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Rattlesnake Ready, LLC
"Arizona's #1 realistic and thorough snake avoidance training"
Frequently Asked Questions...and answers!!!
1) What's different about your training?

Each company that provides this training differs in what they have to offer. I do my absolute best to give clients the most effective, realistic version of the training available. See below some of the benefits unique to my training:

  • I use live, muzzled rattlesnakes ( NOT caged) of varying sizes for maximum understanding and realism.
  • I use the endemic species of the region (C. o. oreganus for NorCal and Southern Oregon, C. atrox for Arizona)
  • I offer a complete approach (multiple steps that include sight, sound, and smell - all together, as well as individually)
  • I can train dogs on or off leash in private lessons (this allows certain elligible dogs to feel more "free")
  • Your dog(s) will be avoiding the rattlesnakes by the end of the lesson or I do not charge.
  • I am known for conservative e-collar use. I start the collars at a very low level and gradually increase to higher intensity as the dog responds. This allows me to find the "sweet spot" for each individual dog, and allows successful training for even the most sensitive dogs. This is without sacrificing the quality of the lesson, however. They will get *enough* shock, not more not less.
  • I offer discounted follow up lessons to make sure your dog(s) really did learn the lesson the first time and are maintaining the avoidance behavior throughout their life.
  • I offer multiple options for training. If you want it in your yard where it will be most comfortable for you and your dog, I come to you. If you want it where you hike, camp, etc. we can probably go there too. If you want to come to me and save a few bucks, you can do that as well. I am also willing to travel just about anywhere there is need.
  • I operate full time. Training is availabe all year long in Arizona  - weekdays and Saturdays.
  • My expertise is not limited to just dogs or just snakes, I know both.
  • Your dog won't be dragged off by a stranger. I allow the owner to not only watch but be involved in the training (of course, you don't have to touch the snakes!)
  • I understand that each dog is different and strive to meet their individual needs, taking proper time and measures to ensure effective training. After setup/paperwork, training typically takes about 30 minutes per dog though I am happy to go longer if they need it (such as giving sensitive dogs breaks between steps).
  • If you have 2 to 3 dogs who are always together and want them trained as a duo or trio, no problem!
  • The snakes are always handled professionally and respectfully. My snakes are incredibly well-cared for.
  • My snakes are not overworked, abused animals! I don't clip their fangs, their venom glands have not been removed. They are in their natural state, and are well cared for. I legally have multiple snakes which allows me to rotate individuals during the busiest months. I use a surgical tape muzzle made for skin which stays on tight during training and comes off easily afterwards - no harm done to the snakes.

2) I'm new to Arizona, should my dog get this training?

If there is ever a point where your dog could be exposed to a rattlesnake, I highly recommend you do this training. Regardless of how "smart" they seem, 99% of dogs ranging from the not-so-bright to the extremely sharp are more than happy to bury their nose right into a rattlesnake. This is simply because the dog is fascinated and has no clue it is a venomous threat that could potentially kill them. Just like we must educate our developing children on what is safe or not safe to touch, inform your dog of the danger of rattlesnakes through this training before their optimistic innocence makes them a victim. This is especially true for active hikers with dogs, or if you live in an area within a quarter mile of natural desert habitat.

3) How old does my dog have to be for the training?

I recommend that dogs be at least 6 months old to undergo this training. Dogs under 6 months don't typically have the mental capacity or emotional fortitude to effectively learn the lesson as well as maintain the understanding long term. At too young of an age, we also don't want to leave any negative marks on their more fragile developmental state and their understanding of the world. Of course, some of this depends on the individual. Some 5 month old small breeds may learn the lesson perfectly while a 7 month old large breed might still need some time. If your dog is near this cut off, give me a call and we can discuss what is best for your dog and situation. All dogs under 1 year when initially trained should do a follow up a few months later, regardless of how well they initially responded.

4) My dog is extremely sensitive to any negative experience, can he/she be trained?

Yes, more than likely this will not be a problem. Sensitive dogs may require more creativity and take longer to work with, but they often are the ones that get the lesson down the first time and maintain the understanding for years after. I take extra precautions to make discomfort minimal, without sacrificing effectiveness of the training - for ALL dogs. I recommend that sensitve dogs be trained in an environment they are very familiar with. For more on dog sensitivity/shock collar use, see question #11.

5) How long does the training take?

