Dog’s Instinct Fails When Meeting a Rattlesnake

Posted on Nov 17, 2008
Behavioral Modification, Dog Psychology, Dog Training, Doggie Rehab

Think again if you believe that all dogs are respectful of rattlesnakes. Some dogs have an instinct that says “stay away” when they are introduced to a rattlesnake. Other dogs may learn the hard way or not at all. They need to be taught through aversion training to avoid snakes, particularly rattlesnakes.

One of my dogs was alerting me (let’s just say that’s what it was) to a rattlesnake by the door. There was a previous encounter but that snake was “rattling” at an amazing speed as a warning of his presence. This snake either didn’t feel threatened, or after a nice meal wasn’t able to muster the energy to rattle at a barking dog.

Without the rattle, the snake blended nicely with the surroundings. Fortunately, my dog’s excitement and focus let me know there was something more on the ground than I originally saw. My dog was within inches of the snake’s face and for some reason the snake didn’t strike. If it weren’t for the full moon, none of us would have seen the snake. I don’t think the dog needed to “see” it to know it was there. However, my dog didn’t have the natural instinct to just leave the snake. The other two dogs were waiting at the door for my arrival and their place of safety.

Snakes don’t want to waste their venom on something they can’t eat; however, a dog may attempt to unknowingly push that theory and they will get bitten. They can survive it depending on where they are bitten, their immune system, and how quickly they are treated. There are anti-venom shots, but don’t rely on that to save your dog.

The rattlesnakes in this area should be hybernating by now. Due to warm temperatures they are still out and probably a little tired and confused as to why they aren’t tucked away somewhere for a long winter’s nap! I personally wish they were.

My dog responded to my call to “come” and we went inside and watched as the snake made it’s way to some unknown destination. I hope that it’s being here was the result of a wrong turn. She will need to be taught to avoid snakes - I sure can’t rely on instinct!

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