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Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs
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Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/20/2009 15:25:18 MDT Print View

I just wanted to share this experience with you dog owning backpackers:

We, Loki and I, hike and overnight through the hills of So Cal, the Central Coast, Sierras (where we can), Nor Cal, pretty well anywhere allowed (or ignored). She's does great off-leash and is responsive to commands, but with the onset of Summer rattlesnake danger is higher than ever, so I decided to followup where I could to hedge our bet on the trail.

Patrick Callaghan comes up often as the authority for rattlesnake avoidance classes, been doing it for 20 years. Well, we got on a class this last Sunday up in Sonoma... what a freakin' traumatic experience. But, probably, a necessary evil considering the alternative waiting in the bush.

He sets up three scenarios with three live, de-fanged rattlesnakes and uses a shock collar on the dog. All the snakes are under buckets to calm them between sessions. The first had its rattle sheathed while the dog is slowly introduced to the snake's smell and tame, coiled posture and as she gets closer.. WHAM goes the shock collar. Loki leaped into the air and screamed and went ape shiet in ways I've never seen or imagined from my dog. After calming her (not an easy task) and me (not easily done either), she's introduced to the next snake, with its rattle fully exposed while rearing back in an upright strike position. Let me say, I've never seen a rattlesnake like this firsthand. This was an Indiana Jones rattle snake. A, "there's a rattlesnake blocking the trail, roll initiative", rattlesnake. My hair was on end from 25' away. So, the dog handler (now two handlers with two leashes) eases her toward the snake while Patrick uses a wand to bring the snake toward her. And, as she begins to sniff and closely approach, the snake strikes without connecting and she gets.. WHAM, another shock. OK, if I haven't mentioned this yet, I'm rigid and bringing on a severe headache. The shock collar torture is.. torturous.

Well, finally, Loki and I are positioned at opposite ends of the yard with a rattlesnake between us. She's expected to come to me and avoid the snake in the process. Through all the pain and fear, BIG fear, she catches my command and, with her eyes locked on the snake, she cautiously circumnavigates its position to get to me and to get the hell out of there. From what I'm told, and observed, that was the sign of success. 15 minutes, two shocks, three snakes. Rinse and repeat once a year.

All I can say is, Holy hell that was rough. But, I think ultimately, it's going to help us both, cause she's definitely got puppy curiosity and hunting blood and we're regularly in the thick of it.

And here's pictures of my girl for anyone interested:
loki at camp

Flicker Set:

Edited by uberkatzen on 05/20/2009 15:38:20 MDT.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
avoidance classes/techniques for dogs on 05/20/2009 19:07:05 MDT Print View

This is very interesting. I've always been intrigued with shock collars, but like you I have always been wary of electricuting my dog.

I wonder if their are similar ways to do this with coyotes. My dog is a giant wimp, but she gets real tough whenever she see a coyote. Just this morning there were 3 in my backyard, and if I didn't already have her leashed (nursing an injury on her hind leg) she would have tore off after them and maybe become a tasty morsel.

Can you think of any way to teach avoidance with coyotes without a shock collar? She seems to ignore me when coyotes are around--like she's in the zone or something. She's real timid as she's a rescue dog, so I try to use positive reinforcement training with her to boost her confidence. I'm afraid that scaring the holy hell out of her might be detrimental to her progress thus far.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Rattlesnake Avoidance for Dogs on 05/20/2009 20:03:38 MDT Print View

I'm not a dog owner, but had a chance to witness some training done by a horsepacking guide whose dog ran with us (unleashed) all day as we rode. We stopped at a rocky overlook in Northern PA and there were two rattlers sunning themselves on some of the rocks.

The guide grabbed Tucker's collar and walked him towards the snakes. When he was certain that the snakes had the dog's attention he simply said "No" several times while pointing to the snakes.