Due to paperwork, setup, and explanation of the process, private lessons take about 40 minutes for the first  dog, and 15-30 minutes for each additional. That said, time actually spent training is about 15-30 minutes per dog. As for weekend clinics, my clinics are designed to be as efficient as possible and typically take 20-30 minutes per dog as long as you show up a few minutes early to knock out paperwork before your time slot.

6) How long will my dog remember the lesson?

This varies by individual, and like any other training there's no guarantee that your dog will remember the lesson the very next day. I only say that to be safe, though! I have trained many dogs and 3+ years later they still remember the lesson perfectly even without a follow up in between, in some cases. I recommend that your dogs undergo a follow up annually just to diminish any chances of "forgetting" rattlesnakes. Regardless of whatever your dog's capacity is to remember the lesson long term, you will more than likely be very surprised at how effectively this sticks despite being such a short, one-time lesson.

7) My dog has had no prior training of any kind, is this a problem?

Nope! Not at all. In fact, dogs with zero training are often easier to work with. This is because very trained dogs are often glued to their owner's leg and won't take their eyes off of them. A dog with zero training will be running around burying their nose in everything - which means they will run right into the snakes, scented items, and other props more quickly and have no clue that their owner had anything to do with it. The trade-off, however, is that these dogs are also the most likely to get bit in the first place!

8) My dog has been bitten by a rattlesnake before. Do you think he/she still needs the training?

Yes! Unfortunately, most dogs do not learn from a real bite. This is because when a rattlesnake first strikes a dog, the initial pain is relatively tolerable, until the venom begins to take effect seconds later. Within minutes (and the dog has probably left the snake by this point) the pain and swelling worsen to the point it is almost completely debilitating. Because of this delay between the most intense side effects of the bite and the actual moment of the bite, dogs more than likely do not associate the painful event with the snake at all. Many people have come to me with dogs who have been bitten once, twice, and even four times at different points of their life and somehow survived - only to have them trained in one hour and never approach a rattlesnake again!

9) Will my dog avoid other snakes after this training?

Possibly. This varies between dogs. Typically, the more sensitive and overly-cautious dogs will avoid all snakes as well as occasional garden hoses, extension cords, etc and anything else that looks, smells or sounds like a snake! Others, such as the highly prey-driven dogs, will avoid rattlesnakes but still go after things like lizards, garter snakes and even gopher snakes. This is likely due to differences in odor and the lack of any rattling, since they were only taught to avoid the rattlesnake odor and that sound. This is EXACTLY why this training requires the use of real, live rattlesnakes for accuracy. If I could train the dog with a garden hose or a garter snake, believe me, it would be a heck of a lot safer for me and I would!

10) My dog has prior (or no) e-collar experience, will this effect the training?

Dogs with zero, some, and lots of shock collar experience alike can all be successfully trained. However, dogs with a lot of prior shock collar experience can be more challenging to train when compared to dogs with zero shock collar experience (which are very easy to train). This is because a dog with collar experience has already been conditioned to respond to the collar (such as returning to their owner when corrected). How this typically pans out in our training, is that a collar-trained dog may sniff the snake and get a correction, then quickly return to its owner sheerly out of obedience. It may or may not blame the snake for anything at all, and will therefore need multiple encounters and possibly high levels of shock that it is not used to in order to get the message. A dog with zero collar training, however, will be utterly surprised by the very first shock feeling when it sniffs the snake. So much so, that they will think the snake was the actual source of the shock and not the collar. These dogs make the right associations and learn the lesson almost instantly.

11) Can you train the dogs without the use of shock collars?

If I could (and believed in the method's effectiveness) I would. Therefore, the answer is no for several reasons. It would take a customized plan of multiple lessons and the dogs would more than likely not truly ever understand the "why" behind avoiding rattlesnakes other than to simply please you. Therefore, it would be difficult to help them develop a very strong, instinctive reaction to avoiding snakes especially when they encounter one alone. You want a fast instinctive reaction to ANY rattlesnake cue. A rattlesnake strike speed is approximately 7 feet per second, therefore immediate, muscle memory-like response to a snake stimuli is crucial! You simply cannot get that with positive methods, period. For now, there is a reason that shock collars are the standard tool used for this training - they teach the dog in a single lesson and in a way that lasts years. However, I am not like others who use the collars harshly and have given the training a bad name. I do not start the collars at high levels. In fact, I start at zero and work upward until the dog responds appropriately. It is completely unneccesarry to shock a dog with a level 120 when they learn the lesson perfectly within the 20-40 range. I take no pleasure in harming any animal. What I do love to see is dogs learning to avoid rattlesnakes - especially since it is such a potentially life saving lesson in Arizona. Lastly, please keep in mind that no level of shock these collars can produce is even close to the real bite of a rattlesnake! 

