Jump to content
Selkie

Snake aversion training

30 posts in this topic

Selkie   

Hi All!

 

My mother has just moved to a new area, and the house is near a creek, so there's plenty of snakes. She has an Australian Cattle Dog who is 8 years of age and is a habitual snake-hunter - she's killed many over the years.

 

My mum is doing her best to manage the environment - snake netting around the yard, putting the dog on lead in high risk situations. This dog is a rural working dog, however, so it's difficult to keep her locked up all the time.

 

She's heard of snake aversion training, and wants to find out if it would be useful for her dog. Obviously she wouldn't rely on it entirely, but was hoping it may add another layer of protection.

 

Any advice to give? She's concerned that with a dog who is an established hunter, aversion training may simply damp the dog's warning signals without discouraging the prey drive.

 

She's on the VIC/NSW border, if that changes anything.

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
asal   

I have dreamed of this as the answer to every dog owners nightmare. never seen it advertised or done though, would save countless lives

 

all dogs, every dog, seems to be attracted to snakes like magnets?

 

who would think something as cute and cuddly as a cavalier is actually hiding a vermin hunting terrier under that  mild mannered image???

 

found this link

 

https://www.snakeavoidance.com.au/

Edited by asal
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maddy   
4 hours ago, asal said:

I have dreamed of this as the answer to every dog owners nightmare. never seen it advertised or done though, would save countless lives

 

all dogs, every dog, seems to be attracted to snakes like magnets?

 

who would think something as cute and cuddly as a cavalier is actually hiding a vermin hunting terrier under that  mild mannered image???

 

found this link

 

https://www.snakeavoidance.com.au/

It's pretty common down here, and we only have three species of snake, all of which are treated with the same antivenin. 

The trouble, as Selkie mentions, is that many use just aversive techniques and you're more likely to end up with a dog who will sneakily go after snakes, which is potentially much more dangerous. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
asal   

having come home once to three dead dogs laying on their tummies looking at the pieces they had torn the snake into it was a bit late for them. it was in four pices. put together it was 3 inches short of 7 foot.. stuff of nighmares

  • Like 1
  • Sad 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maddy   

That's sad, but it doesn't change the fact that aversion training may do more harm than good.

It's no different to the people who claim they can "re-train" greyhounds not to chase- the dog will still do exactly what its nature compels it to do, it'll now just be done outside of human oversight. And as I mentioned above, that's far more dangerous, especially in states with multiple snake species where identification for antivenin may be necessary. If your dog is sneaking off to chase snakes, you may not even know it's happened, until it's already too late for treatment.

If snakes concern you that much, keep your dogs inside when you aren't home. That way, they're safe from snakes, safe from wandering dogs or any other predator, and as an added bonus, safe from people.

 

 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JacAbik9   

There's no research into the efficacy of snake aversion training. Anecdotally, however, it can be very successful when done correctly. The dog must connect the aversive stimulus with the snake, and not with anything else in the environment including the handler (a strong argument for e-collars). What Maddy has said above applies to dogs that have not been effectively trained. Aversion training is avoidance conditioning; the dog associates a snake with an unpleasant stimulus, so will actively avoid snakes in the future in order to - by extension - avoid the unpleasant stimulus. The dog does not associate the presence of the human with the unpleasant stimulus, so the proximity of people has no bearing on their avoidance behaviour. Done correctly, the dog ceases their predatory behaviour and there is no fallout. Concerns about creating a sneaky dog or one that attacks rather than retreats from snakes as a result of aversion training are either misconceptions about the process, or based on experiences with poor and ineffective training practices.

 

Snake aversion training, however, will not stop accidental bites from snakes that were unintentionally disturbed by the dog.

