Snake "Proofing" - Avoidance / Aversion


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Most dogs don't instinctively avoid rattlesnakes and often the sound entices them to investigate.

There is a controversial subject often referred to as "snake proofing", "snake breaking", "desnaking", "aversion-therapy" and "snake avoidance" training that is said to quickly teach dogs to stay clear of snakes. The basic principle is to teach the dog to associate the sight, smell, and/or sound of a snake with a negative correction from an e-collar. The momentary shock is not comfortable to the dog, but some say "the shock always beats a bite no matter how you look at it."
This training is also used for scorpions and "poison proofing" for Anti-freeze; A sample of antifreeze is placed on a rag and inserted into a PVC pipe with holes drill into it to let the scent out. As with snakes, when the dog directs his or her attention to the pipe it is given a correction with an electric collar.

Pup with Scorpion sting

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Snakes are a common sight in Texas, most of the time you will be warned by a rattlesnake in advance, but Copperheads have very effective camouflage and are silent. Snakes are most active as Spring turns into Summer and evening temperatures cool down. In  September as dove season approaches the risk of dog bites increase as hunters and their dogs meet up with snakes under the shade of Mesquite tree's.  

Some swear by this training, others say it wont work, but I feel that maybe I have lessened the chance of my dogs being bitten. Both sides agree it isn't guaranteed and if done the training needs to be re-enforced and tested.

I believe the degree of success has to be influenced by breed (as an example Anatolians will naturally alert/avoid snakes), and/or the individual personality of the dog. A friend and I had an interesting discussion about this, if I decided to ball-proof my dog, it may only take one or two corrections for my Anatolian, but it might never work for my Lab. In other words, how great is the dogs desire for what you are "proofing" at the moment it encounters the object.

Bottom line, nothing is 100 percent in protecting your pet against venomous snakes but between the vaccine and this training I do feel somewhat safer.

Just as you will find several variations of a recipe, do a search online and you will also find everyone has an opinion on how to "correctly" teach your dog to avoid snakes. Some snakes are alive, some defanged or muzzled, some in cages, there is debate on when/if commands are given, etc.

 Here are a few more links with detailed information

Snake Proofing Steps

Protecting your dog from rattlesnakes!
(2nd article down)
Written by

Making Informed Choices
Pro's & Con's (PDF)

The business of Snake-proofing

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According to snake bite statistics, "There are approximately 15,000 dogs and cats bitten by poisonous snakes in the United States annually. The highest envenomation fatality rates occurred in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Texas. In dogs, 70-80 percent of bites occur on the face and head, and 20-30 percent occur on the legs, with only rare cases occurring on the body. Rattlesnakes account for 80 percent of dog envenomations, while cottonmouth/water moccasin and copperheads are responsible for the remaining 20 percent." ~ Treatment of Snakebites

In heavily populated areas, Rattlesnake round-up's take place in January-July. In addition to a few of the states above, they are held in Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.

Snakes are frequently a problem in California and Nevada as well. See the map below for the geographical distribution of the rattlesnake.


Overlapping territories on the distribution map show 
possible areas of rattlesnake hybridization.

Map by Myra Klockenbrink

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Snake bite tips

  • After a dog is bitten the eyes will dilate, appearing to be all black. 
  • Fang marks can be hard to find as not all bites bleed. If the strike is fresh, look for a wet area.
  • Poisonous snake bites may appear as two punctures (or triangular) on the skin.
    Nonpoisonous snake bites are usually shaped like a "U".
  • The site will swell rapidly, usually within 15-30 minutes. The dog will be lethargic, symptoms may be accompanied by vomiting, convulsions and neurological impairment.
  • Do NOT use Ice
  • Avoid application of tourniquets and/or cutting and attempting to suck venom from the bites.
  • Do not use any sort of electric shock
  • Vitamin C has been found to help snakebites, dogs of 66 lbs to 110 lbs would need 10 to 15 mls by intramuscular injection (1/4 inch to 3/8) to the side of the neck. Depth of 1/4 inch to 3/8 of an inch is needed. Subcutaneous will work, however muscle penetration is preferred, in a dog with advanced symptoms.
  • There is a foot infection that is fairly common in dogs that may also closely resemble a snake bite.


 Snake Links

Is Rattlesnake Venom Evolving?

Snake Bites

Dogs and Snakebites - And Other Poisonous Critters

Dr. T Nature Products "Snake-A-way", visit this link to see Excerpts 
from The University of Florida (EPA Testing & Protocol)


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