Trainers teach dogs to avoid rattlesnakes

Posted at: 05/06/2013 6:28 PM
Updated at: 05/06/2013 6:32 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Warm springtime weather can bring people and rattlesnakes together in dangerous situations – but it’s even more dangerous for your dog.

Dog trainers at Acoma Training Center in Albuquerque’s Southeast Heights use live snakes to teach dogs a valuable lesson. They’re bull snakes, not poisonous, but the dogs don’t know that.  Maracas provide the snaky soundtrack while trainers walk dogs on leashes up to the snakes slithering on the concrete floor.

Bella is a two year old Australian Cattle Dog. Like most dogs, she is curious about snakes and  wants to make their acquaintance. But a rattlesnake bite can kill a dog in mere minutes. Bella needs to learn fear. Acoma owner Trish Spradley leads Bella up to a bull snake and then screams “Watch out!”  and yanks the leash, pulling the dog away.

“Fear is contagious in dogs like it is in people,” Spradley said. “ We scare one dog, it goes right through all of them. We place the fear on the snake and teach them to recognize it for what it is and to stay away from it, and even pull their owners away from it.”

Within a few minutes, Bella is pulling away from the snakes, straining at her leash to get away. This is a regular part of the training at Acoma. If your dog isn’t in training there, you can get the snake lesson for $10 – with free refresher courses for the rest of the dog’s lifetime. For Bella’s owner this was a no-brainer.

“I live up near Sandia Park in the east mountains,”  Marcia Malcomb said. “It’s snake country and I’ve had several snakes. I’ve come out my front door and found rattlesnakes on my patio and in my back yard as well.”

If you want to be extra-safe, there is a rattlesnake vaccine available. It’s not expensive. It’s a yearly shot. Ask your veterinarian about it.

Or ask Bella. She’s got hers.