Local dogs and their trainers learned how to avoid rattlesnakes through a training course made by Ma and Pa Kennels early Saturday.
The training course brought dogs up close to the sights, sounds and smells of a rattlesnake. Trainer Gina Gables teaches the dogs that the snakes are dangerous through a shock color the kennel provides for the training.
First, the course brings the dog close to a live rattlesnake, handled by herpetologist Steve Gardner. This allows the dog to get close and learn what a rattlesnake is and if the dog gets too close, give them a good shock as negative reinforcement.
All the snakes brought into the training were muzzled for safety.
After meeting the live snake, the dog is taught to avoid the smells of rattlesnakes. Gables and her team hid old snakeskins under various piles of objects; like rocks, logs and bricks and had the dog owners walk by the skins to see if the dog would follow or avoid.
Gables would perform the same technique with sound, using speakers hidden in brush the owners would walk by.
“You can’t believe how effective this is,” said Gardner. “We have had a lot of dogs that have been bitten that come to the training class, but we’ve had none that have been bitten since they took the training.”
The training ends with another live interaction with a rattlesnake, allowing the owners to walk by the snake to see if the dog would avoid the creature or get too close. To ensure the training truly took hold, Gables places the dog’s favorite toy next to the snake to see if the dog approaches. If the dog stays away, the training is complete.
“We had a black lab who was bitten by a rattlesnake, it’s expensive (to treat),” said Robert and Jackie Mcmahan, Santa Clarita residents who brought their yellow lab Sailor for training. “We went to a training in Acton that was rushed through in five minutes, this we hope will help Sailor.”
After the training, Gables tells the dog owners that generalization training and refresher courses are recommended to reinforce the lessons learned during the original training.
For more information about the training, or to sign up for future training visit Ma and Pa Kennels’ website.