Frequently Asked Questions
1. Limited Booking Availability
I have cut back on my work schedule and will no longer be training out of state. In additional I will be limiting my travel. I have committed to training two sessions a month as is reflected in the posted training schedule. These session are at the Sportsman’s Warehouse stores in Mesa and Tucson Ariona. I may do other sessions as time and energy dictates. Call me at (520) 465-3460 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need a training outside of the session posted on the website. I apologize for limiting access but it was time to slow down a bit.
2. Re-check Policy
As stated in the pre-training orientation that each attendee hears: This training is done thoroughly and meticulously so that each dog will remember this lesson for the rest of his life. Therefore, no re-training is required. I understand people wanting reassurance that their dog did “get” the training or, after a period of time, that their dog retains the training. However, each dog in this training receives every opportunity possible to learn how to recognize a snake through sight, sound, and smell; and, more importantly, learns to avoid snakes once they are recognized. The training is not completed for any dog until he has demonstrated that he has learned this lesson. Once your dog has completed Snake Safe training, he will not need to be re-trained for the rest of his life.
That being said, if you would still like your dog to be re-checked, the following policy applies: For dogs that have been previously Snake Safe trained by me, there will be a $50.00 charge for doing a re-check. The only exception to this policy will be for dogs initially trained under the age of ten-months-old, which will be allowed one free re-check. All re-checks will be scheduled into a separate group from dogs that are new to the training.
The following is an example of a message I received and why after nearly 30 years of doing this work I have had to implement the above policy. Any contact information has been removed.
Retraining Letter 10/26/14
I need to get my German Shepherd in the next class you are going to hold either ———- or ———–. He has been in your class twice. The first time he was only 11 months old and the training didn’t stick. You warned me that it might not, (“I never said that)” so when I enrolled him for the second class I didn’t mention that he had been in it before. But the last time he was in the class he was a couple years old and was a difficult train “( He didn’t want to go near the snake)”. He had to be shocked “( I don’t use a collar like that. )” more than the other dogs because he just wasn’t getting it. I notified you about the problem and you had me go to ——– house to observe him and upon doing so you told me you thought he would react properly if he were ever to come upon a rattle snake. We have had snakes in our yard twice this summer and both times he sought them out. He picked up on the scent and cautiously looked for them until he located them. That behavior is gong to get him bit. Can you help me with this? I have called —– in ——— twice and left her a message about getting him retrained because I was in the chiropractor’s office last Thursday when she was there telling the chiropractor about the class and that it was guaranteed “(As I say in the orientation each attendee hears, This training is not 100%.)”, but she has not returned my call.
My cell number is (—) — – —–.
3. ” My dog approached a dead rattlesnake on the side of the road. Did the training work?”
This is a very common question and concern for folks. Since Snake Safe training is about your comfort level as well as your dog’s safety, it is important to talk a bit about scent in order to completely answer your question.
I can understand the reluctance you may feel when, upon walking your dog, you observe him getting giddy over the chance to inspect a dead snake off the road shoulder.
The truth is, however, that dogs like dead things. Given their druthers they will get down, roll, and rub the intoxicating fragrance through their fur and into the skin of their jaw and neck so they can proudly wear it home and share it with everyone they love.
That dead smell may come from a cow, skunk, armadillo, or rattlesnake. We mere humans can’t differentiate one delicate bouquet of scent emanating from a poor unfortunate creature from that of another unfortunate creature. However, I’m going to guess that none of the subtle differences will escape the dog walking beside you… otherwise, he wouldn’t be so proud of each unique stench treasure he finds. Just watch a group of dogs as they are approached by another dog who is proudly wearing some new scent treasure he’s discovered. Proud is the right word. The more vile the stench, the higher up that dog holds his head as he saunters up to the group.
Dogs and people are different. We humans verify the world around us by using our eyes. If we hear something or smell something, we will go to look at it to know what it is. When we see a crumpled lump off in the distance, we typically will study it until we can see what it is. As beings that stand upright and see in color, with daylight vision, we are elevated and consequently see a very different world from the majority of other beings that share this planet. We don’t use smell as our primary sense because we are tall enough to get a clear line of sight which gives us a physical margin of safety.
For our dogs with grey scale night vision, however, the world is a very different place. Dogs exist somewhere around knee level. As they can not see the vast majority of the ground that lies in front of them, they have evolved with a nose that tells them all that lies ahead without ever needing to see it. When a dog sees something or hears something, he needs to go smell it in order to know and understand what it is.
