Should You Snake Break Your Gun Dog?

Should You Snake Break Your Gun Dog?
Photo Credit: Fotollia

It's painful, but so is the alternative.

Half of the U.S., if not more, is home to poisonous snakes, typically rattlesnakes. If you’re hunting in rattlesnake country, your dog is in danger of being bitten.

Many rattlesnake bites aren’t fatal, but a significant number are, and in either case, a snake-bit dog will almost certainly undergo considerable pain and extremely expensive veterinary bills. It makes sense, then, to have your dog avoid these creatures like the plague. Most hunting dogs are naturally curious, and by the time they’ve crept close to a rattler, run the risk of being bitten.

Snake breaking is safe and almost always effective. But there are drawbacks.

Trainers who specialize in snake breaking use a variety of methods to result in a snake-proofed dog, but all that I know of expose the dog to a live, defanged snake and then correct the dog with an e-collar (often more than once).


If it’s your dog getting conditioned, it’s probably a good idea to let a trusted friend handle it, because it can be a tough experience.


Still, every dog I’ve seen bounces back quickly, with no long-term detriments. Many are wagging their tails within a few minutes. And from that point on, with only a few exceptions, your dog should avoid rattlesnakes for life.


Does it always work? No. There are a small number of dogs who don’t get the message the first time around and need a refresher course. I actually owned a dog like that, which ultimately pointed a rattler and was subsequently bitten. But the bite turned out to be dry (or the snake missed), and the dog was none the worse for wear. And although dogs that have been put through a snake-breaking clinic almost always avoid snakes that they smell, it’s always possible for a dog to stumble into a snake downwind that it isn’t aware of.

Still, the odds of a snake-broke dog avoiding snakes once and for all are quite good. If you live in snake country, you owe it to your dog to give a snake-breaking clinic serious consideration.

Recommended for You

The cocker spaniel is reclaiming its heritage as a capable performer afield. Profiles

Comeback of the Cocker Spaniel

M.J. Nelson

The cocker spaniel is reclaiming its heritage as a capable performer afield.

These 8 products are the best of the best for getting your pup into hunting shape. Training

Best Gun Dog Training Tools of 2019

Tyler Shoberg - July 03, 2019

These 8 products are the best of the best for getting your pup into hunting shape.

John Reynolds thought the death of his Springer spaniel Penni was a rare accident, a stroke of bad News

Read & React: Dog Owners Voice Concerns Over Minnesota Trapping Regulations

David Hart - January 21, 2014

John Reynolds thought the death of his Springer spaniel Penni was a rare accident, a stroke of...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 12

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 12

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 12

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 2

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 2

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 2

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Gun Dog Editors Pick Their Favorite Travel Crates and Kennels for 2017
Today's gun dogs ride in Accessories

11 Perfect Dog Crates and Kennels

Tony J. Peterson - October 09, 2017

Gun Dog Editors Pick Their Favorite Travel Crates and Kennels for 2017 Today's gun dogs ride...

Whether you're building or buying a new dog kennel, following these simple guidelines will ensure a safe and comfy home for your favorite hunting buddy. How-To

How To Build the Perfect Dog Kennel

Jerry Thoms

Whether you're building or buying a new dog kennel, following these simple guidelines will...

Training a hunting puppy is no easy task. Training

First Year Tips for Training a Hunting Puppy

Bob West

Training a hunting puppy is no easy task.

See More Stories

More Training

These are the first steps to take when you bring your puppy home. Training

Bella...Be Good: Episode 1

Jeremy Moore

These are the first steps to take when you bring your puppy home.

Take advantage of these several little drills each day to keep the bad habits away. Training

Overlooked Training Opportunities for Retrievers

Tom Dokken

Take advantage of these several little drills each day to keep the bad habits away.

No dog owner sets out to train a dog with high hopes of a mediocre companion. Learn how to make the right choice in a trainer for your pup. Training

Choosing A Trainer For Your Gun Dog

Jerry Cacchio

No dog owner sets out to train a dog with high hopes of a mediocre companion. Learn how to...

See More Training

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×