Dog owners are understandably mortified by the thought of their dog getting injured, or even killed, by a snake.
“Snake avoidance” training, therefore, is a seller in snake season. Electric shock collars are commonly used to try and scare the dog away from snakes. It seems logical: How else can you make sure your dog avoids snakes? How else but to instil fear of a painful experience, to protect them from an even more painful one?
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. There are two main problems.
Some might freeze in panic at the thought of getting zapped. Some might attack the snake before (so they think) it will bring on the horrific zap to their neck.
Some may only avoid snakes in the environment they have been zapped in; some only if the “trainer”is present, and some only if the electric shock collar is on.
And if the timing of the electric shock isn’t absolutely precise, e.g. it’s a fraction too late as the dog looks back at its owner, or is even when it’s starting to turn back to the owner, then the dog may well conclude that it’s the owner who is causing the pain it feels and run towards the snake. If the dog gets zapped as it stands still looking at the snake, he may well jump forward as a response to the shock.
In summary: even the most painful training will not reliably work, particularly if timing of the shock is not perfect.
There are several scientific studies documenting the damaging effects of the use of electronic shock collars.
Veterinary Behaviourist Dr. Karen Overall lists them here: Open Letter from Dr. Karen Overall Regarding the Use of Shock Collars
Also see: The welfare consequences and efficacy of training pet dogs with remote electronic training collars in comparison to reward based training.
Rather than try to make the dog scared of snakes, the dog can be trained to see a snake as a "trigger" for an immediate return to the owner - not for safety, but for a large reward. An “Emergency Recall” can be trained for when the owner is present and can call the dog away from a snake. This can be done with the correct application of positive training techniques and tools, with guaranteed no behavioural side effects. Other than an improved Recall overall.
Is the outcome 100% snake avoidance? No.
No training of a living thing will ever yield 100% perfect outcomes.
But if training is done well, reliability will be as high - and most likely higher - than with using an electric shock collar. With no risk to the welfare of the dog.
The best insurance against snake bite
But the best insurance against snake bite is to keep your dog away from areas where the risk of a snake bite is high in snake season, such as around waterways and in long grass. Keeping your dog inside when you’re not at home means there is much less chance of your dog being bitten by a snake, at least while you’re not there and can’t help if it does happen. If you're not sure how this can be done, contact a certified positive trainer in your area for assistance.