And what a nose it is. We humans are not capable of understanding how powerful the sense of scent is for a dog. It is way beyond our frame of reference. We can pick up the obvious and strong scents, of course: escaping intestinal gases from the bloated dead animal lying on the asphalt; bacteria and insects interacting and breaking the body down with all the inherent fumes it produces. We get downwind from that, and yeah, there is something terribly smelly and stinky ahead. However, if there is a live creature, balled up and hiding in the grass ahead: inhaling and exhaling, perspiring, exuding musk or chemicals, shedding skin dander and hair follicles, with trace amounts of urine or feces clinging to the animal’s hair—well, those scents are all just too subtle for most of us humans to be able to identify or even notice. Not so for dogs. They get it all.
And here we come to the essential part of the answer to the question: a dead rattlesnake is not a live rattlesnake. It is a completely different thing in terms of scent. One could argue that there is a time component, and that’s true. But even a freshly killed rattlesnake is already something different than it was when alive. The subtle blend of exhaled breath, minute bits of sloughed skin cells, and residual traces of feces quickly changes to an overwhelming cocktail of blood, ruptured internal organs, undigested food, and the chemical smell of fear.
Even an animal that dies without any physical trauma will undergo a change in its chemistry within a matter of minutes. When death comes and respiration stops cooling and maintaining circulation, the body ceases to be and the scent changes quickly and profoundly.
I have seen this scenario acted out a thousand times. A bird dog works an area after a covey of quail flushes. Guns were fired as that covey flushed, and in front of that dog there are both hiding live birds and freshly killed dead birds. Those birds may have only been dead for a matter of seconds; however, that dog moves forward and either points the live birds from a distance or moves in and scoops up the dead birds to retrieve back to the guns. His nose tells him the difference instantly.
When I was a professional bird dog trainer I would sometimes encounter a fault in dogs called blinking, which is when a dog pretends that he doesn’t know a bird is present. Literally, the dog closes his eyes and chooses not to see, not to acknowledge the bird right in front of him. The dog may have issues with retrieving, so he may only acknowledge live birds and ignore any dead bird which he could then be forced to retrieve. Or, the dog’s issue may be the opposite, meaning he won’t acknowledge a living bird, but will go after any dead bird he comes across with gusto. Either way, his nose is telling him the exact condition of the bird in front of him.
I have received many emails from people who have taken their dogs through Snake Safe training. Later, at some point after the training, they come upon a rattlesnake and they want to check and see if the training is still in effect, so they bring their dog in close. Maybe the snake is dead on the side of the road where its been lying for some time. Or, maybe they killed the rattlesnake and it’s a headless body in a pool of blood on the side of the backyard. Or perhaps the rattlesnake has been disposed of, so they just bring the dog to the spot where they killed the rattlesnake. I would hope that a person wouldn’t take their dog in on a live rattlesnake, but I’m told that has happened, as well. “I could drag him right to it!”
No matter what the scenario, the dog’s owner shows an interest or concern that the dog picks up on. The dog then goes to check out the thing or place that his owner is concerned about, and then he gets confused because his owner is now upset and apprehensive because the dog went to the very spot or thing to which he was directed to go.
You may recall that during your dog’s training we started by bringing your dog in very close to the snake initially, and then we incrementally made the zone of concern bigger and bigger until your dog would not even approach an area where he knew the snake to be. The essence of Snake Safe training is training your dog to identify the location of a rattlesnake and then to quickly leave the area to avoid it. When someone intentionally brings their Snake Safe trained dog to a snake, or brings a snake to their dog, this can have the unfortunate effect of undoing the training. It is, at the very least, confusing to the dog.
(The only known exception where this might not be true is when a dog was under 10 months old when he had the original training. If this is the case, and this was discussed with you during your dog’s original training, you need to bring the dog back when he is 10 months or a year old so we can check the dog on a snake and confirm that the training was indeed effective. Dogs under six months old may not be developmentally mature enough to fully benefit from the training. )
To answer another part of the original question: “I saw my dog go to a snake and now I’m concerned. Does he need to be retrained? Will he go near another snake?”
The only answer I have is: “I don’t know.” Which way was the wind blowing? Was the rattlesnake moving? Did the rattlesnake buzz? Was the owner pulling the dog to the rattlesnake thereby confusing the dog? Was the air temperature hot and no scent was available to the dog? I have done literally thousands of “rechecks.” In that time, in a controlled recheck where I knew the direction of and speed of the wind and the position of the snake, I have only seen about half-a-dozen dogs that were trained when they were older than ten months actually linger at the snake. This would mean that the percentage of recidivism was way less than 1%. Now, I understand that this isn’t helpful if your dog is in that less than 1%.
If you have a concern, bring your dog back in for a re-check. If the re-check is unnecessary there will be a charge. We will put your dog on a safe snake and see exactly how he does. If we need to apply another correction, we will. Practical experience over more than twenty years has shown that this is extremely remote. However, when you see your dog has learned and retained his training to avoid rattlesnakes, you will have the peace of mind to know that your dog will react and leave a rattlesnake if the cues (scent, sound, and sight) are present for him to key on.