understanding dog pack behavior

Some useful tips about dog packs

Recently I attended a seminar hosted by Training By Tara, an Austin-based dog behaviorist. I picked up some valuable tips on working with dogs and, in particular, understanding how dogs think and behave when in a pack. A pack, of course, can be even an informal or temporary gathering of dogs, such as three or four dogs roaming a neighborhood. Here are the tips:

  • If a single, off-leash dog charges toward you, don’t stare directly at the dog. Look slightly away.
  • As the dog is approaching, point and yell “Out!” or “No!” Don’t run or retreat until they leave.
  • Dogs have a different mentality when in a pack. While you would yell to discourage a single aggressive dog, do not yell if there is a pack.
  • If you see a pack of dogs in the distance, quickly scan the ground for a stick to pick up, and move to an area where you can have your back against a wall. If there isn’t a wall nearby, put your back against a mailbox or a tree. The reason: Pack dogs attack from behind. Also, know that typically the “quite one” in the back of the pack will be the one most likely to circle around for a sneak attack.


Rattlesnake vaccine for dogs

Should you consider the rattlesnake vaccine for dogs?

Rattlesnake vaccine for dogsI’ve lived in Austin more than 11 years and while I have yet to see a rattlesnake, I have heard plenty of horror stories about dogs being bitten and the ensuing expense of treatment, which can cost upwards of $2000. The rattlesnake vaccine for dogs, however, is only about $25 per shot.

The booster shots are critical

After the initial rattlesnake vaccine, your dog needs a booster in 30 days and then a booster every six months. The continuity of the boosters is critical to the vaccine being effective. The vaccine was developed based on the observation that animals who survived rattlesnake bites were known to develop immunity to the venom.

It doesn’t work for all types of venomous snakes

The vaccine was developed to protect against the venom from the western diamondback rattlesnake, but it offers only limited protection from the venom of other venomous snakes, such as the copperhead. And the vaccine offers no protection against the venom from a cottonmouth.

This is not anti-venom

It is important to note that the rattlesnake vaccine for dogs is not anti-venom and it’s absolutely useless in the treatment of a rattlesnake bite. Rather, this is a vaccine that helps to minimize the effects of a rattlesnake bite and allow you more time to get medical attention. Essentially, you are increasing the chances that your dog will survive a rattlesnake bite and have less tissue and organ damage.

Explore snake-avoidance training

Consider some of the training classes that teach your dog how to avoid snakes. Dogadillo in the Hill Country Galleria (in Bee Cave, Texas) has hosted a few snake avoidance classes. In the class, your dog is taught to avoid a live snake (which has had its venom sack removed).

Is the rattlesnake vaccine for dogs right for you?

We take our dogs on long hikes on a nearby greenbelt, much of which is wilderness area. Our dogs are large, and if they were bitten, it would be a long and difficult hike back to the car, and then even further to the vet. All that means that we are a good candidate for choosing the vaccines. Our dogs might not ever encounter a venomous snake, but the vaccine is good to have, just in case.