12) Can you train small dogs?

Yes, I have trained hundreds of dogs under 20lbs. So far, the smallest dog I have worked with was a 2.5lbs Yorkie.

13) Can you train in the rain?

Generally, yes. I have no problem training in slight rain. However, because the entire session is outdoors, it can be extremely uncomfortable for everyone if it is in heavy rain and I will usually ask to reschedule (assuming you don't ask first!) In cold (<60F) , wet weather, the snakes become extremely sluggish, dogs lose focus, etc. Additionally, heavy rain complicates things such as how I go about the scented items and making sure they don't get drenched, keeping sound equipment protected, etc. For training when there is wet weather on the forecast, please be flexible with scheduling!

14) How hot is too hot to train?

Training in temperatures above 90F in the middle of the day when shade is scarce is extremely dangerous. Dogs overheat easily in warm temperatures, especially with the added stress of the snake avoidance lesson. They can also burn their pads on hot pavement or gravel. Additionally, the rattlesnakes overheat very easily also. While they are a desert adapted creature, there is a reason you don't see them in 100F+ in the middle of the day cruising around on the hot ground. A rattlesnake in 90F+ sitting in direct sunlight on a hot surface can experience lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes. All this to say, please consider having your dog trained in the cooler times of year, at the cooler times of day if you have the option. We have portable heat for our snakes in the winter when the weather is ideal for outdoor training. This is how we can train year around with snakes behaving just like they do in their active season. In summer, training is limited to daybreak and shortly after and that's it, simply for the safety of everyone involved. 

15) When is the best time to train?

In Arizona, the best time to train is in winter - which might seem counterintuitive. This is because Arizona winter weather is fantastic for training. Dogs are comfortable and focused, and don't wear out as quickly compared to a hot day. This is true for the snakes as well since it's still plenty warm enough for them to function during the day but not so warm that I have to constantly check on them and limit the training to shaded spots. Additionally, this is the time of year when the snakes aren't as active in nature, so there's no urgency. Most people wait until the heat hits and snakes are everywhere, and suddenly we go from a few scattered appointments to having to push people back 2-3 weeks due to an overwhelming load of training requests. Remember, this is a 1-time training that doesn't have to wait until a way-too-close snake encounter! Lastly, vets have cared for snake-bite every single month of the year in Arizona. The rattlesnakes do not truly hibernate in Arizona and therefore there is a year-round threat in the valley. Keep in mind we also travel with portable heat for our snakes in the cooler months - they behave just the same during training whether it's February or August.

16) I am camping in the mountains where other types of rattlesnakes are, will the training still work there?

Though dogs seem to know the difference between other non-venomous snakes and rattlesnakes, most group all rattlesnake species together under this training. Thank goodness, otherwise I'd have to use several different species in Arizona for each training! This is all likely due to the fact that rattlesnakes sound alike, and there is likely common overlap between the different species' smells too. For example, a diamondback might have smells "X, Y, and Z" where as a mojave rattlesnake might have smells "X, Y, and P". They aren't identical and this is how rattlesnakes can locate mates of their own species, but there is some overlap due to the biological relatedness. We do keep a wide variety of snakes and if you are concerned and want to eliminate any guess work, we have no problem using one of our prairie, speckled, mohave, or blacktail rattlesnakes or their sheds. 

17) How accurate is the snake skin smell step of the training?

While I don't have a solid scientific study to present to you on how alike a live snake and its shed skin smell, I have much reason to believe these are a useful tool for training if used properly. Here are my thoughts: No, a shed skin in nature probably does not smell anything like a live rattlesnake because of quick decay. So why do we use them?  We have a large collection of rattlesnakes and therefore have  constant access to *freshly* shed skins. These skins are collected, vacuum-sealed, and placed in a freezer to stop decay. As needed, we regularly rotate through fresh shed skins during our training. On top of this, while traveling to appointments, the skin itself is in the transportation bucket with one of the live rattlesnakes. This means that the living snake (most accurate source of smell) is in constant, close proximity to the skin and/or crawling on the skin itself which maintains traces of accurate odor. Lastly, as the skin dries out, we gently moisten it with distilled water to enhance the odor for training purposes (the snake musk odor is reactivated by water). All of this being said, we can with much confidence assume that there is at least some detectable live rattlesnake scent coming from our skins used in the training. Keep in mind that the skin was both physiologically made by and once a part of the live snake - which is a better vehicle for the scent than something like a towel, which has other odors of its own.

