Tips on Training Your Shed Dog

In the world of shed-antler hunting, your chances of finding antlers significantly increase with the amount of ground that can be covered.  If you combine your dog’s ability to tirelessly cover miles of ground with his or her superior nose, you have the world’s best tool for shed hunting.

The allure of hunting sheds with your dog is simple.  Nearly any breed of dog can be trained to complete this task, even animals from non-retrieving backgrounds.  Shed hunting with your dog provides exercise, socialization, bonding, and greatly improves your chances of finding a valuable shed.  Listed here are tips for training your shed dog.

Step 1:  Indoor Retrieves

As with any type of dog training, you should start with simple drills.  Find a small shed without sharp edges or an antler dummy and practice with your dog in a restricted area, such as a hallway or small room.  Toss the antler or dummy, encourage your dog to pick it up and bring it back to you, and provide copious amounts of praise when your pet follows directions.

Step 2:  Outdoor Retrieves

Once your dog has mastered indoor retrieves, move to the outdoors where more distractions are present and your dog can work from a farther distance.  After tossing the antler, use the command, “find the bone.”  It is important to have a distinct command from your dog’s normal retrieving duties.  You can keep a check cord on your dog to help keep your pet on task if he or she struggles.  Whenever your dog brings the antler, provide a high-value reward.

Step 3:  Scent Work

After your dog has displayed proficiency with outdoor retrieves, teach him or her how to hunt for the shed.  Rack wax improves your dog’s ability to learn the scent of the shed antlers that you will hide in your yard.  The key here is to make initial hunts easy for your pet.  Hide the rack wax-treated sheds in easy-to-find locations before telling your dog to “find the bone.”  If necessary, guide your pet.  Over time, make the sheds more difficult to find.   

Step 4:  Increase the Difficulty
Finally, when your dog has mastered the hunting portion of your training it is time to increase the difficulty further by removing all traces of human scent from the antler.  Use rack wash and rubber gloves when handling your training sheds to make sure your dog is hunting the sheds, not your scent.