How to Train Your Dog to Stay Away from Rattlesnakes

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Work

Introduction

While hiking in the desert with her owner, little terrier Roxy is happily bounding down the trail when a movement in the rocks by the trail attracts her attention. Being the good little rat dog that she is, this intrepid terrier immediately lunges over to the rocks to investigate, her natural instinct being that of a hunting breed, bred to go after rodents and evens snakes! Fortunately,the rattlesnake hidden in the rocks is a reclusive animal, with a warning device, and as it coils and rattles its warning to stay away,  Roxy’s owners notices and calls Roxy back. Also fortunately, Roxy is obedient and responds to her owner's recall, narrowly missing a deadly bite from a venomous snake with more than enough venom to kill little Roxy! If you live in an area with lots of rattlesnakes you will want to make your dog snake smart, and train your dog to stay away from the venomous rattlers. Even if you do not live in an area with rattlesnakes, teaching your dog off-leash, 'leave it' commands is useful in case you are ever in an area with venomous snakes, and leave it commands can be used to keep your dog away from other dangerous critters and hazards too.

Defining Tasks

If you enjoy hiking in areas where rattlesnakes can be present, teaching your dog to be aware of rattlesnakes and stay away from them can be a life-preserving skill. A dog can be injured and even killed by a rattlesnake bite. Teaching your dog off-leash recall and 'leave it' commands are useful for calling your dog away from a snake, but additional training to identify and stay away from the snake without input from the handler may be necessary if your dog is liable to encounter rattlesnakes without you present, such as may happen with rural dogs or if your dog ranges far ahead of you or in the bush while hiking.

Getting Started

Treats to reinforce commands to stay away from a snake will be required for training. A rattlesnake toy or model will be helpful in training your dog to stay away from rattlesnakes. Noisemakers that sound like rattlesnakes are also available to help train your dog to identify and avoid the sound of a rattler. Such noises can even be simulated on a smartphone.

The Leave It Method

Effective
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Step
1
Present treat
Present a treat to your dog on the palm of your hand and say “leave it”, then close your hand around the treat to hold it in your fist.
Step
2
Reward leave it
Your dog will try to reach the treat, sniffing and licking your hand. When your dog stops, say "good" and provide the treat. Repeat daily for several minutes a day until well established.
Step
3
Drop treats
Start dropping treats on the ground, and saying "leave it", with your dog on a leash. If the dog responds to the 'leave it' command and sits, or backs away, provide another high value treat. If not, repeat "leave it" and remove the dog.
Step
4
Introduce snake
Place a toy snake on the ground. Put your dog on a leash and when he goes to investigate, say "leave it". If your dog leaves the snake, reward with treat. If he approaches, say "no", and walk with your dog on the leash in the opposite direction.
Step
5
Wiggle snake
Put a piece of string around the toy snake and have an assistant wiggle the snake. Say "leave it", and immediately retreat with your dog. Repeat often until your dog learns to react to snakes by backing off from the situation.
Recommend training method?

The Move Away From Sound Method

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Step
1
Obtain rattle sound
Purchase a device that makes a rattlesnake sound, or download the sound to your smart phone. Have an assistant hold the noise making device. You do not want to train your dog to approach the sound--you will be teaching your dog to approach you when they hear the sound.
Step
2
Call your dog
Take your dog outside in your yard. Have your assistant make the rattle sound. When your dog notices the sound, immediately call him to you. Ask your dog to sit and look at you and provide a high value treat.
Step
3
Increase distance
Repeat, moving farther away from the assistant, so the dog has to leave the sound and run back to you to perform the alternate behavior and receive a treat.
Step
4
Practice on trails
Practice this behavior frequently out on trails and associate a toy snake with the sound, if desired. Your dog will learn that when they hear a rattler they should immediately come to you and perform their behavior for a treat.
Step
5
Teach dog to come to house
Go in the house and stand with the door open, while your dog is outside with the assistant, and have the assistant make the noise. Close the door and have your dog come to the house and bark or paw the door to get your attention to perform his trick and get a treat. This will also serve to notify you that a snake is in your yard.
Recommend training method?

