Snake Dogs: Best Breeds of Dogs That Kill Snakes
Jack Russell Terriers Make Good Snake Dogs
Dogs vs. Snakes
The buzz of a rattlesnake’s rattles is not hard to mistake. Anyone who has ever encountered this dangerous reptile never forgets the sound. It is a warning to all species to stay away, but it doesn’t always work. Ally, the little Jack Russell terrier, had found a huge canebrake rattlesnake by the swimming pool.
Her bark, different when a rattler is encountered, alerted me to her discovery. She circled the snake until it had to adjust its body to face the dog. Finally, Ally saw her opening, darted in and grabbed the snake, and immediately began shaking it violently before throwing it to the ground. She did this until the big rattler was finished. She looked at me as if to say, "How dare that snake move into my territory". Indeed!
Catching a Canebrake Rattler
Dogs and Their Instincts
Ally has learned how to safely dispatch these creatures without getting bitten so far. She seems to know the difference between rattlers and other harmless snakes as evidenced by her bark. She seems to hate these invasive timber rattlers, by mere instinct.
The number she has killed is unknown as she freely roams hundreds of acres of woodland harboring many of these creatures. Ally is a snake dog, Besides being a valuable and much loved member of our family. We worry about her safety, but she has a mind of her own when it comes to her inborn instinct to kill snakes.
What Makes a Good Snake Dog?
There is no breed of dog called a “snake dog” of course, but there are breeds better at this ancient ritual than others. Almost all dog breeds have individual members which are good at killing snakes.
But being able to kill a venomous snake without being struck is the difference in being a successful snake dog, and one which may or may not make it to the vet. In some sections of the country this is not important because of the scarcity of dangerous snakes, but this is not the case in southern Georgia and northern Florida.
The countryside consists of woodland and agricultural crops which mice and other small animals feed upon giving snakes a virtual smorgasbord of food nearby. Farmers, migrant workers, construction crews, and of course, homeowners encounter rattlesnakes on a regular basis.
While many of these snakes are not dangerous and help keep the rodent population in check, there are also several species of rattlesnakes to contend with. They will be found in any open accessible area in which a possibility of food exists. Lawns, gardens, flower beds, and even inside buildings.
This is one reason for having a dog on your premises. Of course there are dogs who won’t give a snakes a second look, if they see them at all. There are some dogs which may try to kill a snake but are not fast enough to avoid being struck by the lightening fast rattler. Other dogs may attempt to play with the snake not knowing of the danger involved.
Speed and Quickness Are Essential
A dog’s technique for killing snakes seems to be hereditary. The instinct to violently shake a snake repeatedly disrupts the nervous system of the snake by injuring the delicate spine running the length of the snake. This prevents the snake from striking in the direction of the dog. The danger to the dog comes while trying to seize the snake. A good snake dog will wait for the right opportunity before attempting to kill the snake.
Jack Russell terriers are very good as snake killers. Their speed and intelligence allows them to avoid getting bitten until a chance to grab the snake presents itself. But even these dogs get bitten occasionally. Fortunately, there are vaccines available for dogs that live in rattlesnake infested areas. Although this vaccine was developed for the western diamondback rattlesnake, this vaccine may help if your dog is bitten by other rattlesnake species. Not enough is known about this vaccine yet to tell how effective it is in preventing death or serious injury to dogs.
How does one find a “snake dog”? This has to be by word of mouth in most cases. In most rural areas a good snake killing dog is well known to the locals. Obtaining a puppy from known snake killing parents is the best way to assure the dog can dispatch a snake. Even then some will not be good at this task. It’s hard to teach instinct and caution to a dog if they are the impetuous type. This is another reason to obtain the vaccine for your dog. Some dogs develop an immunity to rattlesnake bite by getting struck several times and surviving the resulting injury. Some never have a second chance.
Most people do not have to worry about having venomous snakes invade their property so no dogs are needed to protect their children while at play. But this is a country of different landscapes and terrain in which many choose to live. Having a dog to guard against possible injury or death to your family may make a huge difference in the amount of safety you experience in your area.
One of Ally's Victims
Beware!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Typical Rattlesnake Behavior When Cornered
As you can see from the photos on the right, a rattler will normally try to simply escape from the threat without being aggressive at all. But when it decides there is no other choice but to defend itself, it will quickly coil up in preparation for a fight.
While in the coiled stage it can quickly guard in any direction by easily swiveling its body. The canebrake in these photos can move easier in a counter-clockwise direct because it is coiled in this manner.
A smart—or very instinctive—dog will take advantage of this fact and circle in a clockwise manner for the eventual attack after making the snake commit itself to it's easiest direction of movement. However, the snake may coil in either direction, depending on its preference at the time of attack.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.