I remember being astounded with the process. It seemed too simple. He said he grew up there and has always had dogs and that this method always worked for him. He's in a profession that sees rattlesnakes several times a week either accidentally or intentionally (for the paying clients). His dog, Tucker, was certainly one of the best behaved dogs I've ever met and this was how he trained him.

He did say that he would repeat this process at least once more that summer (it was Tucker's first season) and then once again the following year.

Ugh...I hate snakes!

J Bailey
(jbaile38) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Vaccine on 05/20/2009 20:54:14 MDT Print View

My dog is regularly hiking with me in rattlesnake country. She is a hunter so I've had the vet administer rattlesnake toxin vaccine, which is shown to work very well. Link follows.


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/20/2009 21:43:06 MDT Print View

We have used shock collars on our dogs for boundary training. Before we decided to use collars I got one and zapped myself on a bare leg. It wasn't fun but it didn't leave burn marks or any lasting effects.

Most shock collars can be tuned. Some dogs need a firmer 'hand' than others. Some dogs, when surprised - out of the blue - will yep. (I don't blame them.) So maybe some solid pain delivered, in a surprising fashion.

I'm not in any way trying to minimize your, or Loki's, experience. Just sharing a few observations. All in all, it sounds like great training, even if it was hard on both of you.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/20/2009 23:23:35 MDT Print View

All the guys I know with quail dogs have them de-snaked (or whatever you call it), and they do the de-fanged snake / shock collar trick. Cheap, fast, and effective. I wanted to try it on the children, but the wife said no.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/21/2009 10:16:30 MDT Print View

"I wanted to try it on the children, but the wife said no."


Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
not just for dogs anymore on 05/21/2009 12:32:56 MDT Print View

LOL. I've said something similar since the event.

Greg, I noticed your mention of shock collar training to reign in the dogs off-leash. And I'd wondered about the range of settings. I don't know if Loki was being issues a firmer hand with the shock settings, I mean, maybe it was just surprise but it seemed like a dramatic reaction, though perhaps not entirely out of pain. Patrick's wife was by my side the whole time and she spoke of muscle reactions induced by the shock.

It was just traumatic, but I do ultimately recommend the training. Although I am curious about the horseback rider's methods. I think I really just wanted to get some quick, effective training for a dog that I've only had since Feb this year, still has puppy qualities and definite prey instincts.

...oh, and I did do the vaccine; kinda new with controversial results, but the general consensus is that it buys more time.

I think I'm suffering from new papa syndrome.

cheers all,

Edited by uberkatzen on 05/21/2009 12:33:57 MDT.

Melisa Hickman
(Melix) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Re: Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/21/2009 13:03:09 MDT Print View

Thank you SO much for sharing this - I have taken my dogs backpacking for years and am always nervous - the one time I've gone fastpacking I was trotting midway down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne when I almost stepped on one - I actually don't have a clue what to do if I am bitten (slice it open and suck out the venom seems a bit outdated....). I've yet to see anyone mention a bite kit on their gear list - what do you do?? Anyone?

Also, I've been reluctant to take my dogs fastpacking b/c of the weight of the food, even if they carry most of it - have you found any doggie UL solutions?
Thank you!

Michael Skwarczek
(uberkatzen) - F

Locale: Sudamerica
dehydrated dog food on 05/21/2009 15:47:09 MDT Print View

Hi Mel,

I'm new to backpacking with a dog but check this out, dehydrated raw food. Definitely as close as you'll get to UL, shy of having them hunt their own grub.

You can buy something similar in pet stores, called Stella & Chewy's. They're a raw food purveyor that makes frozen and dehydrated patties, and I just feed it without rehydrating. It's more expensive than the Embark but I haven't placed an order for that yet.

Try doing a search in the forum for snake bite advice.


Kent C.
(kent) - M

Locale: High Sierra
elec. collars & Rattlesnake avoidance on 05/23/2009 21:22:06 MDT Print View


I have had a dog and used an elec. collar for many years. You will find that normal, professional trainers use an adjustable transmitter and will set it to vibrate or the lowest possible stimulation setting. This is the best method for training.

