Summer fun: snakes and ticks


Meet Brian

Back East, ticks give me the heebie-jeebies. They and the linked prospect of getting Lyme Disease, represent one of the biggest impediments to carefree outings. Here in Colorado during the summer months, it’s rattlesnakes. The possibility of harm and crisis – for horses, humans, and dogs – is enough to motivate several preventative strategies.

There’s not a lot we can do for horses aside from education, preparation, and engage our ability to keep calm and keep the horse calm. Check out these helpful articles:

UC Davis report on rattlesnake issues

Wyoming newspaper column on rattlesnakes and horses

Horse blogger’s tips for rattlesnake encounters

Since many of us have dogs, here are some canine-related thoughts. Like Frontline or other tick deterrents, the rattlesnake vaccine is something dogs can get and something dog owners can hope will help. With it, my 30-pound sprite, Peeko, might survive long enough to get to the vet and it may also help significantly reduce the vet bill.

JJ Belcher works with Kip

JJ Belcher works with Kip

Another preventative measure is a rattlesnake avoidance class, something my dogs unwittingly enrolled in last weekend. It involves a shock collar, a big-ass rattlesnake (who goes by the name Brian, is 12 years old, at least five feet long, thick as a Campbell’s soup can, and has had his venom glands surgically removed), and an experienced canine trainer from Arizona. Watch video. Read more about JJ Belcher and Sublime Canine here.

Individually, the trainer led Kip, Peeko, and Belle to the snake. When they got curious, they were hit with a jolt from the collar. Later, Belcher returned with each dog to visit Brian. My dogs had caught on quickly; as soon as they spied the snake, they went in the other direction. When I led each dog to a bag full of snake sheds, they also steered clear. Lesson of the Day: Stay away from something that looks or smells or moves like Brian. I’m pretty confident that the education will stick and that they won’t simply associate Belcher and the collar with a bad deal. We have all now seen a rattler and know theoretically to steer clear. Some dogs made bigger generalizations: I watched one goofy golden walk away from the training and then spook at a three-foot stick. Well…he had the right idea.


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  1. JJ Belcher with Sublime Canine from Tucson, Arizona is the Doctor Doolittle of dog training! Best dog trainer – EVER!

  2. JJ was trainer for our dog Sprocket, along with putting her through the rattlesnake avoidance. His connections with dogs are incredible, he’s so calm and positive. In the six weeks we were in classes I never saw him get rattled or even come remotely close to raising his voice. He just “gets” dogs and they seem to “get” him.

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