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How to train your dog to avoid rattlesnakes

Posted at 9:50 PM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 01:31:53-04
It costs $99 per dog, and then $79 for a second dog. The fee includes a follow-up session if necessary. Each dog must have its own separate handler. Dogs must be at least 6 months old and have vaccination records. 
Jeff Carver with Animal Experts, Inc. helps teach the dogs to avoid the venomous reptiles. 
"I think of it as a safety issue, not only for the dog but for the family," Carver said.
"You know you could have a rattlesnake that's just hunkered down in front of a bush beside the trail, we're not going to notice him, the dog will notice him," Carver said. 
Four stations are set up with a bucket, Carver says, and each one helps train the dogs to recognize the snakes based on smell, sight and sound. One station is a decoy that smells like a rattlesnake, the second is a real rattlesnake that makes noise, the third is a rattler who is not making noise, and the fourth is a bucket that smells like a rattlesnake.
"If the dog goes towards those items, he receives a small electrical shock," Carver said. "It's not something that will do him any harm it more scares then anything else."
"More often than not, by the time the second station rolls around, they want nothing to do with a rattlesnake and they want to pull away," Carver said.
The simplest advice for pet owners? Even the friendliest dogs should be on a leash, Carver said. 
"Even if he's friendly, it'd be hard to avoid chasing a rabbit that comes running across," Carver said. "Or as we get into monsoon season you get a Colorado river toad that goes hopping across the trail. A dog can get himself into a lot of trouble, and if you don't have your dog under control you can't do anything to help him."
There are ways to keep snakes off of your property, Carver said. They tend to seek shelter under things, so keep any kinds of buckets or objects out of your yard so they have nowhere to hide. Always look where you put your hands and feet, and where your dog is looking around your yard.
Rattlesnakes are attracted to pack rats and are always searching for food, Carver said. Prickly pear cactuses tend to attract rats, so Carver suggests keeping plants trimmed.
The Arizona Poison Control Center gets between 15 and 30 rattlesnake bite calls a year, excluding Maricopa County. Keith Boesen with the center says while people are often bit in the hands and feet, dogs are rooting around with their noses and are bitten on the face and nose. The bites can lead to swelling, which can restrict the airways.
If your dog has a rattlesnake bite, experts suggest you call your veterinarian immediately. If needed, antivenom treatments could cost in the hundreds, even thousands, Carver said.