You & Loki, however, can't afford the mistakes that are inevitably a part of normal training. The first mistake with a snake would probably be her only one. As such, your trainer used a very high setting to purposely make the experience traumatic enough that she'll NEVER forget it.

It's tough to watch/take, but but far superior and, ultimately, less traumatic than the alternative - watching your dog die in your arms from a snake bite.

You did the right thing for her in getting her trained.

Happy Trails for both of you! :-)

Ben Colbert
(rvamutt) - F
E-collars and dogs on 05/26/2009 13:25:54 MDT Print View

I have trained dogs professionally for a few years in everything from beginning OB to agilitiy and protection work. I will tell you that I have used electricty to train my dog but and it can be very effective. It can also be very traumatic.

Someone a few posts up said it was uncomfortable but didn't leave any lasting effects. This may also be true if done correctly on dogs but converslly, with bad timing or innappropriate force it can leave long lasting and severe pschological trauma. I think most people would be surprised how much damage one missapplied punishment can do.

That said a well timed and well used remote collar can be a god send in the right hands with an already trained dog.

Edited by rvamutt on 05/26/2009 17:37:09 MDT.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
E-collar on 05/26/2009 16:34:02 MDT Print View

What he said. My emphasis.

"That said a well timed and well used remote collar can be a god send in the right hands with an ALREADY TRAINED dog."

I posted on another thread on e collars.

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 05/26/2009 19:26:33 MDT Print View

I live in rattlesnake country. The first year I was here, I saw over twenty within a 100' radius of my house (not all at the same time). Because of this, All of our dogs have had snake avoidance training and have it renewed annually. One of our near neighbors had his dog bitten by a western diamondback. The vet bill ran over $3000. Because of the potential expense and because of the dog's potential pain and suffering after a bite, I really recommend the procedure. But, be sure the people doing the training have experience.

Alex Gilman
(Vertigo) - F

Locale: Washington
Washington State on 07/24/2009 14:45:15 MDT Print View

Can anyone reccomend a trainer in WA state? Preferably on the Seattle side?

We do some trips in to Eastern WA and have come across a few rattlers. I didn't know there was a class... Very cool!

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 07/25/2009 01:37:16 MDT Print View


I've seen it advertised on the sides of some dog trainer's SUVs, but I'd prefer a referral. Do you know of anyone in the Los Angeles area who is reputable that I could call?

Thank you

Edited by socalpacker on 07/25/2009 01:41:23 MDT.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 07/25/2009 01:52:46 MDT Print View


Thanks for the posting. Nevermind the referral. I just checked his website and he's going to be in Calabasas at the very end of August. He's also not that expensive!

Thanks again,


PS I've got 2 very curious labs. :-)

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
dumb on 07/25/2009 21:53:17 MDT Print View

steve irwin would not approve of 'defanging' rattlers as described in the initial post

the best way to keep your dogs from being bitten is to keep them on a leash, like you're supposed to do as responsible pet owners anyway

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs on 07/26/2009 00:20:19 MDT Print View

A, "there's a rattlesnake blocking the trail, roll initiative", rattlesnake.

LOL. I think this comment probably went over the head of anyone who's never played Dungeons and Dragons... but it gave me a laugh. =-)

Charles Grier
(Rincon) - M

Locale: Desert Southwest
Re "dumb" on 07/26/2009 09:06:58 MDT Print View

Josh, I suspect that you don't have a dog or you don't live in rattlesnake country or both. A leashed dog that is curious about a rattlesnake is probably going to get bitten. Conditioning can prevent this. If a person lives where they can let their dog run loose on their fenced property in snake country, the dog should be conditioned; otherwise it is likely to be bitten. I would hardly consider an entertainer such as the late Steve Irwin to be an authority on snake aversion training for dogs. You should confine your commentary to subjects about which you know something.