These glands open, vent, and manufacture pretty smelly substances that snakes will emit when they're frightened, bothered, or feeling threatened. Snakes and reptiles will rub this scent off on their enemies or their surrounding environment and will typically emit this to make themselves smell less appealing or delicious.
Unfortunately, your dog, who is led by his or her nose, will not find the reptile smell less delicious, just far more interesting.
Training Your Dog to Stay Away from Reptiles
Experts, typically, will capture a snake, rub the snakes scent all over coffee filters or a similar object, and then teach the dog to sniff out that particular scent, rewarding them with treats, love, affection, and a particular toy for playing.
If you prefer to take the route to avoid teaching your dog to hunt reptiles, we suggest ensuring that the area you let your dog roam is frequently cleared of harmful reptiles. If this area is far too large to do so constantly, train your dog to walk on a leash or mingle with other dogs at a dog park in order to keep them safe from reptiles.
Additionally, teaching your dog basic obedience commands like, "no," drop it," or 'leave it" will work wonders for your pup - especially in a circumstance where you see your dog headed straight for a reptile that could potentially harm them!
Safety Tips for Dogs Smelling Reptiles
Keep your dog on-leash to avoid them chasing after a reptile.
Do not let your dog bite a reptile - even if they are not dangerous themselves, they tend to carry a whole bunch of nasty diseases from eating dead flesh.
Learn the poisonous reptiles in your area and how to protect you and your pooch from them.