Snake Avoidance-Making Wise Choices

How can you keep your dog from being bitten by a venomous snake? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer and there are no guarantees.

Seal Your Yard
Neither your family nor your dog is safe from venomous snakes. Many snake bites to dogs occur on their own property. Remove food sources, such as: rodents, mice, birdseed, crickets, pet food and secure garbage cans. Remove habitats where they may hide, such as: woodpiles, vegetation, underbrush and rocks. Seal holes and block entrances under your house. Install rattlesnake safety fencing. See Wikihow.Com There are no spray or scatter products that have proven to be effective.

Penny Di'Lorento offers No Shock Snake Avoidance in the San Diego area at

Penny DiLorento offers No Shock Snake Avoidance in the San Diego area at K9 Dog Park.

Exercise and Activities

Don’t allow your dog to walk or roam in known snake infested areas. Some dogs have an inborn aversion to snakes, others do not and are fascinated by them. The San Diego Natural History Museum herpetology research center advises, “Common sense is the best defense. Cultivate an attitude of alertness. Never let a dog run loose; always keep a dog leashed no matter how good it normally is.” Keep your companion animal safe and happy by providing exercise in safe environments such as an agility class, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, dock diving, paddle boarding, shopping with you, or join a flyball team. Use a Manners Minders, play upstairs fetch, chase a lure toy or have your dog fetch your tennis serve into the pool! Remember, it's against the law to have your dog off leash except in a very few select areas, such as dog parks and dog beach.


The Vaccine

If you live in or frequent areas where rattlesnakes roam, get the vaccine. It’s generally effective for most venomous rattlesnakes in San Diego and side effects are rare. The vaccine costs about $20 and may dramatically reduce the effects of venom, the cost of treatment, and recovery time in the hospital. Bites should always be treated immediately as a veterinary emergency. Make sure your vet carries antivenin. Details are here:


Snake Avoidance Training
What’s really best for you and your dog? Many snake bites occur by inadvertently disturbing a snake. No amount of training can prevent that. Still, promotional claims, anecdotal reports, and unverifiable statistics abound about the benefits of shock training for your dog. However, there is no empirical data to support the efficacy of this training--that it does what it promises to do. It may give people a false sense of security. It may have serious and permanent side-effects. Behavior experts tell us that shock is easily misapplied and can traumatize animals. The San Diego Humane Society and SPCA does not endorse rattlesnake aversion training for companion animals. According to Stephanie Shain, Director of Outreach for companion animals, "If people choose to work with a trainer, they must be sure that the trainer's methods are safe. Trainers should never use electronic aids like shock collars which will hurt your dog and can damage your bond with him."


Alternative, less aversive training methods are springing up because of the need to find another, safer way. For example, Penny DiLorento, owner of offers Snake Avoidance classes using rattlesnake sight, sound, smell, simulations and pyrotechnics as an alternative to programs that use shock, prong and choke collars in the San Diego area.


New courses that teach your dog to alert you immediately upon encountering a snake, similar to basic service dog training and real life scenarios of an outdoor hike are underway in Tucson, Arizona at Seize the Leash facility and in Austin, Texas at The Canine Center for Training and Behavior. For example, the sound of a rattle is the cue to come to you. As Penny says, “Learning should never hurt”.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email:[email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at

Copyright2013. All rights reserved. Original publication UT San Diego, Pet School, Scratch 'n Sniff.

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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


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