Five Ways to Keep Your Dog Safe from Snakes

Written by: Johnathan David, Everything Reptiles

Copperheads are camouflaged, which makes it easy to stumble on them accidentally.
Photo by Edward J. Wozniak D.V.M., Ph.D. (public domain)

As it starts to get warmer out, many of your local fauna wake up from their winter slumber, and snakes are no exception. While many people are afraid of snakes, it’s important to remember that these creatures are essential to the ecosystem, as they help control the number of mice, rats, insects, and lizards. 

As dog owners, we need to stay vigilant to keep our pets safe from encounters with these legless creatures. Serious injuries can occur from any snake bite, and an attack by a venomous species can kill a dog. Here are some ways to ensure that you and your best friend can peacefully coexist with your local reptiles.

1. Know Your Local Snakes 

It is extremely important to know if you have venomous snakes around your neighborhood and what they look like. Some bites from a venomous snake can cause a number of life threatening symptoms such as numbness, swelling, or seizures that need immediate medical attention. Even snakes, such as the Northern water snake, that prefer watery habitats sometimes venture away from the river if there has been a lot of rainfall in the area. Learn the seasonality of these animals so you know when to keep a lookout in the backyard or during a walk.

2. Carry a Walking Stick

Everything Reptiles recommends that when you are out on a walk in snake country with your canine companion, it pays to carry a walking stick of some kind. It does not have to be anything fancy or high quality; a simple wooden dowel rod will do the trick. If you do encounter a snake on the path or road, you can use the stick to create a barrier between the snake and your dog, guiding your best friend away from the potential danger. Or you can use the stick as a distraction on the snake if it is coiled up in a striking position, as snakes will typically strike at what is closest to them. 

3. Stay Out of Tall Grass

Snakes only strike when they feel threatened, and one of the more common reasons people and dogs get bitten by snakes is that we simply did not see them in time to back off. Snakes have evolved camouflage to blend in with their environment, such as how a copperhead mimics the colors of fallen leaves. Not only do snakes use the ground foliage as cover when hunting for food, but it is a safe, cool space for them to avoid getting eaten themselves by any large birds or other snakes. (Another danger of tall grass, of course, is ticks.)

4. Keep Your Dog Leashed In New Areas 

Simply leashing your canine companion gives you control to keep the dog away from a snake that is coiled on the road or out of the dead-leaf piles. While some dogs are afraid of engaging with a snake, you never know if you have the dog that is willing to go head-to-head with the reptile. 

5. Trim Your Lawn 

Maintaining a well manicured lawn is a good defense against snakes, especially if your canine spends a lot of time in the backyard. Cutting the grass, weed whacking the edges, and making sure unruly patches are trimmed takes away feeding and hiding spots for a snake’s prey, such as mice and lizards. Snakes will stay where they can easily hunt, so if your lawn is an oasis to smaller prey animals, it is a buffet for the predator. Also, since there is a lack of hiding spots, the snake will not risk putting itself out in the open in fear of being picked up by birds and other larger predators.

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