Dogs are curious creatures who enjoy exploring their surroundings. Unfortunately, while sniffing around outdoors, Fido could come upon a snake. A bite from a startled snake can severely injure or even kill your canine companion. Avert such a tragedy by teaching your pooch to avoid snakes using positive training techniques.
Teach your dog the "leave it" command. Show your dog a treat in the palm of your hand, say "leave it," then close your hand into a fist around the treat. Once Fido stops trying to get at the treat and looks up at you, say "good" and give him a treat from your other hand. Repeat this exercise for 10 minutes daily until your pup responds consistently to it.
Put Fido on a leash. Make the "leave it" exercise harder by placing a treat or a favorite toy on the floor and only rewarding Fido with something tasty if he leaves it alone on command. Repeat this exercise for up to 10 minutes per day, using the leash when necessary to stop him from approaching the toy or treat on the floor, until he consistently leaves high value treats and toys alone on command.
Place a rubber snake on the ground. With your pup on a leash, walk him by the snake, close enough so that he can see it but not touch it. Point to it and command him to leave it. If he doesn't try to pull away from you toward it, reward him with a treat. If he does try to approach it, say "no" and walk him in the other direction. As with other training, repeat this exercise daily for a few minutes at a time.
Tie a piece of clear thread around the rubber snake. Approach the rubber snake with Fido on a leash and have a friend pull on the snake just a bit so that it moves, mimicking the real movement of a snake. Audibly gasp as loud as you can and quickly walk with your pooch away from the snake. Repeat the exercise until Fido reacts with fear around the snake and goes out of his way to avoid it.
- Cesar's Way: Rattlesnake Aversion Training
- ASPCA: Pica (Eating Things That Aren't Food)
- ASPCA: Teaching Your Dog to "Leave It"
- The Humane Society of the United States: Dog Collars
- Karen Pryor Clicker Training: Snake Avoidance Training
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Deterring Unwanted Snakes
- Try to make the snake as realistic as possible by keeping it in an enclosure with a friend's real snake if possible, so that it smells like a snake would to your pup. Another option is to contact your local herpetological society or reptile club to see if any members can give you shed snake skins from their pets to place over the rubber snake or used in its place.
- Keep your pup on a leash while outdoors to prevent him from digging around shrubs and other areas a snake may hide.
- Snake-proof your yard by removing excess plant debris, keeping your grass cut short and fencing it in with solid materials, especially near the base of the fence, recommends the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
- Many trainers use shock collars in snake aversion therapy, which is cruel and stressful to your pup. Some of these trainers may also use real snakes in the training, which could injure your pooch, even if they have been surgically altered to remove their venom glands; it's also quite stressful for the snake too.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.