Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rattlesnake Avoidance Training

A rattlesnake is brought to Benny's attention

Rattler on Halo Trail
Avoiding rattlesnakes during outdoor activities can be challenging. Last fall, I came very close to a rattler on Halo Trail—a single-track hiking and mountain biking trail in the Peavine foothills northwest of Reno. The snake warned me just in time by rattling vigorously.

Humans have evolved to react with a stress response when encountering a snake. Humans, even the curious kind, typically avert snakes. What about dogs?  Do they have an innate fear of snakes? It looks like their is no definitive answer to this question. Dogs that have made a bad experience with an aggressive snake—venomous or not—usually avoid snakes. Otherwise, a dog encountering a rattlesnake may get curious or even in a playful mood resulting in an unpleasant or deadly consequence. Therefore, many dog owners in rattlesnake countries take their dog(s) to a rattlesnake avoidance training or rattlesnake aversion training.

The typical training is a five to ten minute rattlesnake parkour. The dog is guided to places with rattlesnake smell and also to a site with a relatively calm, yet rattling snake. That snake should have gone through veterinary work before put on site where it is handled by a trained person. Although highly unexpected, an actual bite caused by a worked-on snake would be a dry bite.

Benny almost ready for the rattlesnake parkour
I joined a friend to watch her dog, named Benny, making the round near Minden, Nevada. At start, Benny got a remote training collar. The trainer watched Benny's behavior at each station and provided a perfectly-timed low-level stimulation that Benny was supposed to associate with the snake. The idea is that a dog, when detecting a sight, sound or smell of a rattlesnake, memorizes the unpleasant stimulation, creates a reflex and quickly moves away. It worked for Benny. At training's end, we were told to call Benny, with the rattlesnake halfway between us and the dog. Instead of running directly toward us across and over the snake, Benny took a respectful half-circle with a radius of at least five dog-lengths around the snake. Good dog! And a great Thank you! to the good and friendly experts who performed the training.

Benny coming close to where he should smell a rattlesnake

Saturday, May 5, 2018

UNR congratulates German graduates: Herzlichen Glückwunsch Absolventen!

Herzlichen Glückwunsch Absolventen! Congratulations, graduates - German
Mai 2018 - May 2018

The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) congratulates its foreign graduates. At the fountain next to Morrill Hall, I came across this posted banner that congratulates the graduates from German-speaking countries. The German word for graduate is Absolvent. Herzlichen Glückwunsch translates as congratulations. Accounting for the adjective herzlich associated with the noun Glückwunsch, the literal translation is hearty congratulation or cordial congratulation—considered to be too formal these days. So, the plural form congratulations is just fine.