 

My recommendation would be to consult with a professional that has lots of experiences with snake aversion training. There is a definite process that must be followed for it to be effective. You'll have to go to VIC for this, as e-collars are illegal in NSW and they are by far the best tool for the job. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There have been a few threads on this topic - maybe about a year ago - they should come up using the search button with a bit of patience.  I think they talked about where and when training would be, compared methods and whether it was all legit (or not) and benefits using real de-fanged or whatever snakes or just rubber snakes.  I can't see it being much use unless the owner were there anyway to recall the dog - something like taller bench-surfing dogs won't check out the kitchen bench tops while owner is home, but home alone the rules are put aside. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would not be good if your concern is snakes in the yard - this is a confined area where even if your dog is successfully trained, they cannot exactly avoid the snake successfully for an extended period. Snake avoidance training is more suited to things like walks on paths/fields - and you'll find the demo's they set up for training mimic this. Environments where your dog is meandering around and more likely to notice it before you do. When they back up/avoid the snake - you still need to call them back to you. Which means being able to recognise your dog's behaviour change when it see's the snake. If you watch videos on facebook, you'll see most dogs will act casually like they haven't seen the snake, but give it a wide birth. So after training you would need to recognise the casual "i see the alarming snake, im going to pretend its not there while moving away from it" your dog will do, so you can recall them to you and go a different direction.

The training would not help if your dog is running and happens to accidentally step on a snake and the snake reacts back. It won't help if your dog is in a confined area with the snake without you - it might add time for your mum to notice and rescue the dog but it might not. It won't help if the snake is threatened and chasing your dog. 

Also to keep in mind to very carefully research which company/dog trainer you go with. They should be using a light touch, they should be considering as Jac describes - any other novel items the dog might link with the aversion. Beware those that are more heavy-handed about teaching the aversion - I know a few people who attended training where the dogs have developed generalised fears of sticks on the ground. Two of them were on edge and flighty about leaving the house for walks for a good few months. If you search on facebook hiking group melbourne, you will find people discussing the trainers they have had good and bad experiences with. 

 

Also, you have to weigh up your risks. While not snake specific, there is research on teaching assorted species aversion to dogs using collars. Primarily on rabbits and endangered wildlife in NZ. They did find it helped reduce predatory behaviour, but you can't expect it to be a guarantee. There is also big risk about the training going wrong and your dog being one negatively affected, so research all you can and ask yourself if it is a risk you are willing to take. And some dogs it might not solidly take to, such as those with a history.

 

Plastic snakes are not a suitable training material. Fanged vs. de-fanged wouldn't matter so much. Ideally you will find a trainer with a range of sizes and species of snakes to help generalise. Perhaps even lizards to help generalise.

 

I suggest searching around on facebook the companies you are interested in, to see what people say. If you have dog trainers, ask them what they've heard about the trainer in question you are considering. Go full detective because while a useful skill could be learnt - you do NOT want a trainer who will backfire on you! Then after narrowing down the companies, contact them and ask about any remaining concerns. Then decide from there if you will go through with it or not.

 

But remember it is just something to help even your odds. You will never get a full 100% safe from snakes, without moving to an island that has no snakes.

 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maddy   
4 hours ago, JacAbik9 said:

There's no research into the efficacy of snake aversion training. Anecdotally, however, it can be very successful when done correctly. The dog must connect the aversive stimulus with the snake, and not with anything else in the environment including the handler (a strong argument for e-collars). What Maddy has said above applies to dogs that have not been effectively trained. Aversion training is avoidance conditioning; the dog associates a snake with an unpleasant stimulus, so will actively avoid snakes in the future in order to - by extension - avoid the unpleasant stimulus. The dog does not associate the presence of the human with the unpleasant stimulus, so the proximity of people has no bearing on their avoidance behaviour. Done correctly, the dog ceases their predatory behaviour and there is no fallout. Concerns about creating a sneaky dog or one that attacks rather than retreats from snakes as a result of aversion training are either misconceptions about the process, or based on experiences with poor and ineffective training practices.

 

Snake aversion training, however, will not stop accidental bites from snakes that were unintentionally disturbed by the dog.