18) My dog sniffed a dead rattlesnake - did the training not work?

A rattlesnake squished on the side of the road baking in the Arizona sun smells nothing like a live rattlesnake, and everything like a yummy treat. So no, your dog did not necessarily forget the training. Even if there was a hint of live snake smell there, your dog was likely instinctively attracted to the smell of death (i.e. free food) and knew the snake wasn't alive. Even a freshly killed snake odor differs from a live snake because internal fluids and gases with their own smells are being mixed into the air that aren't normally present. Remember, dogs can detect an amazingly small source of odor. They can not only tell if an animal is nearby (when paying attention anyway) but more than often they can detect if it is male or female, diseased or healthy, wounded or dead, etc. This is what makes the wild relatives of dogs such fantastic hunters, and how they can single out that one injured, weak prey item from an entire herd of potential prey. Lastly, a dead rattlesnake will do zero rattling. The sound part of the training is often the most memorable, not the smell. If the dog for a split second forgot and approached a live snake - more than often the rattle kicks off the training memory and is what sends them sprinting the other way. Yes, rattlesnakes don't always rattle when threatened, but they normally rattle before striking.

19) What is your opinion on the rattlesnake vaccine?

Despite a lot of controversy over the effectiveness of these,  I say get it - but do your research and talk to your vet. Understand that in no way does this vaccine make your dog completely immune to a rattlesnake bite. With or without it, it's going to be a painful, expensive event for your dog. Don't let the shot give you a false sense of security! They are designed to "boost" their immune system and buy you more time should a bite occur. For those reasons and because I have heard enough vets swear by them, combined with the fact they aren't that expensive nor complicated, I am all for them. Obviously, I would put priority on the training - since it should prevent the problem in the first place. Get the vaccine as an added back up plan, especially if your dog is ever in an area with rattlesnakes that is very, very far from a veterinary hospital.

20) What is the rattlesnake season?

In California and Arizona, there is no real rattlesnake season. Generally speaking, snakes become active in early spring and then begin to brumate in late fall. This is typically March-October. However, a rattlesnake could be found on a sunny day in the middle of January if the weather is right, and therefore there is no guarantee you won't see one November-February. This is especially true in Arizona's sonoran desert regions. Snakes can warm up easily and quickly in the sun, even if the weather is 66 degrees (which is the Phoenix average high in December). Vets have treated dogs for snake bite every single month of the year in Arizona.

21) Are smaller rattlesnakes the most dangerous?

I don't know where this started, but it has not been proven to be true at all. It has been said that baby rattlesnakes can't control their venom and are therefore the most dangerous. The reality is, baby rattlesnakes are tiny and terrified. Any threat is probably going to get their full dose of venom, and with their smaller size they are harder to spot. However, the venom glands of a baby snake are only a fraction of the size of an adult snake. So in reality if a mature, adult rattlesnake was to be threatened enough to inject all of their venom, it would do A LOT more damage than any baby rattlesnake could possibly do. Either way, both babies and adults are extremely dangerous animals. Avoid both just the same!

22) What do I do if I get bit by a rattlesnake?

Get to a hospital, YESTERDAY! The best and only thing you can really do is get to a hospital as soon as possible and let the emergency doctors handle the situation. I am frequently asked this question and am expected to give some sort of secret tip - but there's just nothing else you can do. Time is tissue!

23) Do rattlesnakes attack humans?

Nope, and if your friend told you a story about being chased down by a rattlesnake, they are completely deceived or lying. Rattlesnakes are very shy animals that want to be left alone. They rattle out of fear and defense, not aggression. They will never go out of their way to attack. If you step on one, intentionally mess with it, etc - they have no choice but to strike. If a rattlesnake is ever headed your way, it's probably going to its hiding place right behind you, following the trail of a mate, or wants to coil up under your shade. All this to say, one big step away from it and you're both completely out of harms way.