How To: Shed Hunting Dog Training
If you’ve hunted for shed antlers in the past, you know how difficult it can be. Often times it requires the right conditions, a good number of friends or family members, and a considerable amount of leg work to find any at all. Luckily for us, man’s best friend is also a shed hunter’s best asset! All it takes is a little shed hunting dog training to equip almost any dog with the right mindset to hunt down more shed antlers than you could ever stumble upon on your own…
Best Antler Dog?
One of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to shed hunting with a dog is, “which breed makes the best antler dog?” While there is no perfect answer, the question you should be asking is much broader… Being that the shed hunting season for most of us only lasts 2-3 months at a max, consider the following questions before making any decisions about what shed hunting dog breed is right for you.
- What do you want out of your dog during those 9-10 months you aren’t shed hunting?
- Will they be a pet first and foremost? (Inside/Outside)
- Will you use them as a retriever during the waterfowl or upland game bird seasons?
- Will you use them to track and recover wounded deer or other big game?
In addition to all of these considerations, price, temperament, and space requirement should all be taken into account when narrowing down your antler dog breed options.
The simple fact is that if they have a good nose and a desire to please, they will make a great shed hunting dog. Fortunately for us, this describes most dogs! So, if you already have a dog you are considering training to find shed antlers and they possess these qualities, you’re in luck! If you are considering buying a new dog that is versatile and will make a great shed hunting partner, here are some great breeds to consider…
How to Train a Dog to Find Sheds
Training a dog to find shed antlers is not hard! The secret is baby steps… Don’t just hide a shed antler in the woods one day expect your untrained dog to seek it out and deliver it you when you give a command. It takes time! Start with small successes in a controlled environment and gradually transition into bigger successes in environments where you have less control. Be patient and work at your shed dog’s pace. Before long they’ll know exactly what is expected and your shed hunting dog training exercises will have been a success!
Start your shed dog training indoors. The idea here is to eliminate distractions and get your dog to focus on the task at hand. As your dog progresses and becomes more focused with age and practice, you can start to work them into environments with more distractions. The field being the end goal…
The first thing to work on is retrieving. For shed hunting dog breeds, the instinct is already there, but it’s up to you to bring it out of them by making it fun for them! For those breeds that aren’t naturally as inclined to retrieve, it’s ok to entice them with a small piece of food. It’s important to make every training session a positive experience for your dog. This, over time, will help them realize that this whole shed hunting thing is actually pretty fun!
On this same note, we don’t want to have the dog retrieve anything that may be harmful to them or cause them to have a bad experience. This is a common mistake as most people just starting out with their shed dog hunting training will send their dog out after a real antler and risk the high probability of that dog having a bad experience with the sharp points on that antler. Remember, a dog is soft and sensitive and making them retrieve something hard and pointy comes with a risk. To avoid this risk altogether, start with a balled up sock or a tennis ball and introduce the antler shape over time. Click Here…