Rattlesnake Aversion Training Can Save Your Dog’s Life

By Philip Bonafede

Philip Bonafede has been growing desert gardens for over 45 years and has been doubling as one of the greater Joshua Tree area’s snake wranglers and snake aversion dog trainers since 1998. You can contact him at 760-401-4488 or email at pbdesert@earthlink.net

Rattlesnake season has just begun, and many people are concerned about their beloved family dogs. During this period, from April-November, many local dogs are bitten by rattlesnakes, and many die! This can easily be avoided. Dogs can be taught how to react to a rattlesnake encounter so that they don’t end up going face to face with a rattler out of curiosity.

“Rattlesnakes only bite defensively when they fear harm and are NOT aggressive!”

A Rattlesnake Aversion Class creates a new foundation of awareness while delivering a powerful, lifesaving message to careless dogs. Trained dogs can also alert their owners to the presence of a rattlesnake and allow both to avoid a possible bite.

During the class, by paying close attention to your dog’s body language, you will learn what to look for when roaming the desert trails during snake season. By observing your dog’s new corrected reaction to a live rattlesnake encounter, both you and your dog can safely avoid the snake. Each dog’s reaction is different. Some bark, some hide behind you, some retreat quickly and maintain 20+ feet from the danger. K9 Rattlesnake Aversion classes utilize sight, sound, and the scent of live rattlesnakes to teach dogs to recognize, respect, fear and avoid a rattlesnake!”

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By now you have probably heard of the canine rattlesnake vaccine. Some may suggest you have your dog vaccinated to buy time to get to a vet after a bite. Some believe the vaccine will reduce the severity of the injected rattlesnake venom. Unfortunately, none of these assumptions are true, according to the American Animal Hospital Association and the National Snake Bite Support Network. The introduction of deactivated western diamondback rattlesnake venom into your dog’s bloodstream may create a venom allergy which could later increase the severity of a rattlesnake bite.*

If your dog is bitten, you should immediately go to an animal hospital to receive a rattlesnake antivenom (Crofab or Anavip) which is the proper treatment for a rattlesnake bite. Just because the wound is bleeding does NOT mean venom was injected. 25% of all rattlesnake bites are “dry” bites. No venom is injected. Only your vet can make this medical determination.

Most vets and dog trainers recommend a Rattlesnake Aversion Class as the most effective method of avoiding a rattlesnake bite. Timing, technology, and experience coupled with a quiet class setting and no distractions are keys to success. Choosing a trainer who knows and respects rattlesnakes and who spends enough time with each dog to achieve the desired results is crucial. However, results of proper training cannot be 100% guaranteed.

Some dogs can forget the lesson, while others will refuse to exit the car for their review class due to the scent of rattlesnakes at the class site. The good news is that approximately 97% of all dogs do carry this lesson for life. One review and one annual class are highly recommended to verify the lesson is anchored in place. Since each dog has its own unique personality and learning ability, some dogs will get the lesson in 10 minutes with one or two corrections, while others will need a full review class to completely absorb the lesson. Less than 1% will need a second review class during the same season.

RATTLESNAKE FENCING: This is an excellent option to divert rattlesnakes around your property. There are local contractors who offer this service. Specific technical guidelines must be employed in order for the fencing to be effective.

SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT FOR RATTLESNAKE AVERSION CLASSES: In order to book your reservation at Phil’s K9 Rattlesnake Aversion Classes in North Joshua Tree, text (760) 401-4488 or email for details: pbdesert@earthlink.net

RATTLESNAKE REMOVAL: Several snake handlers are available from Wonder Valley to Morongo Valley. Text the address and a picture of the snake from a safe distance away to (760) 401-4488. Do not take your eyes off the snake until they arrive, and DO NOT ATTEMPT

Remember, your dogs are alive because of the love, care, and decisions you make to protect them.

Philip Bonafede has been a desert resident since 1973, has been rattlesnake handling since 1966, has performed local snake relocation since 1998, and is licensed and insured.

Find him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/147504670529874

* https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/2022-aaha-canine-vaccination-guidelines/key-vaccination-considerations-byantigen/rattlesnake-toxoid/

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