Imagine you decide to take a hike in the woods one day with your dog. It’s a splendid day, the sun shining and the air is crisp. You pick up the leash, your sunglasses and a hat and head out. There aren’t many people around so you decide to let your dog loose. While you stay on the path, your dog, as he always does, is zig-zagging all over the place, nose to the ground, sniffing, looking for a rabbit or a fox. What you don’t expect him to find, however, is a snake. Now, it may well be a harmless garden snake, but what happens if you live in an area where there are venomous snakes? Your dog’s curiosity might be enough to get him bit and seriously hurt. A snake bite could even be lethal. Training your dog to stay away from snakes is not only useful, it could save him from a life and death situation.
This training will essentially allow you to be in control when confronted with a situation like a venomous snake. If you live in an area that is known to have venomous snakes, you will have an encounter with one sooner or later. When your dog sees, hears or smells something new, his natural instinct is to go check it out. While this can be endearing in other settings, it can be downright lethal when it comes to a venomous snake. By teaching your dog how to 'come' when called, 'leave it' when told, or giving him the ultimate decision to make the right choice when it comes to a new situation, you will have a much larger probability of coming away from a snake encounter unscathed. Essentially, you want your dog to not go near enough to the snake that it will attack your dog for getting too close. Snakes usually won’t bite unless provoked, so let's focus on leaving it unprovoked and keeping your dog at a safe distance.
This command should be taught to adult dogs that already have the foundational skills of 'leave it' and/or 'come'. The reason for this is that what we are going to do is, essentially, compound these skills and use them in a far more challenging situation than your everyday use. You should be able to teach your dog this command in about 2 weeks.
To teach this command you will need a long leash, high-value treats or a favorite toy, a clicker (if you use a clicker for training), a fake snake (try to find one as realistic as possible), a clear thread and a friend. Try to find a place outdoors, where you would normally find snakes in your area, that is quiet and fairly distraction-free (i.e. no other dogs or people around).