Rattlesnake Avoidance Training
through Positive Reinforcement
Confident Canines LLC developed a unique program to help both trainers and dog owners use positive reinforcement techniques to teach their dogs to avoid rattlesnakes through both handler and environmental cues/commands, and to ignore any indications/temptations to move toward a rattlesnake. Confident Canines offers an online program as well as group classes and private in-person training in Las Vegas. Trainers throughout the US, Australia, and other international locations have taken this program and used these techniques to develop their own classes, with Eileen's permission, to further her goal of promoting positive reinforcement training for avoidance behaviors.
I want to help you develop an independent dog who knows how to detect a rattlesnake and knows to offer avoidance behaviors, whether you are present or not. It is simple enough to train our dogs to "leave it", but what if your dog encounters a rattlesnake when you are far behind them on a hiking trail, or while they are roaming your property? My training guides you through techniques to train your dog respond to both your cues/commands, and to recognize the visual profile, scent, and sound of a rattlesnake as cues for them to offer trained avoidance behaviors. I teach several avoidance behaviors that your dog can offer on his own in different varying situations in which he may encounter a rattlesnake. This course also teaches intelligent disobedience, in which we train our dogs to ignore any cues we give to move forward toward a snake that we do not realize is there. Our dogs may detect a snake is present before we realize it is there. Dogs may ignore snakes in some situations and be interested in them in other situations, so this course will help you teach your dog exactly what you would like him to do in those scenarios.
The majority of rattlesnake avoidance classes use aversive pain-based methods such as shock collars to teach dogs to fear the snake. While this may work for some dogs, it does not work for others, and may seriously backfire.
Why is this?
The shock that the dog receives upon sight and scent of the snake teaches a dog to fear snakes, but it does not teach him which behaviors we want to see. Fearful situations induce fight/freeze/flight responses. With shock collars, people are *hoping* that the dog chooses a flight response, but it is not unusual to hear about dogs that attack rattlesnakes instead of avoiding them after such training. They want to make the scary thing go away, so they use aggression to try to make it go away! Also, when pairing a negative experience to a particular stimulus such as a rattlesnake, people want the dog to fear the snake. However, other stimuli are also present during such training, including the dog's leash, harness, the owner, other people and their dogs, etc. It is common for dogs to associate the owner, the leash, and other things present during the training with the shock that they felt. It is common to hear of dogs becoming very anxious around their owners or the presence of their leash after this type of training.
Why not teach the exact behaviors that we want the dog to perform?
The techniques I utilize in my program are relationship building and focused on obedience and reliability. My techniques are fun for you and your dog, and help develop a dog who WANTS to work for you!
This course could potentially be adapted to teach your dog to avoid copperheads or a different type of poisonous snakes that are popular in your area. This online course includes access to a Facebook group for collaboration and support where members can post videos and share information.
Training -- whether using shock collars or positive reinforcement -- is not a guarantee of future behavior, or that a snake bite will not occur. Training is only as good as we make and maintain it, but dogs are also living beings that make their own independent choices. Environmental conditions can also make a snake more difficult to detect. Even management keeping your dog on a short leash is never a guarantee. My program provides you and your dog with the best training available to help them make good choices in situations where they detect the snake.
The three video modules total about 2 hours in lectures and demonstrations. This would normally be a six week class if done in person. This course is designed for trainers to be able to replicate the material as an in-person course in their area and pet parents with basic training skills who want to keep their dogs safe.
Six months of access to the course material/videos/demos is $55.
CCPDT: 2 (CPDT-KA)
Watch the presentation below to learn more about my program, how I created it, and why positive reinforcement-based training is the best way to obtain reliable avoidance behaviors from your dog around rattlesnakes.
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