How to Train Your Older Dog to Stay Away from Snakes

Medium
1-3 Weeks
General

Introduction

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. 

Defining Tasks

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. 

Getting Started

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). 

The Come Method

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Step
1
Let him loose
Let your dog off the leash and let him run around for a few minutes.
Step
2
Call his name
When you are ready, call out his name, loud and clear one time. You can also say : “Fluffy, come.”
Step
3
Wait for him to come
Wait for him to come. Do not call his name, or use the command again.
Step
4
Give a treat
When he gets to you, give him a big "Yes!", use the clicker (if you are working with one) and give him a treat or a toy to play with.
Step
5
Introduce the snake
When the command is solid, you can introduce the snake. Have a friend tie a clear string around the snake and hide behind a tree, then move the string so it looks like the snake is moving.
Step
6
Approach
Let the dog approach the snake (but not get too close).
Step
7
Call his name
When the dog is halfway to the snake, use the command to get him to come back to you. Remember, use the command or his name only once.
Step
8
Give a treat
When the dog gets to you, say "Yes!", use the clicker and give him a treat or a toy to play with.
Step
9
Repeat
Repeat this several times until consolidated.
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The Leave It Method

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Step
1
Snake on the ground
Have a friend tie a clear string around the snake, hide behind a tree, and move the snake.
Step
2
Stand close
Stand close to the snake.
Step
3
Allow approach
Allow the dog to approach the snake.
Step
4
'Leave it'
Before he gets too close, give the command “leave it”.
Step
5
Praise
As soon as he looks or steps away, give a big "Yes!", use the clicker (if you're using one) and give him a treat or his favorite toy to play with.
Step
6
Increase distance
Gradually increase the distance between you and the snake. And be sure to move the snake’s position every once in a while so he knows that he should leave the snake, not that area specifically.
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The Right Choice Method

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Step
1
Long leash
Put your dog on a long leash and let him walk in front of you.
Step
2
Snake on the ground
Have a friend tie a clear thread to snake, hide behind a tree, put the snake in the path in front of you and move the snake.
Step
3
Stop
Before reaching the snake, stop in your tracks.
Step
4
Do nothing
At this point, do not pull on the leash, do not call his name and do not move.
Step
5
Wait
Wait for the dog to make a decision and move on his own.
Step
6
Move away
As soon as the dog moves away from the snake towards you, give a big "Yes!", click the clicker if you use one, and give a treat or play with him with his favorite toy.
Step
7
Practice
Continue practicing in different locations or periodically moving the snake so it’s not always in the same spot or position.
Step
8
Phase out leash
Over time, as your dog grows confident in making the right decision when confronted with dangerous situations, you can phase out the leash.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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