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

You might be surprised to learn the impact of your pup's sense of smell. On Point

How Important Is a Gun Dog's Nose?

Dave Carty

You might be surprised to learn the impact of your pup's sense of smell.

Understand this great responsibility and pick the right pup. Gun Dog

Can Rescue Dogs Become Good Hunters?

Patricia Stockdill

Understand this great responsibility and pick the right pup.

Buy this 686, and it may be the last upland gun you ever need. Shotguns & Ammo

Beretta's Forever Over/Under: The 686 Silver Pigeon I

Nick Sisley - May 01, 2019

Buy this 686, and it may be the last upland gun you ever need.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 6

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 6

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 6

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 8

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Kyle Wintersteen does a dog breed comparison on Chessies and Labs. See how these two breeds stack up. Profiles

Dog Breed Comparison: Chessies vs. Labs

Kyle Wintersteen

Kyle Wintersteen does a dog breed comparison on Chessies and Labs. See how these two breeds...

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove impossible to cure. Puppies

Introduce Your Pup To Gunfire The Right Way

Gun Dog Online Staff

A gun-shy dog is created, not born, and once the damage is done, gun-shyness can prove...

          A step-by-step analysis on what to expect from your dog     By Bob West    The author Puppies

Your Pup's First Year

Bob West - September 23, 2010

A step-by-step analysis on what to expect from your dog By Bob West The...

See More Stories

More Training

Deal with this annoying problem by practicing these 3 steps. Training

How To Stop Your Gun Dog's Barking

Dave Carty

Deal with this annoying problem by practicing these 3 steps.

Save yourself from screaming and train your dog with the tone button. Training

Using the Tone Button to Recall Your Gun Dog

Dave Carty

Save yourself from screaming and train your dog with the tone button.

Training

Teaching Your Gun Dog the Kennel Up Command

Tom Dokken

"Kennel up" is a must-know command. Here's why and how.

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.