Teach Your Dog to Avoid Snakes
Brought to you by the AKC GoodDog! Helpline – the AKC’s 7-day-a-week training support service
By Hilarie Erb, AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer
If you live in an area where there are venomous snakes, you probably have concerns about your dog having an encounter with one. A snake bite is very serious, possibly deadly. So, can you teach your dog to stay away from them? Yes, to a point. Start by teaching the Leave it command.
When he has this skill down and will divert attention to you from tempting distractions, get a rubber snake. Place the fake snake on the ground and when you approach it with your dog, say “leave it!” and give a big reward when he does. When he is good at this, increase the challenge by tying a string to the snake and have someone make it move. Again, offer a high value reward for leaving it alone.
Even if you can train your dog to consciously avoid snakes, you cannot prevent a bite if he runs over one without realizing it was there. The “leave it” cue won’t work if you don’t see the snake first. Even a dog that naturally avoids snakes might get bitten if she’s got her mind on a chasing game or a thrown ball.
If your dog is bitten:
- Seek immediate treatment from your vet or emergency animal clinic. Identifying the snake that bit your dog can help your veterinarian determine treatment but is not necessary.
- Don’t cut into the bite wound, suck out the venom, or apply a tourniquet to the area.
- Don’t apply ice or heat to the wound.
- Restrain and calm your dog to slow the spread of venom.
The best way to prevent a snake bite is to avoid snakes altogether. Know when they are moving around. Snakes are particularly mobile in the fall and spring when temperatures change, and they are going into or out of hibernation. In your yard, be careful about lifting objects they may be hiding under. Do your hiking during the cooler part of the day, when snakes are less active. Do not allow your dog to poke his nose into dark holes and crevices where snakes might hide.
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For more tips and advice on training your dog, join the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week telephone support service staffed by experienced dog trainers: www.akcgooddoghelpline.org.