Sutter, Yolo training sessions learn dogs to manage clear of rattlesnakes

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Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 12:07 PM

Wildlife experts declare rattlesnakes are emerging from hibernation earlier this year, their food supply boosted by winter storms. Dogs are twenty times more likely than humans to be bitten by a venomous snake and twenty-five times more likely to die from a bite, according to the Animal Medical Middle of Southern California.“A rattlesnake bite is likely a more serious concern for dogs because they’re so small,” said Brian Todd, a wildlife biologist at UC Davis.

Sutter, Yolo training sessions learn dogs to manage clear of rattlesnakes

Look out for that rattlesnake! More importantly, learn your dog to watch out.

Wildlife experts declare rattlesnakes are emerging from hibernation earlier this year, their food supply boosted by winter storms. Dogs are twenty times more likely than humans to be bitten by a venomous snake and twenty-five times more likely to die from a bite, according to the Animal Medical Middle of Southern California.

“A rattlesnake bite is likely a more serious concern for dogs because they’re so small,” said Brian Todd, a wildlife biologist at UC Davis. “It’s extremely scarce for a human to be keep in a life-threatening situation from a rattlesnake bite.”

Two organizations will be training dogs to avert snakes in the greater Sacramento area over the following two weeks. The first training will be held this weekend, on Saturday, close Yuba City. Classes will also be offered April eight and nine in Dunnigan.

“Typically, people start seeing rattlesnakes around April and on through September, but this year rattlesnakes have been seen in early March,” Todd said. “I foresee snakes will be very active this year.”

He said the training for dogs is timely given that snakes are presently appearing in places they're seldom seen – love the Sacramento Valley floor. More typically found in the Sierra NV foothills, snakes have been spotted recently in Davis and Dunnigan.

Saturday’s classes are offered by a Reno-based company called Obtain Rattled and hosted by the Two Cities Kennel Club. “We train dogs to avert the sights, sounds and smells of rattlesnakes,” said John Potash, owner of Get Rattled.

The training takes about twenty minutes per dog and costs $85. Refresher training is $60, Potash said.

During the training, dogs are outfitted with an electric collar. At the first of three stations, the dog will encounter a live rattlesnake on the ground – with its poison ducts removed. As the dog approaches the snake, the handler uses the collar to deliver a jolt. The goal: to create the dog associate the snake with something unpleasant.

At a second station, the dog is brought to a live rattlesnake in a cage, with shedded skin inside, to learn scent recognition. “We authorize the dog’s nose to obtain right up to it to obtain a genuine solid scent,” Potash said. Eventually, the dog is brought to another Sta and placed on the other side of a snake from its owner.

“If the dog makes a large wide berth around the snake, that’s when we know the dog has got it,” Potash said. If the dog hasn’t learned at that point, it's sent back to do the training over.

Potash suggests retraining dogs every year to create sure they don’t forget. “It’s cheap insurance for dog owners,” Potash said. “The cheapest I've heard of people getting out of the vet for a bite is $800, but the average is around the $2.000 mark.”

Potash describes himself as a “snake guy” who's kept dozens of rattlesnakes for decades. He got into dog training in two-thousandth, while doing wildlife rescue in the Reno.

He started out by training two dozen dogs a year. He presently trains five hundred dogs yearly. He inc four years ago and presently offers classes throughout Nevada, OR and California. Business has been so brisk he's adding toad avoidance and porcupine avoidance classes for dogs. “People are really asking about this service,” said Potash. “It’s really blown up.”

At Raahauge’s Hunting Club in Dunnigan, dog owners also have been increasingly asking for rattlesnake avoidance training. “It’s catching on, and we’re doing more and more every year,” said Donna Raahauge, owner of the club.

She's been offering the classes for the latest eight years and gives the training three times a year. She trains about seventy dogs yearly. The rattlesnake avoidance classes in Dunnigan will be offered for $80 per dog. The classes are given at a ranch where pheasants and partridges are placed for hunters.

“With our people, when they’re out hunting, there is a chance of a rattlesnake being in their way,” Raahauge said.

She said she encounters at minimum four rattlesnakes every year at the property.

“Weather changes everything,” Raahauge said. “We’ve already seen one rattlesnake here at the ranch – so they’re out.”

WHEN: nine a. m. to three p. m. Saturday

WHERE: eight thousand five hundred sixty S. Butte Rd., Sutter, ninety-five thousand nine hundred eighty-two

COST: $85

INFORMATION: 530-674-5248

WHEN: eight a. m. to four p. m. April eight and nine

COST: $80

WHERE: twenty-five thousand eight hundred thirty-five County Road eight, Dunnigan, ninety-five thousand nine hundred thirty-seven

INFORMATION: 530-724-0552

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