 

My recommendation would be to consult with a professional that has lots of experiences with snake aversion training. There is a definite process that must be followed for it to be effective. You'll have to go to VIC for this, as e-collars are illegal in NSW and they are by far the best tool for the job. 

This assumes the dog doesn't associate the shock collar with the unpleasant stimuli, rather than the snake. And if the dog ever tests that out, in a real life situation, they'll quickly discover that attacking snakes does not make their neck hurt. Yes, it's possible to just have the dog wear the shock collar for several weeks beforehand to lessen the risk of the dog making the correct association, but as I've pointed out, also very possible for the dog to push boundaries and discover those painful boundaries are gone.

In my opinion, it's giving owners a false sense of security. Personally, I would never recommend it to the people who adopt from me- I'd suggest working on the best recall possible (if they insist on offleash walks, which I also wouldn't recommend for greys) and close supervision in areas where snakes might be. It's not a quick or easy solution but it's kinder to the dog and undoubtedly safer.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Selkie   

Thanks for the thoughts everyone!

 

I'll have another go with the search button for old threads - no luck last time.

 

She certainly wouldn't expect this to be 100% - part of living ruraly is accepting the risk of snakebite. Also, this dog is a hard-headed, canny cattle dog - if there's any dog that's going to figure out that the collar is responsible for the stimulus, it's this one.

 

As the dog has fantastic recall, I think the best bet might be encouraging "alerting" behaviours - so that the dog informs my mother that the snake is there, rather than attacking the snake. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think my query with aversion training for snakes is that in a dog which has already established that hunting is fun, one day they'll say, heck, it's even worth the negative stimuli to go for the snake. It can only stop them so long, one day they'll just go, Nup, worth the risk and you may not have a shock collar on or recall would probably not work in such a situation as the draw is just too great. 

 

I think in younger dogs who haven't experienced the fun in hunting snakes it may be more long term effective, with regular top ups along the way. Not sure it's something I'd be doing with a young dog unless they were going to be outside entirely - I'd just keep them indoors at much as possible and continue with the snake proofing of the yard you're already doing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest   
Guest
On 10/11/2018 at 11:40 AM, Maddy said:

That's sad, but it doesn't change the fact that aversion training may do more harm than good.

It's no different to the people who claim they can "re-train" greyhounds not to chase- the dog will still do exactly what its nature compels it to do, it'll now just be done outside of human oversight. And as I mentioned above, that's far more dangerous, especially in states with multiple snake species where identification for antivenin may be necessary. If your dog is sneaking off to chase snakes, you may not even know it's happened, until it's already too late for treatment.

If snakes concern you that much, keep your dogs inside when you aren't home. That way, they're safe from snakes, safe from wandering dogs or any other predator, and as an added bonus, safe from people.

 

 

Snakes can get inside, though. Even without a doggie door. My Dad had to rescue our neighbors from the SNAKE!!! in their living room one day. 

Luckily it was only a blue tounge lizard, but still it was just chilling there on the sofa like “s’up ya’ll?”. 

Besides, what if there’s an electrical fire and your dog is stuck inside? I’ve seen too many news stories where a dog perishes in a house fire for me to be comfortable leaving them alone inside. 

I’ve even known a vet who was robbed once and the theives let his GSD’s out while they went in to rob the place - dogs thought it was an awesome adventure!

Although that’s better than the thought of them fighting back and getting hurt (that movie with Ryan Phillipe and an ep of SVU spring to mind).

 

It’s actually really stressful because there are dangerous things everywhere and no way to keep your dog 100% safe 

:( 

 

this was zero help at all, I realise, I just wish I knew how to train a dog to ignore all dangerous things and all stupid people! 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, CharbearsMa said:

 …. Besides, what if there’s an electrical fire  …. dangerous things everywhere and no way to keep your dog 100% safe  ….

