Saturday, May 26, 2012

Rattlesnake Aversion Training

Last Saturday an outfit called Natural Solutions was doing rattlesnake aversion training at Harry Griffen Park. http://socalrattlesnakeavoidancetraining.com/
I have had one dog bitten (who survived), and one of my sisters had a dog bitten (who didn't survive), so I was motivated to sign up.

They had four rattlesnake stations: a baby rattlesnake, a rattlesnake skin, the sound of the rattle, and an adult rattlesnake that they put between you & the dog, and then ask you to call the dog. To train the dogs, they put a shock collar on them, and each time the dog shows an interest in one of the snakes, they give it a buzz.

For most of the dogs I saw, it took only one jolt to convince them that rattlesnakes were not something they wanted to investigate.

Caitlin, on the other hand, stuffed her nose straight into the baby rattler, jumped about a foot as she got the shock--then stuffed her nose straight back into the snake.
Jumped about 2 feet. Straight back to the snake.
Jumped about 2 feet again. Straight back to the snake.
Jumped about 3 feet. Straight back to the snake.
Jumped really, really high. This time she decided to give up on that particular snake.

She went through the other 3 stations fairly quickly, and came trotting happily back to me when I called her. They proclaimed her to now be rattlesnake averse--but I'm only about 50% convinced that she is. I will, however, sign her up for a refresher course next year. We'll see what she thinks about snakes then.

I have read in several places that when you use the shock collar on a dog, the dog doesn't associate the shock with you, but rather with whatever he's being discouraged to do. But that wasn't true for at least one of the dogs that came to aversion training that day. He obviously knew what the collar was as soon as they tried to put it on him. He struggled and tried to get away from the handler, who had to take him for a walk before he could even try to lead him over to the snakes. Hopefully the dog knew enough to stay away from the snakes, since he already had the collar on--but I didn't watch him being trained--so I don't know for sure.