Snake bites by non-venomous varieties of snakes are rarely a problem, other than maybe causing some minor local swelling and discomfort. However, when the snake is a rattlesnake or other venomous variety of snake, a bite can be fatal for your dog.
Snakes and Your Dog
Rattlesnakes, copperheads and other venomous snakes are commonly encountered in some areas of the country. Unfortunately, our dogs are often curious about these creatures. And this curiosity may lead to your dog receiving a bite.
This time of year in particular, with winter approaching and the temperatures beginning to drop, many snakes are coming out in the open and hoping to absorb some warmth from the sun. Rattlesnakes and other venomous kinds of snakes are no exception. So, it is entirely possible your dog could encounter an unwelcome and quite dangerous “playmate”.
Keep Your Dog Safe: Avoid Snake Bites
How can you keep your dog safe and avoid snake bites? I wish I had a solid answer to that question for you. There are training methods available that teach your dog to specifically avoid snakes but most of them involve the use of shock collars. Now, normally I would be strictly opposed to this option. However, in a situation like this, where the life of your dog is at stake, I’m loathed to say that aversive training methods are not warranted. But this is a decision that you’re going to need to make understanding both the risks and benefits of this type of training.
What are the benefits? Of course, the number one benefit is keeping your dog away from snakes and safe from snake bites. As they say, safety first.
What are the risks? Though most dogs would probably do well with some mild shocks in training, there are some dogs, especially those that are fearful or anxious by nature, that may develop unwanted and undesired effects from aversive training. In some cases, your fearful dog may become even more fearful and even more timid.
Are There Other Alternatives to Shock Collars in Avoiding Snake Bites for Your Dog?
Training a dog to “come” promptly on your command can be very helpful in avoiding any dangerous situation for your dog, including snake encounters. Another command that may be useful is “leave it”, teaching your dog to immediately leave an item alone on your command. In this case, the item would be a snake. Both of these commands are basic to dog training and can be useful in many different situations.
Another effective technique is keeping your dog out of snake-infested areas. In some situations, this may be the best option. However, it may not be possible in all situations either. Sometimes, snakes are found where they are not expected.
What Is Right for Your Dog? What Methods Should You Take to Avoid Snake Bites?
I think the answer to those questions will vary from one situation to another. In some areas, snake bites may not be a major concern and no special action or training may be necessary.
In other areas, snakes may be a major problem. In these areas, special training and avoidance methods may very well be in order.
Do these training methods need to be aversive? I honestly don’t the answer to that. Is it worse to shock your dog and cause pain? Or worse to risk a potentially fatal snake bite? What if your dog undergoes the training with a shock collar and still gets bitten? No training method is 100% effective for each and every dog, after all. These are questions you’ll need to answer for yourself.
For myself, I don’t like aversive training methods. While I wouldn’t want to risk a fatal snake bite, I would likely choose training a solid “come” and/or “leave it” instead of using a shock collar to teach fear of snakes per se. I think it’s only fair to say though that I live in an area where snakes (at least the venomous varieties) are not a major concern.
What If the Worst Happens and Your Dog Is Bitten by a Snake?
If the snake is non-venomous, cleaning the area may be all that is necessary. Though an examination by your veterinarian may not be unjustified, it may not absolutely essential. However, if your dog is bitten by a venomous snake, rapid transport to your veterinarian is the best recourse. The sooner you get your dog help, the better his prognosis. If you’re in doubt about the nature of the snake (i.e. whether it was venomous or not), I would advise erring on the side of caution and seeking veterinary attention.
In some cases, your dog may be bitten without your knowledge. Usually, the first sign of a snake bite is swelling. The swelling is often on the face as this is the part of your dog’s anatomy most likely to be bitten. So, if your dog develops a sudden unexplained swelling, seek veterinary attention at once, especially if there is a chance your dog may have been bitten.