Not being dismissive of risks or commonsense avoidance of them - but many more dogs get injured or killed out of doors than indoors when alone (without making the news the way housefires do).  Sometimes it's less stressful to just not cross the bridges til we come to them.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, PossumCorner said:

Not being dismissive of risks or commonsense avoidance of them - but many more dogs get injured or killed out of doors than indoors when alone (without making the news the way housefires do).  Sometimes it's less stressful to just not cross the bridges til we come to them.

Totally agree. I live in a rural area & I leave my dog inside when I'm away all day. Luckily it's not an "every day" thing, it's seasonal (during harvest & seeding). 

 

I've lost dogs who escaped from the backyard & found the neighbours' sheep. A friend got home from a day out showing dogs & one that had been home had been bitten by a snake.

 

For many people the antivenin is unaffordable, no matter what the snake. 

 

I'd rather risk the house burning down (very unlikely) than the other things.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jumabaar   

People have had success in teaching dogs to 'notice' the scent and then perform a behaviour to move away from them. They have specific courses in WA for this. 

 

It is as reliable as a drug detection dog if trained appropriately. Certainly not a one off training session but probably the best way to keep dogs safe.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, CharbearsMa said:

Snakes can get inside, though.

they can .
I have lived in this old house..in the bush , for 60 yrs . 
we have had snakes inside 4 times ...and , touch wood, no fires. 
not a bad average .... ;) 
we have certainly lost dogs & other animals to snakebite/accident  outside  more times than that :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest   
Guest
5 hours ago, persephone said:

they can .
I have lived in this old house..in the bush , for 60 yrs . 
we have had snakes inside 4 times ...and , touch wood, no fires. 
not a bad average .... ;) 
we have certainly lost dogs & other animals to snakebite/accident  outside  more times than that :(

Um...ok that’s not cool :( 

I’m so sorry :( 

and terrifed now. Just slightly. 

....why is this never on tv or anything??? Like an actual fatality count? 

 

How much is a typical dose of antivenin? 

Just ball park figure?

 

Holy s*** well...I am gonna have to at least read up on Jumabaar’s info. After I take up drinking as a full time occupation. 

I’ve taken a bee sting for bubba (scored a toxic reaction in return...was my first sting ever, guess who is allergic?), crushed red backs bare handed for my dearly departed AngelBoy, patted the cats that move into the neighbors yards to eat the mice that I don’t want getting near my babies...I can’t believe I missed snake prevention. S***.

 

I honestly had no idea that this was so common. I’m so sorry, guys, for your loss :(  

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Maddy   
46 minutes ago, CharbearsMa said:

Um...ok that’s not cool :( 

I’m so sorry :( 

and terrifed now. Just slightly. 

....why is this never on tv or anything??? Like an actual fatality count? 

 

How much is a typical dose of antivenin? 

Just ball park figure?

 

Holy s*** well...I am gonna have to at least read up on Jumabaar’s info. After I take up drinking as a full time occupation. 

I’ve taken a bee sting for bubba (scored a toxic reaction in return...was my first sting ever, guess who is allergic?), crushed red backs bare handed for my dearly departed AngelBoy, patted the cats that move into the neighbors yards to eat the mice that I don’t want getting near my babies...I can’t believe I missed snake prevention. S***.

 

I honestly had no idea that this was so common. I’m so sorry, guys, for your loss :(  

 

 

 

It probably depends an awful lot on the climate of your area, the available food sources, the abundance of predators, the species that inhabit your area, and so on and so forth. 

I live on the outer edge of an outer suburb that backs onto bush that basically stretches all the way to the east coast of Tasmania. There are plenty of small streams and rivers to attract frogs and other small animals that a snake might eat. The climate is temperate (so snakes may go into torpor, depending on how cold the winter is), all three Tasmanian species can be found, but there are abundant birds of prey and large gulls (brown falcon, pacific gulls and kelp gulls, are the most frequent I see). I've lived in the same house for the last 12 years and have never seen a single snake in our yard. Or at the lake we occasionally visit. Or down near the river. Nada. Maybe exceptionally good luck, maybe local predators apply enough pressure that the joe blake populations never get high enough to increase the odds of us seeing any. 

