If you are a hunter who loves to collect antlers, you might have wondered how to train a dog to find sheds. Shed hunting is a fun and rewarding activity that can help you locate more antlers and improve your bond with your canine companion. In this article, we will show you the basics of how to train a dog to find sheds and what you need to consider before you start.
The first thing you need to know is that not all dogs are suitable for shed hunting. Some breeds have an instinct and ability to track and retrieve, while others may lack the motivation or the nose for it. You also need to assess your dog’s personality, temperament, and obedience level. A good shed-hunting dog should be eager to please, attentive, and responsive to your commands. You also need to make sure your dog is healthy, fit, and well-socialized.
Why Shed Hunting?
Shed hunting is a fun and rewarding activity that involves training your dog to find antlers that deer, elk, or other similar animals have shed. Shed hunting can help you scout for potential hunting spots, collect valuable trophies, and keep your dog in shape and sharp during the off-season. Shed hunting can also strengthen the bond between you and your dog as you work together to locate the hidden treasures.
How Long Does Shed Hunting Dog Training Take?
Shed hunting dog training can take anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on the frequency and intensity of the training sessions. However, the training is always ongoing, as you need to constantly reinforce the habit and skill of shed hunting in your dog. Some dogs may learn faster than others, especially if they have a natural retrieving instinct or previous hunting experience. The key is to be patient and consistent and follow your dog’s pace.
How to Train a Dog for Shed Hunting?
Training a dog for shed hunting involves several steps, each building on the previous one. Here are the main steps you need to follow:
The first step is to teach your dog the basic concept of retrieving, which is the foundation of shed hunting. You can start by playing a simple game of fetch with your dog, using a real antler or an antler-shaped toy. You can also apply some fresh scent to the antler to make it more appealing to your dog. Start the training indoors, where there are no distractions, and gradually move to different environments, such as your backyard, a park, or a forest. Praise and reward your dog whenever he brings the antler back to you.
Introducing the Shape and Smell of Antlers
The next step is to familiarize your dog with the shape and smell of antlers and teach him to associate them with a positive outcome. You can do this by hiding the antler in a visible place and encouraging your dog to find it and bring it to you. You can also use a command word, such as “find it” or “hunt”, to signal your dog to start searching. Again, praise and reward your dog for every successful find.
Blind Antler Retrieving
The third step is to challenge your dog to find the antler without seeing where you hid it. This will test his nose and his ability to track the scent of the antler. You can do this by hiding the antler in a more difficult place, such as under some leaves, behind a tree, or in a pile of brush. Make sure your dog does not see where you hide the antler, and use the command word to start the search. You can also use a whistle or a clicker to guide your dog in the right direction. Praise and reward your dog for every successful find.
Training a Dog to Shed Hunt Should Be Short but Regular Sessions
The fourth step is to keep the training sessions short but regular to avoid boredom and frustration for both you and your dog. Ideally, you should train your dog for shed hunting at least three times a week, for about 15 to 20 minutes each time. You can also vary the location, the difficulty, and the number of antlers you hide to keep the training interesting and challenging. Always end the training on a positive note, and make it fun for your dog.
Reward Your Dog for Good Behavior by Training in an Exciting Manner
The fifth step is to reward your dog for good behavior and performance by training excitingly and enthusiastically. You can do this by using a high-pitched voice, clapping your hands, or running with your dog to the antler. You can also use treats, toys, or playtime as rewards, depending on what your dog likes. The goal is to make your dog associate shed hunting with a pleasurable and rewarding experience and motivate him to do it more.
Raise and Level Up Your Training
The sixth step is to raise and level up your training by introducing more realistic and challenging scenarios. You can do this by taking your dog to an area where there are actual sheds, such as a deer farm, a hunting ground, or a public land. You can also use larger and heavier antlers or mix them with other objects, such as bones, rocks, or sticks, to test your dog’s discrimination and selection skills. You can also increase the distance and the duration of the search to simulate a real shed hunting situation.
Takeaways from Shed Dog Training
The final step is to review and reinforce the takeaways from the shed dog training and apply them to your actual shed hunting trips. You can do this by following these tips:
- Always keep your dog on a leash unless you are in a safe and legal area to let him off.
- Always check your dog for ticks, burrs, cuts, or injuries after each training session or shed hunting trip.
- Always respect the property and the wildlife of the area you are shed hunting in, and follow the rules and regulations.
- Always have fun, enjoy the time you spend with your dog, and appreciate his efforts and achievements.
Shed hunting is a great way to train your dog, keep him fit and happy, and collect some valuable antlers. It is also a great way to bond with your dog and share a common passion and hobby. With proper training, patience, and consistency, you can turn your dog into a shed hunting machine and have a lot of fun along the way. Happy shed hunting!