“Fighting like cats and dogs” may be the go-to example of argumentative animals, but the truth is dogs can struggle to get along with animals of all shapes, sizes, and species.
Anyone considering introducing a new pet into a house with dogs should think carefully about how their dog will react and interact with the new animal.
For snakes, there are several concerns to consider that may be different from those for other animals.
Even snakes that are great for first-time owners may not be great for dogs, so read on to learn the things every dog owner should know before bringing a snake into their house.
Dogs are highly territorial and won’t like competing for your attention.
Dogs are often lauded for their loyalty and efficacy as guard dogs, as they should be. However, the flip side to those qualities is the tendency to be possessive of their owners and territorial about their belongings.
With a snake, you won’t have to worry about this as with, say, a cat because the snake will live in a tank and not somewhere they can access the dog’s food, water, or bed.
Remember that dogs will recognize snake smell even after the snake leaves. If you let your snake explore the house, even when the dog isn’t there, keep them and their smell away from the dog’s bed, toys, favorite nap spots, blankets, etc.
If your dog is particularly possessive of your time, avoid handling or playing with the snake where they can see you. Let your dog believe it has a monopoly on your love and attention.
Can avoid interaction
Your dogs and your snake don’t ever need to interact. Snakes have a significant advantage over some other pets when it comes to moving into a house already claimed by a canine or two.
Because they live in a tank, in a contained ecosystem, snakes can live happily and healthily in a dog’s house without ever meeting the dog.
Even if you decide to introduce the two, it should only be under supervision. Therefore, it’s best to keep the snake in a designated room with a closeable door where the dog will not be allowed — the bedroom of the snake’s primary caretaker is often ideal.
Any interactions between your snake and your dog can be avoided, controlled, and cut short as necessary to keep both animals safe.
Acclimate your dog before getting a snake
Before meeting your snake, your dog will need to get used to reptiles and reptile smell.
Dogs interact with the world nose-first, so even if they’ve seen snakes on TV, they won’t be prepared to let a snake into their home until they get used to that distinctive snakey smell.
If you know someone who owns a snake or other reptile, ask if you can handle them, then let your dog smell — but not lick! — your hands before you wash them. (Reptiles can carry salmonella, which can quickly transfer from their skin to your hands to your dog. Always wash your hands before and after handling a reptile.)
You may also be able to take your dog to the reptile aisle of your local pet store to expose your dog to a wide variety of rich reptile smells.
If your dog reacts aggressively to these experiences, it may not be able to cohabitate successfully with a snake.
Your dog might be hardwired to attack your snake. Many dog breeds are natural hunters, and some were explicitly bred to hunt small animals that were historically considered pests.
Even if your dog has never hunted or received prey training, it may have a biological drive to treat your snake as prey.
Terriers, in particular, are known for this since they were bred to flush out and kill rats and other small pests.
Even though your dog is sweet with you or other small dogs, if they have a high prey drive or hunting lineage, they should probably not be introduced to a pet snake because they are more likely to attack it than coexist peacefully.
A face-to-face encounter that goes wrong could be dangerous for both animals.For one thing, large dogs can accidentally hurt smaller animals.
If you’ve ever watched a Newfie interact with a cat, you’ll understand what we mean. Dogs don’t always understand how strong they are or how fragile other animals can be, so an overenthusiastic canine can very easily injure a snake just by trying to play with it.
They may also frighten your snake, and threatened snakes are likely to strike out and bite. Even if they aren’t venomous, a snakebite can be harmful to your dog.
If you plan to introduce your dog and snake face to face, have someone in charge of handling each animal who will remove them from the situation as soon as possible before either animal gets injured.
Help your dog and snake live safely
You can own both snakes and dogs successfully and safely.
It just might not be possible for every owner or with every dog; knowing the potential pitfalls beforehand is crucial to making the safest, happiest life possible for both your dog and any other potential housemates, scaly or otherwise.
Nigel Robert is a lifelong reptile lover and has kept pet lizards since childhood. His first was Leo, followed by a Beardie named Rocky. For the last 10 years, he has owned over 20 different species, but his favorite is his Banana Ball Python, Monty.