Charly Gets Snake Trained!

by Niki on August 21, 2011

AKA “Risk Management 101″

One of the best ways to avoid a disaster in life is to be prepared for it.  At least for those disasters which can be predicted.  This means you need to (1) take stock of what would be considered a disaster in your life and (2) be willing to make changes in your life to manage the risk.  This is just basic Risk Management 101: identify the risks, assess the probability of the risk, and take steps to mitigate the risk.  There, I’ve just summarized an entire project management course in one short paragraph.  Now I’ll share with you an example of this from my own life.

Here are the facts: I live in the desert of Arizona. We have snakes here; sometimes there are lots of snakes. I’ve been running and walking a lot with Charly, sometimes with him off the leash. Which means that one risk we face is having him come across a snake and being curious about it.  When dogs here get bit by snakes they tend to get a lot of venom in their face, because they stick their face towards the interesting snake.  This is not good. Anti-venom is very expensive and needs to be administered quickly in order to save a dog.  Some dogs survive and some don’t.

The risk:  Charly getting bit by a rattlesnake

The probability:  moderate; and higher now where we live in our new house

The risk mitigation:  train Charly to avoid snakes

Luckily, there are several trainers here in Tucson that do snake training for dogs.  This morning I took Charly up to Oro Valley and met one of the trainers in a public park for his training.  It only took about 45 minutes, and cost $75. The price includes unlimited re-testing for the life of the dog.  The snakes that were used had all been de-fanged.  The gist of the training is that you want your dog to learn to avoid snakes based on either sight, or sound, or smell.  Although I have lived here 11 years, I have never actually seen a rattlesnake so I was surprised at how loud the rattles were.  They were pretty darn loud.

The training requires the use of an electric shock collar, and when the dog makes movements towards the snake, they get shocked.  They learn quickly that curiosity about the snake is not good.  It helps if this training happens when it’s windy, since the wind carries the smell of the snake to the dog. Fun fact of the day: dogs smell better in the winter when it’s cooler; their sense of smell is not as strong in the summer heat.

The dog is effectively snake trained when he consistently avoids a snake because he either sees it, or hears it, or simply smells it.  I’m posting 3 videos here from Charly’s snake training today.

1.  This first video is when Charly first comes in contact with the rattlesnake.  The snake is coiled up in the middle of the video in the shade.  Charly circles it, then gets curious, I get really nervous, then Charly gets trained at the very end.

2.  This second video is when Charly has learned to avoid the snake, and he proves to us that he will not go anywhere near the snake.  He was a pretty fast learner.

3.  In this third video, we are testing for his sense of smell.  The snake is wrapped up in the blue bag so he can’t see the snake, and we lead Charly up to the blue bag to see how he reacts.  Again, he proves to us he’s well trained now since he won’t go near the blue bag.

If you listen to the audio you can hear when I get nervous and you can hear how loud the rattles really are.

Yes I realize people who don’t live in the desert don’t really need to worry about dogs getting bit by rattlesnakes.  But wherever you live, whoever you are, I’m sure there are some risks inherent in your lifestyle.  The question is – what are your personal risks and what are you doing to manage those risks?

If you’re living consciously, you’ll know which risks present the greatest threat to your happiness and peace of mind.

Peace of mind is worth a lot to me these days, which is why I went to the trouble of doing this snake training.  What will  you do this week to increase your peace of mind?

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