Sunday, October 6, 2013

Snake Avoidance Training

We took Rhythm to a Snake Avoidance Clinic last Sunday in Alachua, FL, just 20 miles north of Gainesville. It was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Vizsla Club and Dr. Bud Calderwood DMD was the trainer.

Snake avoidance training teaches the dog to fear and avoid poisonous snakes. They used a real live rattlesnake and cotton mouth, the two most common poisonous snakes in our area. Different snakes have different smells so that's why they use the two kinds and not just one. They are de-fanged and their mouths are taped shut for extra safety.

Rattle Snake

Cotton Mouth

It is very common for hunting dogs to be "snake proofed" as they call it because they are out in the woods so much but it is a good idea for any dog that lives in an area like North Florida that has a lot of snakes. We've had four dogs get bitten by cotton mouths over the years at the farm, only one survived after $1000 in vet bills. So, it was very important that Rhythm do this.

Rhythm checking out the rattler

Rhythm learning to jump back, that thing means OUCH!

They use shock collars set very high, but Dr. Calderwood is in control and knows just how to do it so the dog only gets shocked twice.

Rhythm checking out the Cotton Mouth

OUCH again

The handler or owner puts the dog on a very long line and lets the dog roam on their own and discover the snake in the grass. The "snake handlers" stand by with brooms in case the snake tries to make an escape. Dr. Calderwood is standing a little ways off on the other side of the dog and handler and when the dog goes up to the snake to check it out they get hit with a hard shock. 

Some dogs just jump and run, usually back to their person where they get lots of praise and love. Some of the dogs were very dramatic though, flipping over and screaming. It was upsetting to watch but I know it could save their life. 

After the first shock the dog is encouraged to go back up to the snake to see if it made the connection. None of them would. After the rattle snake, they are taken over to the second snake, the cotton mouth. Many were wary already scared of the cottonmouth, some were still a little curious and they got shocked a second time.

Some of the people had done this before, some with new dogs and some with dogs being re-checked. There were a few first timers like us too.

A few folks said the dogs they had snake proofed before where afraid of anything that had a snake look, like the water hose or a stick. Rhythm has not been jumpy at all though and even pounced on a toy snake that my nephew was playing with the very next day, so I'm hoping she associated the smell more than the look.  We plan to have her re-checked in the spring.

Gainesville, FL

We drove down to Gainesville, FL last weekend, just over two hours from Tallahassee. I have been through or by many times on I-75 but never really stopped in. We were limited as to what we could do because we had Rhythm with us. There are several State Parks and Springs in the area, some were dog friendly, some not.

We decided to check out Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park because I had read that wild bison and horses live there. The Preserve encompasses over 22,000 acres of recreational opportunities to enjoy this time of year, such as cycling, walking, equestrian trails, camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing, and boat ramp access to Lake Wauberg. Here is the website if you want more info

 We walked to the 50 foot observation tower just past the visitors center that over looks the prairie, didn't see any bison or horses though.

View of the prairie

We then hiked the Jackson's Gap Trail, a little over 2 miles down and back. Saw some deer tracks and lots of mosquitoes. 

Got her water bottles in her back pack and she is ready to go

Found a stick she liked on the trail. Carried it with her for quite a ways.

Leading the way

End of the trail

Done with the humidity and bugs we went on a search for something else dog friendly to do in Gainesville. Thanks to my smart phone and Google I found Dogwood Dog Park not too far away

15 fenced in acres of pure doggie fun, two little ponds that they claim are "critter free" and a giant sand pile. We knew Rhythm liked water but she had never had a chance to run and swim off leash. I don't think I have ever seen her have so much fun.

And she's off

Look at that smile

There she goes again

She made some friends

She was one tired pup by the end of the day

We stayed at the La Quinta Inn which I just found out are all pet friendly. No size or breed restrictions and no pet deposit. They even provide baggies and trash cans in their outside potty area. It was a very comfortable and clean room for only $70 bucks. Good to know when traveling with your dog.