Rattlesnake Avoidance Traininig for Dogs

Traditional rattlesnake avoidance training for dogs can be very disturbing to watch. It may be worth it if you live in an area with a lot of rattlesnakes, but there are also less aversive training methods that can be equally effective.

Traditional Training

Traditional avoidance training is often done in only one or two sessions, which can be very stressful for both the dog and owner. Dogs are placed in a shock collar and allowed near fake, dead or defanged snakes. If the dog goes near the snake, it is administered a strong shock.

This often needs to happen only once or twice before the dog is afraid to go anywhere near the snake. If you have a sensitive heart, you should not be present during this training.

Positive Avoidance Training

Though it takes more time, avoidance training can be taught without aversive shocks or corrections. To teach it, you must teach your dog a solid recall and leave it.

To teach a reliable recall, start small and don't skip steps. Don't test your dog until you're sure he's ready. Setting him up to fail will teach him that it's okay to ignore you because there's nothing you can do about it.

Start with your dog on a 6-foot leash. Don't put your dog in a stay. Instead, toss a treat in front of you so his back will be to you. This will teach him to turn from a run and come back to you. Let your dog get the treat, then say his name. Don't say "Come" yet. Run backward until your dog is running excitedly toward you. Then, say "Come." As your dog gets to you, lure him into a sit, praise and reward profusely.

Once your dog can do this in a quiet environment, practice on walks, in parks and in crowded areas. When your dog can run to you no matter what the distraction, start practicing with a 30-foot leash. Repeat the training from the very beginning. Once you can call him off any distraction on a 30-foot leash, you're ready for off leash. Remember to start on leash in any new situation and then allow your dog off leash after that practice.

To teach leave it, hold a handful of treats in front of your dog. Give him one and say "Take it." Repeat a few times before closing your fist and saying "Leave it." Ignore all of your dog's begging behaviors. Reward him with the treat only when he finally looks at you.

Build up to holding the treat in your flat palm while your dog ignores it. Then, place it on the floor and use your foot. Build up to your dog ignoring human food, toys, shoes, sticks and anything else that distracts him, both in your house and in foreign environments.


Before your training is complete, you have to practice with animals. Make sure you can call your dog off squirrels, cats and other dogs. Test his leave it with sitting frogs and lizards.

Finally, practice with a snake. This can be a fake snake, though a recently dead snake or snake scent is desirable since dogs rely so strongly on their sense of smell. You must be able to get him to ignore a snake in several situations from a distance before trusting him in a snake-heavy area.