Rattlesnake avoidance training proves successful

Aug 12, 2023 | Education

Dori, a small terrier from Cedarpines Park, backed away from the snake after recognizing its scent. (Photos by Douglas W. Motley)

By DOUGLAS W. MOTLEY – Senior Writer

Crestline’s Double Dog Ranch, located near the end of Dart Canyon Road, hosted its second and final rattlesnake avoidance training event for the year on Saturday, July 22. According to Dana Ridland, who along with her husband, Mike, owns Double Dog Ranch, 64 dogs were successfully trained to avoid the poisonous reptiles during the 10-hour-long event which got underway around 8 a.m., about the same number of dogs trained in May of this year.

When asked how they got involved in sponsoring these specialized training classes, Mike said, “About 13 years ago, Arrowhead Animal Hospital asked Dana to help spread the news in the community because there was a lot of local interest.”

Conducting the classes once again this year was Yucca Valley-based Natural Solutions, whose staff consists of experienced dog trainers, animal behaviorists and naturalists, who warn that you or your dog could encounter rattlesnakes almost anywhere in Southern California, with seven species prevalent in the San Bernardino Mountains. Most prevalent is the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake. Less common, but much deadlier, is the Mohave Green Rattlesnake, most often found on the north desert side of the mountain.

Ziva, a golden retriever from Rancho Cucamonga, didn’t want anything to do with the snake.

Ziva, a golden retriever from Rancho Cucamonga, didn’t want anything to do with the snake.

“Using a remote training collar to provide a perfectly timed, low-level stimulation that causes a localized muscle contraction effectively enables your dog to detect the sights, sounds and smells of rattlesnakes and creates the reflex for your dog to quickly move away and avoid them,” said Natural Solutions spokesman Eric Briggs, who has been involved with rattlesnake avoidance training for over 20 years.

Briggs said he and his wife, Erin, brought four baby and five adult rattlesnakes to the July training classes so they could be rotated to keep them from tiring. All of the snakes’ snouts were securely muzzled to prevent them from biting dogs approaching them.

Briggs dispelled a common misconception that immature rattlesnakes can’t control the amount of venom they inject into their victim. “This is a myth; they do have full venom control but are limited by their size in the amount of venom which is less than that of an adult. They need the venom they do have to get food from their prey.”

Arriving bright and early with its Cedarpines Park owner was Dori, a small, cute terrier that was getting its first training lesson. Dori, who cautiously approached the snake, was apparently frightened by its rattling. On the second attempt to approach the same snake in a different location, Dori recognized its scent and refused to approach it. Next was Baron, a shepherd, who backed away after witnessing the snake’s sudden movement.

Baron, a shepherd mix from Green Valley Lake, was frightened by the snake’s sudden movement.

Baron, a shepherd mix from Green Valley Lake, was frightened by the snake’s sudden movement.

According to researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center, snakes kill up to a quarter-million people worldwide each year. Those who are bitten and survive must often contend with crippling disfigurement, which explains the fear and apprehension that many feel toward snakes. Several factors have a significant effect on snakebite severity: snake size, patient mass, snake species and the site of the bite. Bites by larger snakes and to smaller humans result in more severe envenomation.

If bitten, expect pain and swelling in the area. If the bite is on a finger or arm, remove any jewelry to avoid loss of circulation after the swelling begins; don’t use a tourniquet, as that will also cut off circulation.

Rattlesnake bites usually cause immediate burning pain followed by swelling, discoloration and increased pain. Walk, don’t run, to the nearest vehicle to prevent your heart rate from pumping the venom through the body faster. Do not chase after the snake, as that will also cause the venom to circulate faster, and it might cause a second bite. Never try to suck the venom out of the wound because it could infect the mouth of the other person, and cutting the wound open may create more damage and possible infection. Get to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible.

While nothing is 100 percent guaranteed, rattlesnake avoidance training has proven highly effective in preventing envenomation by rattlesnakes. An added bonus is that paying attention to your dog’s behavior can help you avoid the snake as well.

When asked about the best time to have their dog trained, Dana responded, “There’s no wrong time to do it; people start contacting us when they start seeing rattlesnakes. Many people have contacted me later to say their dog’s behavior let them know there was a rattlesnake in the area.”



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