At $100 a lesson, Tom Minga isn’t cheap, but what he teaches is priceless.
“I train dogs to stay away from rattlesnakes. That's what I do,” Minga told NBC 7. Minga, who runs Snake Solutions in Alpine, has trained more than 1,000 dogs to avoid getting bit by using rattlesnakes he catches in the wild.
As the weather gets warmer, rattlesnake encounters become more likely. That’s why dog owner Kathryn Rand decided to call in a professional.
“I don’t want her to get hurt,” Rand said of her dog Ruby. “We have a lot of rattlesnakes around here and I just want her to react before she gets hurt.” Rand lives in Alpine as well, a place where a dog had to be rushed to the emergency room just last month after being bitten by a rattlesnake.
The rattlesnakes Minga uses all have their mouths taped shut to make sure no one gets hurt, but to convey that the snakes are dangerous he applies a training collar that delivers a jolt if a pet gets too close.
“I'd rather have a little bit of discomfort up front and have her trained and aware rather than get bit and have thousands of dollars be spent and maybe they still die,” Rand said.
During her training session, Ruby seemed instinctively wary of the snake, something that Minga said is built into about two percent of dogs. However, her more trusting friend Oliver needed a bit of a jolt to instill the danger in the situation.
In the spring of 2017, the San Diego County Department of Animal Services reported a near-record uptick in rattlesnake sightings.
Animal Services officials say the best thing wary homeowners can do is to make sure their property is clear of mice and rats, which of course attract hungry snakes.