iQ: I killed a rattlesnake at my house and then let the dog go over and sniff it. Was that a good idea?
A: No, not a good idea. You just told the dog it was okay to go up to a rattlesnake. Even though the dog could probably tell the snake was dead, I discourage doing what you did even if the dog is snake proofed. If you find a rattlesnake, first gather the dogs, kids, or other critters that may be in danger, and make sure they're safe. Then, take care of the snake. Many fire departments will come and remove the snake. (check with your local fire department for their policy before you discover the first snake on your patio)
If you kill the snake by chopping its head off, dispose of the body and the head before you let the dog(s) out. Be careful, because the head continues to have reflexes hours after it is severed from the body and can bite and inject venom.
Q: How can I tell if a snake is a rattlesnake? Shannon, Phoenix
A: Rattlesnakes have a head shaped like a handmade arrowhead. Their head is larger than their neck. In Arizona, the most common species; the western diamondback, has black and white rings around the tail just before the rattles. Non venomous snakes have a head and neck the same width.
Q: I have all sorts of lizards and snakes on my property. Is there a book that identifies different types of animals? Bill, Cave Creek
A: My favorite book is: National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southwestern States. It's a excellent field guide to plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals.
Q: Does the dog remember what rattlesnakes smell like? Cammie, Sedona
A: Do you remember what a skunk smells like?
I recently had a dog return after nine years, I trained him at 6 months, and he detected the snakes in the desert. He never located them by sight because the cage was covered with camo-cloth. He knew the direction they were, and turned and hightailed it back up the path. He is Rudy the Vizsla, and his original story is in the success stories section.
Q: Do you perform rattlesnake removal? Jayne, Phoenix
A: No, and I recommend Phoenix Rattlesnake Solutions for snake removal in Phoenix. They offer affordable, fast, and humane rattlesnake removal and rescue.
Q: What about this rattlesnake vaccine I've heard about? Stan, Scottsdale
A: There is a rattlesnake vaccine available.redrockbiologics Initially, it is given as one injection with a booster injection a month later. Then a booster is needed every year. I've had my own small dogs vaccinated. It seems to me that there are two schools of thought among veterinarians about this product. One group says they're not sure about the vaccine...not enough evidence if it works or not...doesn't cover every species of rattlesnake, etc. The other camp says, "if your dog is in an environment where they can come in contact with rattlesnakes give them the vaccine." My vet sees over 50 rattlesnake bites a year and strongly endorses the vaccine. He also strongly endorses having the dog trained to stay away from rattlesnakes in the first place.
However, the vaccine is not intended to replace training the dog to avoid rattlesnakes in the first place. A dog that is not trained is still at risk of being bitten. A rattlesnake bite is a veterinarian emergency whether the dog has been vaccinated or not. The vaccine and the training are two weapons in your arsenal against rattlesnake bites and should be used together.
Q: Do you have videos of what you do? Carol, Sedona, AZ
A: I don't, but take a look at this website from Georgia, snakesareus.com. He uses a rat snake after the dogs are trained on rattlesnakes, and copperheads to teach the dog to stay away from all snakes. Click on the picture of the school bus then scroll down to see where to start the video. Look at the dog's behavior. It's obvious that they've detected the snake and don't want anything to do with it.
Q: How does the venom thing work with rattlesnakes--the smaller the snake the more venom or the other way around? Steve, Anthem, AZ
A: The amount of venom is directly proportional to the size of the snake. The bigger the snake the more venom they have. A defensive bite always contains more venom than a bite to obtain food. Baby rattlesnakes have venom that's more toxic than adults but less of it. The belief that baby snakes always inject their full load of venom is being challenged by some researchers that maintain even the babies can meter their venom.
Q: How many different breeds of dogs have you trained? Becky, Desert Hills
A: Here is the list. By my count it's 158 different breeds.
If I've snake proofed your dog and they are not on the list it's okay to email me and give me a heads-up firstname.lastname@example.org
American Eskimo dog
American Indian dog
Appenzeller (one of the four types of Swiss Mountain Dogs)
Australian cattle dog
Bernese mountain dog
Berger Picard (bare-zhay pee car) Picardy Shepherd
Boerboel (South African Mastiff)
Braque du Bourbonnais (Bourbonnais Pointer)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chesapeake Bay retriever
Chinese crested dog
Coton de Tulear
English springer spaniel
English toy spaniel
Flat coated retriever
German hunting terrier (Jagterrier)
German shorthair pointer
Hangin' Tree cattle dog
Jack Russell terrier
Kerry blue terrier
Klee Kai (miniature Alaskan husky)
Lagotto Romagnolo (Italian truffle dog)
Miniature Bull Terrier
Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever
Old English Sheepdog
Parson Jack Russell terrier
Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen (PBGV)
Red Alabama black mouth cur
Sloughi (Moroccan sighthound)
Soft coated wheaten terrier
Stafffordshire bull terrier
Toy Fox Terrier
Treeing Walker coon hound
Welsh Springer Spaniel
West highland white terrier
Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
New River, AZ