Stephenville resident Cipriano Rivera has created a program that teaches dogs how to avoid snakes.

Rivera uses defanged rattlesnakes, copperheads and e-collars that produce a shock when a dog gets close to one of the snakes.

“I walk the dog by the snake and when the dog gets up to the snake, they get a shock. They associate the sight, sound and the smell to a negative response which is the shock and they don’t want that again,” Rivera said. “After they’ve received the shock, they go back and in almost every case, they have put themselves between the snake and their owner, or they will sit down on their haunches.”

Rivera said with rattlesnakes, dogs will avoid them based on sight, sound and smell but with copperheads, it’s based on sight and smell only.

“A dog’s sense of smell is a thousand times greater than our sense of smell and whenever I do it, I watch the direction of the wind, and [dogs] will, especially once they get downwind of the snake, they go around [the snake],” he said.

Although some people have been skeptical of the short amount of time it takes to teach a dog to avoid snakes, Rivera assures that it usually takes under 20 minutes for the training to become effective.

The training works on all breeds, sizes and ages, Rivera said, adding that he even trained a deaf dog using its sense of smell to locate the snake.

Rivera holds clinics at 11 a.m. every Saturday at 10999 North State Highway 108 in Stephenville.

He will also conduct training at people’s homes if they have a group of more than five dogs.

“There’s a misconception that once it gets cold, snakes aren’t out, but that’s not necessarily true because one day, they will come out. They will come out in the middle of December and the middle of January, so anytime year-round, a person is out with a pet, it doesn’t matter the time of year, [the snakes] will come out and will bask in the sun and so it is something I'm doing year-round,” he said.

The cost of the training is $75 per dog.

Rivera started the training last week and already has had 18 people bring in their dogs.

“I found that there’s a huge demand for [training] and it’s really reasonable. I make sure that the pet owner is satisfied and I've gotten great responses already. I don’t ever want to do something and take somebody’s money and it not be effective,” Rivera said.

Anyone interested in the training can call Rivera at 254-592-8588.

“I respect the snakes. I do know that there’s a risk involved, but I respect the animal as a venomous and very potent animal,” Rivera added."I have 10 years experience handling venomous snakes. No one without experience should ever handle a venomous snake recklessly or carelessly."