The use of a Shed Dog or Antler Dog when looking for shed antlers has become more and more popular…
The use of a Shed Dog or Antler Dog when looking for shed antlers has become more and more popular and these days we receive as many questions on training your dog to hunt shed antlers as training them to hunt birds. We were recently at the Madison Deer & Turkey Classic where we were almost talking about shed hunting exclusively (which was expected at that venue)! One of the biggest questions asked was if they could teach their breed of dog to hunt shed antlers, the answer is yes! You can teach almost any dog to hunt shed antlers if they have the desire to retrieve and they are exposed to it correctly!
Fun / Retrieving
Making the Antler itself fun and exciting is very important; however do not let them get bored of it. I suggest only taking it out when it’s time to train and be sure to make it fun! Get your dog excited about it and get him to chase after it and bring it back, upon return be sure to praise him and show how pleased you are with his work. If after a few retrieves he does not want to pick up the antler, stop and put the antler away. We want them to want to get the retrieve and get the antler! Next time stop short of them getting bored with the session. For example it they were excited and retrieved the antler 6 times and on the 7th they went out and did not pick it up, you would want to stop at the 4th or 5th retrieve at your next training session. We want them to “want” to get the antler and want more… This will end the session with them looking at you as to say “Hey what’s up, throw it again boss!” and that is what we want, the desire for more!
Visual / Scent
Training for shed hunting is both a Visual and a scent/smell training process. Tom Dokken has developed a sight training system that involves an antler silhouette training tool that teaches the important step in visualizing the antler in the field. This product works and is used with all dogs we train! If the dog is not downwind of the antler and he has not been taught to hunt using his eyes, he may never find that shed antler that is that is down wind. This is done while teaching them to quarter through the field. The use of specialty shed dog training scents is a very important part of the process. We start by loading the antler up with scent and then reducing the amount of scent that is added to the antler until we are just putting it on the base of the pedicle. This is done while teaching them to quarter through the field.
Eliminating Human Scent and adding tracking scent
As we proceed thru the training / tracking process, we need to make sure the antler is free of any scent other than of the Rack Wax or Antler Scent. I suggest obtaining a clean virgin 5 – gallon bucket or purchasing Dokken’s Rack Washing system. Be sure to use this bucket for nothing other than washing your training antlers. Keep in mind that you need a bucket that is free of any other scent; you do not want your dog hunting through the woods looking for pickles. After you have washed your antlers to remove any unwanted scent, you will want to add the training scent, be sure to use scent free plastic gloves when handling and planting these antlers in the woods or field. This will condition them to search for the scent of the antler not for you or what you had for lunch.
I recommend viewing one or both of the Shed Hunting videos that are available from Tom Dokken or Moore Outdoors. Both of these companies manufacture all the scents and equipment that we use in training our client dogs to hunt shed antlers.
This is a Great Seminar Video that I took of Tom Dokken at Pheasant Fest
Keep in mind that training the Shed Dog does not happen overnight and that patience is required when working with your dog. This process will take weeks if not seasons for the dog to completely catch on to what you are expecting them to do. Remember to keep it fun for both of you and you will have an Antler Dog that will be hunting shed antlers with you for seasons to come!