The weekend right before we went to San Francisco, Hoku attended a rattlesnake aversion class up in Ramona. We had signed him up right after we saw a rattlesnake on the Los Penasquitos hike, which still gives me goosebumps to this day just thinking about it. And since we love hiking with him, we figured it would give us more peace of mind if Hoku learned to use his sharp doggy senses to avoid them too.
First, an e-collar was put on Hoku, which made him look pretty funny because of all his neck fuzz. The trainer told us that it was on a low vibration setting and would be adjusted according to how Hoku responded to it. He was then put on a long leash and led onto the grounds where the muzzled rattlesnakes were. The training had three parts, each focused on teaching the pups to recognize snakes by sight, smell, and sound. If he got too close to a snake, the e-collar would buzz to simulate a snake bite. The first buzz caught Hoku off-guard and he let out a loud yelp and leapt away from the snake about 3 feet. Thankfully he was a fast learner and that was all he really needed, because he stayed as far away from the snakes as the leash possibly allowed after that.
In the final test, a rattlesnake was placed between us and Hoku to see how he would return to us with a snake in the way. He avoided the snake but also froze in place and refused to budge, even as we called him to us. The trainer told us that in this case, we shouldn’t keep calling him, but rather find a safe way to get to him instead.
Overall, the training took only about 10 minutes. We’ll still be sure to be on alert on hikes, but we can breathe a little easier now that Hoku has some rattlesnake awareness himself.