Pers's situation is different. And yours will likely be different from both of ours. It's a matter of assessing your personal risk and managing from there. Personally, given my dogs are sighthounds and prefer to spend their days lolling on the couch in my absence anyway, I believe it's safer for them to be inside. Snakes are not our concern so much, but if my dogs are safely stowed in my house, I know there's no chance of a gate being "accidentally" opened or a straying dog getting into my yard, or my dogs chasing down and scoring themselves a neighbour's cat or inclement weather causing them discomfort or even harm. In 12 years of keeping my dogs inside, the following accidents/catastrophes have happened: a few wee stains on the carpet. The millions of inside hours clocked up by unattended pets, wherein absolutely nothing of note happens, do not make interesting news stories :shrug: 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, CharbearsMa said:

Um...ok that’s not cool :( 

I’m so sorry :( 

and terrifed now. Just slightly. 

....why is this never on tv or anything??? Like an actual fatality count? 

I didn't mean to scare you :( APOLOGIES :flower:  

before you DO take up drinking full time ...   

we live in the middle of nowhere .. in the proper 'outback' ... and because we provide  water for stock/pets ,  have a rodent population  ( almost always wherever there is human habitation)  , snakes find it a better spot than out in the blazing sand !
Our nearest town is almost 100km away ..if that helps you figure things out , OK ? 
losing a dog to snakebite is devastating 
We have multiple dogs at any one time

Char, they are working sheepdogs :) most of them enjoy retirement into their teens 

We see snakes regularly here - they are part of our life ..like kangaroos, echidnas and other wildlife . 
Snakes out in THEIR territory are magic . 
in OUR territory ..well ...unwelcome...

the number of dog deaths by snakebite ? probably unknown ...as many would be dogs living remotely on sheep/cattle stations, or camps  etc .

Yes it happens ..but so do incidents with traffic ....

 

13 hours ago, Maddy said:

Pers's situation is different. And yours will likely be different from both of ours. It's a matter of assessing your personal risk and managing from there. Personally, given my dogs are sighthounds and prefer to spend their days lolling on the couch in my absence anyway, I believe it's safer for them to be inside.

MOST definitely !!

:)

,

 

 

 

On 11/13/2018 at 2:27 PM, CharbearsMa said:

I just wish I knew how to train a dog to ignore all dangerous things and all stupid people! 

 

Just fill their time with good stuff  so they concentrate on that :) 

When I lived in the City..I was always worrying about unlocked gates/traffic/nasty neighbours... it was much more stressful .

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Tassie   

I've lived in the same place for over 30 years … acre +, with acre blocks around, but on the edge of suburbia.   Has become much more suburban in the vicinity over the years.  There are several acres of dry bush reserve behind me and up and over a ridge, then more suburbia.    Suburb of Hobart, but separated from Hobart itself by hills and bush and acreages.   I had 2 big snakes on my place in the early years .. probably copperhead .. both happened to get caught up in bird netting and it was in the days before reptile rescue.  Also had a live whip snake left on the bathroom floor by a cat who used to collect lizards and keep them in the bathtub :eek:.  She presumably had trouble getting this one into the tub.  Oh yes, and another whip snake that she had killed and left in a back courtyard.  Another cat was having a lovely time playing with what might have been a whippy or a baby tiger or copperhead.  Now I think about it, that was quite a snakey time as new houses were being built on the snakes' territory.     Touch wood, haven't seen one for many years, though one neighbour had one in their yard, almost certainly washed down the hill from the adjacent reserve by the big floods we had here in May.

 

But yes, several dogs die in southern Tasmania from snake bite every year, and others are saved by prompt (and very expensive) treatment.   A young dog in my foundation agility class at dog club was killed three weeks ago, and a bitch in the same family was bitten but survived after antivenene and ventilation.  They do live rural though.

  • Sad 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×