JEROME, Idaho (KLIX) – A number of Magic Valley dogs will get to know rattlesnakes up close and personal this weekend in Jerome.

Don’t worry – dogs who participate in the rattlesnake clinic will not be put in harm’s way. What will happen, however, is that dogs will come away knowing what a rattlesnake is and why they should avoid them.

“It’s a rattlesnake avoidance clinic for dogs,” said Randall Rector, president of the High Desert Pointing Dog Club, which is hosting Get Rattled, a group from Nevada that teaches dogs to avoid rattlesnakes. The event is scheduled from 8 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Saturday at the Jerome County Fairgrounds.

“We have a lot of rattlesnakes in the area,” he said. “Anyone who trail rides, camps, rides horses or hunts, even fishermen, they often bring their dogs with them. Any place that has water and desert can have rattlesnakes.”

A dog’s natural curiosity puts them at risk of being bitten by a viper if they don’t know the dangers.

The event on Saturday will teach dogs about those dangers. The clinic will put each dog through a series of steps so they become familiar with the rattlesnake, including their appearance, sound and odor.

Rector said dogs go through the course one at a time, but it takes just a few minutes for them to complete. Once they’ve completed the course, dogs will know what a rattlesnake looks like, sounds like and smells like. Just to be sure, each dog is put to a test.

The test involves the handler at one end of a circle, the dog at another end, and a live rattlesnake in the middle. Dogs know by the end of the course to approach the handler by walking far outside the snake’s danger zone, whereas before they likely would have gone straight through the circle and in biting distance of the snake.

Rector, who said this is the second year the club has hosted the clinic, said he hasn’t seen a dog yet that has failed the test. To be on the safe side, the live snakes used in the clinic have had their venom glands removed. No dogs are at risk, he said.

The clinic is not free – it costs $95 per dog – but Rector said the benefit for pet owners, besides keeping their pooch safe when outdoors, is that their dog will know when rattlesnakes are near because they’ve learned what their odor is and will often alert their owners to a snake long before it is heard or seen.

Rector said dogs and their owners can show up at the clinic between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the fairgrounds, or they – the owners, not the dogs – can call ahead of time with questions or to register; 208-280-5425.

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