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If you own a dog, especially a hunting dog and live in a part of the country that has poisonous snakes then you should train your dog to avoid all snakes. Unlike people dogs cannot wear snake boots to protect themselves from the fangs of a pit viper that lives nearby. Dogs by their nature a curious about everything including snakes. It only takes a second for a dog to be struck in the muzzle or the eye and you have a serious problem. Hunting dog training that includes snake avoidance will reduce the chances that your dog will be bit by a poisonous snake. Snake avoidance training is a specialty that requires the trainer to be very comfortable in handling snakes. Several hunting dog training specialists located in the South and West train their prize hunting dogs during the regular obedience training. They would never risk their dog and all the time and effort they have invested by ignoring this serious problem. We have bird dogs and during their early hunting dog training we introduce them to snakes. In many case catching a local non poisonous snake is the first step in snake avoidance. Placing a freshly caught snake in front of puppy will cause the snake to strike the dog repeatedly. It is important not to say anything to the dog during this avoidance training. Frequently this will cause the pup to avoid snakes for the rest of their lives. However this procedure frequently needs to be followed up with additional training methods. A more intensive method of teaching snake avoidance is through the use of an electronic training collar in addition to a fresh caught non poisonous snake. You want to select fresh caught snakes to assure that they snake will strike the dog repeatedly. Snakes that are handled frequently seldom will provide the proper striking response that you need. Again the snake is placed so you dog will encounter it however when the snake strikes you will use the electronic collar to provide a shock to the dog. Applying the correction at the same time as the snake strikes the dog is important. Again do not say anything during this process as you want the dog to associate the pain of the correction with the snake and not you and the training collar. It should be noted that non poisonous snakes do not smell the same as pit vipers. Should you have the opportunity to kill or capture a rattlesnake, copperhead or cottonmouth without endangering yourself you should do so. In snake country you will find dead pit vipers on local roads which will provide the material you need for advanced snake avoidance training. It is recommended that you remove the head of the poisonous snake before you bag the body in a zip lock bag in your freezer. The dead snake parts are thawed out and are placed in a bag with the non poisonous snake for 30 minutes to provide the odor of a pit viper to it. Then the hunting dog training process outlined above is employed to achieve the desired effects. The dog's sense of smell will help it avoid pit vipers in the wild. Some trainers use live rattlesnake to teach snake avoidance. This is not recommended unless you

are very comfortable working with poisonous snakes. This process requires the removal of the rattlesnake's fangs with a pair of needle nose pliers. Again the hunting dog training process outlined above is used. The major benefit to this method is to provide an association of both smell and the sound of the snake rattling with the snake. Again this should not be attempted unless you are experienced in handling snakes. It must be understood that hunting dog training that includes snake avoidance is no guarantee that your dog will not be struck by a poisonous snake. In many cases as the dog works the cover it will surprise a snake and be struck. However frequently these initial strikes do not carry a large dose of venom and are used by the snake to warn the intruder off. An untrained dog will frequently turn on the snake and be struck again with a full load of venom which may kill or blind a dog. In most cases a trained dog will immediately leave the snake alone and continue hunting. In every case whenever your dog encounters a snake it should be examined closely. Hunting dogs should be put up and observed for any swelling or signs of a bite. Many Vets will provide you with the first aid medicines that you need to treat your dog in the field. If you have any doubts about a snake bite you should contact your Vet immediately. If you love your dog then you will invest in the time and effort to properly train it in snake avoidance. Hunting Dog training that includes snake avoidance only make sense and will save you heartache, time and money.

James Kesel, MS, is the publisher of Career in Dog Training website located at Providing information on hunting dog training and dog training career opportunities.

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