Last Sunday Patty and I made the drive up to Knights Landing, CA for a special clinic held at Olive Hill Kennels. The professionals from Get Rattled brought a handful of snakes and a bucket full of expertise and used both to train dozens of dogs to avoid rattlesnakes in the field.
Some dogs had been through the training before and were just getting a refresher. Others, like Patty, were there for the first time. In either case the training was straightforward and remarkably quick. The dogs were exposed to snakes. Then e-collars were used to create a negative association. Each dog got to see and smell snakes and each experienced hearing the rattler’s sudden warning. After the initial exposure exercise the dogs would invariably avoid subsequent attempts to bring them near the snakes.
Patty’s experience was pretty typical. He was initially wary of the rattling sound but then showed a little curiosity. A couple of quick corrections stopped that cold. A short walk to a second snake in a partly hidden cage provided a similar experience but based on smell. Then, back to the first snake to test his retention.
I talked to a few of the other dog owners. Many were hunters and trial folks but there were some pet owners too. Everyone was there to do the best we could to protect our dogs from one of the dangers found in the hills and rocks where we hike and hunt here in the west.
Patty and I wouldn’t have had access to a clinic like this if not for Bruce and Cindy Lyon and the rest of the local NSTRA chapter who have been handling logistics for this annual event for a number of years now. The clinic is a fundraiser for them but it’s more than just that. Bruce explained to me, and I agree, that it’s a real community service too.