It’s springtime in Central Texas and if you have a dog, then Snake Avoidance should be on your mind…
Where did it all start? Oh yeah, I remember. It was a cool fall evening. I was walking the dog a little later than usual and with the slowly shrinking days I failed to take into account the time the sun would be setting. About halfway through our walk it started to get noticeably darker. At one point, about half way home, I saw a dark smudge move in the tall grass a few feet from the path. The dog didn’t hesitate and before I knew it, she had been sprayed by a skunk.
I know my dog pretty well. We’ve had her for over 5 years now and I think I have her trained well enough that when we see a neighborhood cat, all I need to do is say her name in my usual commanding voice and she freezes for a moment and then returns to my side. Before we lived on a busy street, I would often take her on early morning runs without a leash.
Now that I know it’s possible for her to chase after skunks in the twilight, I was concerned about what other creatures were lurking in the shadows that could possibly do real harm to my sweet pooch. I guess my wife was wondering the same thing. On the evening of April 19th my wife saw a post on our neighborhood HOA Facebook group about baby rattlesnakes. One of the comments mentioned a local Snake Avoidance training. My wife forwarded me the information and I did the most logical thing I could – I signed up for the next class.
The snake avoidance process involves using LIVE Rattlesnakes, Copperheads and Water Moccasins (when available) that have been rendered harmless by removing the fangs and taping the mouth shut so the safety of your dog can be ensured. Using real snakes is absolutely the best thing to mimic a real outdoor situation.
Under the supervision of a trained professional, the dogs are introduced to the sound, smell and sight of the snakes. At a precise moment the dog alerts and shows an interest on these senses, heavy pressure is applied with an e-collar. The pressure from the e-collar is immediately let off when the dog turns away from the dangerous snake. The dogs associate the snake with delivering the correction and learn that looking at the snake is bad and getting away from the snake is great!
The process took about 10 minutes and the staff was very professional. I was greeted by someone who gave good instruction from the moment the dog and I pulled into the parking lot. He instructed us where to park, who we should look for next, where to find them and, should the dog need to relieve herself, where to do that.
Before parking the car, I was met by a second person who checked us in and informed where to go next. The whole operation felt safe…until I parked the car and immediately heard the tale-tell sounds of multiple rattlesnake rattles shaking nearby. So close, in fact, that Lizzy almost refused to get out of the car. Once out, she started to pull on her leash to move in the opposite direction of where the sound was coming from. Had we not already pre-paid for the session, I might have considered her snake trained enough at that point and moved on down the road…
Our handler, Jeff, did a great job of walking Lizzy through the course. First between two large Rattlesnakes (One seen above), and then over to two caged smaller snakes which I believe were the Copperhead and the Water Moccasin. Once he saw what he was looking for from my chocolate lab – i.e. total fear of venomous snakes – he was satisfied and we were free to be on our way. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little intimidated being around the snakes. I’m not typically one to be afraid of snakes, but I guess it’s healthy to want to avoid something that could potentially cause great pain, paralysis and possibly death.
The cost for the training is $100, but even after only being there for 10 minutes I felt fully justified paying the amount. What was also great about the training was that I didn’t have to schedule a specific time. I simply had to show up on the right day between 7AM – 5PM. This was especially nice considering that I realized about halfway there I had to return home to retrieve the dog’s collar which I had taken off earlier that morning.
It’s recommended that you bring your dog each year, and although I’ll probably get some flak for saying this, I think we’re good. My dog was afraid of the snakes before we even got out of the car and I don’t think she’ll forget the scent anytime soon. That being said, any future dog(s) I may potentially own is going to get snake trained right away.
Now that it’s officially spring and the tall grass is everywhere, do yourself a favor and get your pooch trained to dodge a potential serious, easily avoidable, very regrettable snake bite. Especially if you are prone to take your dog walking on various hike and bike trails, parks, greenbelts, and even on residential sidewalks.
Now, if only they’d offer a skunk avoidance seminar…
Cost: $100.00 USD
BONUS: Types of poisonous snakes in Central Texas (Click the picture):
What’s your take? Ever Snake Trained your dog? What other tips do you have for dog lovers of Central Texas?