The Negative Reinforcement Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Determine necessity
If you live in an area with rattlesnakes and your dog is often unsupervised where he is liable to come into contact with rattlesnakes, such as a rural dog with a large yard, the use of negative reinforcement may be necessary to ensure your dog's safety. Determine if this is appropriate and necessary for your dog and try other options first.
Step
2
Use electric shock or stimulus collar
Fit your dog with a shock collar, or if your dog is responsive, an electronic stimulus collar that makes an annoying vibration. Educate yourself about the proper use of these devices.
Step
3
Introduce toy snake
Plant a toy snake in your yard and make a rattler sound to associate with the snake. When your dog approaches, engage the warning on the shock collar.
Step
4
Engage collar
If the dog continues to approach the snake, engage the shock stimulus.
Step
5
Repeat as required
Repeat and put the planted toy snake in different locations, and move with string if possible until your dog learns to avoid the snake immediately when he sees it.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Owen
miniature poodle
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Owen
miniature poodle
4 Years

My male poodle has done avoidance training (neg reinforcement)for rattlesnakes but still charges after whip snake in the yard. How do I correct this

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Patt, Does pup avoid the planted fake snack when it is being moved around well? But still chases the real thing. If pup is avoiding the fake snakes well - showing that the training is somewhat effective, but still going after the real ones, you might have to actually practice with a real snake - like a non-poisonous garden snake or pet store bought harmless snake (nothing dangerous!). I would try teaching an alternate behavior using positive reinforcement also first though, with the fake snake. Teach pup to do something like return to you whenever they spot a snake. Practice this with a long leash and a fake snake. With one person simulating the snake's sound and movement with string attached to it, and the other person holding the end of pup's leash and practicing reeling pup in as soon as they spot the snake, then heavily rewarding when they get to you each time. Practice this until pup automatically returns when they spot the snake during surprise training sessions. Also, check out James Penrith from Take the Lead Dog Training. He has a YouTube channel and specializes in teaching livestock killing dogs to avoid the animals. The training you need to do around snakes is similar to the livestock avoidance training. His videos will go into more in depth information on e-collar, laying the foundation for obedience commands and impulse control, and proper e-collar use to teach avoidance. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Try all of this with the fake snakes first to see if additional training, modifying the e-collar training, and adding in a positive reinforcement element are enough (the combination of punishment for unwanted and reward for doing desired behavior instead, often works best when combined, instead of just one or the other). If those things aren't enough, the issue is probably using a fake vs. real snake. Obviously you don't want to practice with a poisonous snake, but using a harmless non-aggressive species in training might make all the difference - as long as the training techniques are also correct. Just be sure that you don't end up releasing something non-native into the environment, like a constrictor from a pet store. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kaiser
Labridor
7 Months
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Question
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Kaiser
Labridor
7 Months

In my place there is snake
Once my dog bite and kill one small snake
Then also there exist another big snake. How can I protect my kaiser from that snake

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would use the Here Method from the guide where you submitted the question, which is this one:https://wagwalking.com/training/stay-away-from-snakes. I would also suggest that your work with Kaiser to teach him the "leave it" command. Work on it constantly and it will serve you well, not only with snakes but with other distractions that come your way. Although this guide is to do with biting, the "leave it" command is well described: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite. Practice the command 20 minutes a day and be consistent. The Down Method as described here is another one to work on: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-kill-small-animals. Teaching Kaiser to drop to a down position on your command will keep him from going after the snake. Perfect it, and practice it often! To discourage the snake from coming in your yard, get rid of piles of brush, leaves, and items that may be lying around. Clean garden sheds, and remove piles of rocks. Make sure your yard is dry and not soggy (plant grass etc) to deter the snake. Good luck!

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