Yesterday I read about the Rattlesnake Avoidance Training on Sierra News Online and had been wanting to take Sally to this type of training, so this morning we met Kelly with Kellen Rescue at Mountain Christian Center to take the class. In addition to Sally, two other dogs participated.
The training teaches your dog to avoid the sight, sounds and smell of rattlesnakes. You can’t put on this type of class without a live rattlesnake, so Kelly brought a rattlesnake in a cage and used it to teach the class. Electronic collars were put on the dogs to reinforce the training and help the dog associate the snake as a bad thing but for those of you that this sounds negative to, they were used very minimally in the hands of an experienced and responsible trainer.
You know Sally, she volunteered to go first, so on the first round of training, Kelly led Sally up near the rattlesnake and when Sally got a whiff of it, he watched how she reacted. Sally was curious and started sniffing around on the ground for where that smell could be coming from. She was a couple of feet from the cage when she saw the snake and it raised up to her. Kelly activated the collar, yelled snake and excitingly led Sally away from the snake, getting her kind of excited about the thing that had happened, impressing on Sally that this was a scary thing, then ran away from the snake. As you can see, Sally wanted out of that area quick. Each dog got a turn with this phase.
On the next round, Kelly had moved the snake and covered the cage with a towel. I led Sally in a relaxed way over to that area and I read Sally’s body language as we got closer. It was obvious that she had gotten a whiff of something but didn’t know exactly what it was. When she got that whiff, she looked at me for reassurance or as if to tell me something is up. We kept wandering in the direction of the cage until Sally knew something was in it and she kind of wanted to take a closer look, so her collar was activated for one quick time, I yelled snake and ran Sally a short distance away, making a big deal about her, checking her over, then we ran off. The other dogs took their turn at this and one of them didn’t want to get close to the snake, even using its body to block its owner from the snake.
The next round helped reinforce what Sally had already learned and as we got closer to the snake, Sally kept looking to me for what she should do. As we got even closer, Sally didn’t want to move any closer to the snake so that was a good thing. I yelled snake and we ran off a distance away from that snake.
The class was also educational. Kelly shared with us how to minimize snakes around our houses, how best to deal with one if you do come across one and how to treat a dog in case it is bitten, discussing the latest shots out there and the pluses and negatives to these approaches.
I highly recommend the class for anyone who has a dog in rattlesnake country. The cost for the class is $75 and 100% of the fee from the class goes toward dog food and vet bills at Kellen Rescue. Kellen Rescue is a no-kill rescue, rehabilitation, and placement organization whose mission is to partner loving life-time homes with the dogs and cats in their foster care network. Kelly also invites dogs (and their humans) to come to future classes at no charge for future reinforcement and testing of the training.
Here is information on the next class:
What: Rattlesnake Avoidance Training
Where: Mountain Christian Center
Next Class: July 26 at 9:00 a.m.
Who to Contact: Ellen (559) 692-2488