Maybe this rattlesnake aversion stuff does pay off.
To the left is a shed skin just hanging out on the side of the road. Brody sniffed every single bush in that park but refused to show the slightest interest in the skin. NOT that I’m complaining!
We did an aversion training session when he was eight months old, but we are due for a refresher. With spring in full bloom, the snake babies are everywhere and ERs are gearing up for what is looking to be a brisk bite season.
If you live in an area where your dog is at risk for a rattlesnake bite, and you have an inquisitive dog, it’s something I recommend. Has anyone else done rattlesnake aversion training?
I would prefer an alternative training method – to avoid the fall out that can and does occur with RAT. You will never know how your dog with react until it’s too late e.g. dogs don’t generalize well EXCEPT when it’s based on fear, so they have been reported to become fearful of cow pads, curled up garden hoses etc. And it’s very hard to reverse this conditioned emotional response, which tends to make every day life stressful for the dog. We often don’t even see the consequences because we fail to observe. There are effective alternatives, but of course, they aren’t “quick fixes” and require some training. But the upside, no side – effects.
Dr. V says
It definitely is something each person needs to consider on an individual basis based on the needs of their dog! We were fortunate that the trainer we used was very aware of that and assessed each dog individually before doing the training. As he put it, it’s not worth doing the training if they are too fearful to associate the stimulus with the snake.
Thanks for your reply. Have you seen this position statement from the AVSAB? http://www.avsabonline.org/avsabonline/images/stories/Position_Statements/Combined_Punishment_Statements.
My main concern is that fact that one can’t predict the side effects 100% – no matter how well you do a prior assessment – until the damage is done. So people should be aware, that even in the hands of a well-trained expert, there is still the possibility of unfortunate side effects. I guess you could call it informed consent 😉 These side effects are usually a lot more difficult to reverse than they were to cause. Here’s point 5 from the position statement:
“Regardless of the strength, punishment can cause some individuals to be come extremely fearful, and this fear can generalize to other contexts. Some punishments may not cause physical harm and may not seem severe, but they can cause the animal to become fearful, and this fear may generalize to other contexts. For instance, some dogs on which the citronella or electronic collar are used with a preceding tone may react fearfully to alarm clocks, smoke detectors, or egg timers.”
It is an ethical dilemma that owners should consider very carefully as it’s not simply a case of the lesser evil (death from snake bite versus a shock from a shock collar) It can result in conditioned emotional responses (anxiety, fear etc) that can last the lifetime of the dog 🙁
Dr. V says
I have, and I still stand by my statement that it can be a useful tool. But I do agree that there can be side effects and it is a risk owners need to assess on an individual basis.
Interesting. I’ve never heard about such a thing. We live at the most northern boundary of the prairie rattlesnake and while their bite is painful and can cause damage, their poison strength here isn’t enough to kill (unless it is a tiny dog).
Dr. V says
Lucky you! The rattlers around here can, and do, pack enough wallop to kill a large dog.
Good Boy, Brody!
Jessi Jaffe says
That’s really interesting, though not something I’ve heard of as I’m up in New England. Of course, because the vet I work for has offices across the country, one of our “reminders” is for Rattlesnake Vaccine, something that people up here *always* question.
We don’t have rattlesnakes but we do have harmless ribbon snakes in our back yard. Kelly grabs them in her mouth, flings them around, paws at them and does quite a number on them.
Romeo the Cat says
Snakes? No thank you! I am so glad I stay indoors.