Most dogs that work in the field will encounter poisonous snakes at some point. A curious investigation by a young dog can have serious results! Snake-proofing any field dog is a good idea. A remote trainer is a very effective tool for safely teaching a dog to associate strong physical displeasure with the sight, scent, and sound of snake.
Any Tri-Tronics Remote Trainer
can be used for this procedure. In fact, the current Field Series and Pro Series are ideal as they allow for instant adjustment of the intensity level at the transmitter.
Many hunting and field trial dogs are worked in a variety of areas, and the species of venomous snakes encountered can vary. A dog that knows to leave rattlers alone may not leave copperheads alone. So it's a good idea to teach the field dog to leave all snakes alone. To teach the dog to generalize to all snakes, use several species of harmless snakes when snake-proofing. If you limit your snake-proofing to one species, that species is apt to be the only type of snake the dog will avoid. Also, by using harmless snakes that can be caught in your area and turned loose afterwards, you don't expose yourself or your dog to the risk of a poisonous snakebite during the training process.
Select the right settings on your remote trainer.
Select a high-level intensity for these lessons-higher than you might normally use for training. For example, the booklet that comes with your remote trainer describes how to select the intensity for beginning training. Use the intensity two levels higher than this for snake-proofing lessons. The continuous setting at this level is most effective.
Teach the dog to avoid a snake when it sees one.
Place a snake on the ground out in the open. Block its path with a stick until it stops trying to slither away and coils up to protect itself. Have the dog approach the snake from the upwind side, so that he sees the snake before he smells it. When he goes in and puts his head down to investigate, immediately press the transmitter button. Be sure the dog has seen the snake and gotten very close to it before you press the button. Repeat this procedure several times in different locations. After a few lessons, you should see the dog deliberately avoid looking at the snake. This is what you want to see. Don't force a dog to look at the snake if he is trying not to. Instead, move on to the next lesson.
Teach the dog to avoid the scent of a snake.
Hide a snake in a small patch of cover, and bring the dog in from the down-wind side, so he'll smell the snake before he sees. Watch the dog's response to the scent of the snake. If the dog goes to the area where the snake is hidden, press the button of your transmitter. If the dog smells the snake and then tries to avoid it, do not use the collar. Just allow the dog to move away from the area, and praise him quietly. Repeat this procedure in five locations. Try to use at least three different species of harmless snakes.
Teach the dog to avoid the sound of a rattlesnake.
Finally, using a tape recording of the buzz of a rattler, teach the dog to avoid the attraction of a rattler's buzzing sound. The first time introducing the dog to the sound, use a harmless snake together with a tape player. (After the first session, you will no longer need the snake, just the tape player.) Place the tape player so that the dog can't see it. When the dog goes up to investigate the buzzing sound, wait until he is within three feet of the player, and then use the remote trainer so the dog associates strong displeasure with the buzzing sound. Repeat this procedure in several locations until you see the dog consistently trying to avoid the buzzing sound.
By now, the dog should choose to leave all kinds of snakes alone. To check out your training, leave your dog on one side of a snake, and call him toward you with the snake directly in his path. You should see him make a WIDE detour to stay away from the snake as he comes to you. If he's still willing to go near the snake, your snake breaking is not complete, and more lessons are in order.
A snake-broke dog will let an observant hunter know where the snakes might be in the field, by deliberately avoiding an area where you'd otherwise expect a dog to be willing to hunt in. When you see your dog quickly move to avoid a spot in the field, believe what you see, and don't step there!
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