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: