How to Train Your Dog to Find Antler Sheds

Medium
1-6 Months
Chores

Introduction

If you have spent countless hours walking through the woods, up and down the mountainsides, and racking up the miles in search of dropped antlers each year, you already know how hard finding them can be. In many instances, it can take everyone you know, the perfect conditions, and a lot of luck to find what you are looking for. However, the good news is that your furry four-legged friend can become a hot little antler shed hunter with the right training.

When properly trained, your pooch could easily help you find more antlers than you ever dreamed of. But, before you tackle training, consider whether or not your dog is up to the task and any other jobs you expect your dog to do, like track wounded animals for you or retrieve waterfowl. Each of these can have an impact on the type of training you use and the results you expect.

Defining Tasks

The biggest thing your dog needs, in order to be able to track down things like antlers, is his sense of smell. The good news is that most dogs have excellent noses and love to seek out things using it. Of course, some dogs are better at using their noses to find things than others. Does this mean you can't teach most other breeds to find things using their noses with a little practice and training?

Scent training is very common with hunting dogs, but can be adapted to most breeds. As for commands, you can use any word or combination of words for this skill such as  ‘find’, ‘seek’ or anything else you choose. The most important thing is to stay consistent with your command--if you don't, all you will be doing is confusing your dog.  The younger you start, the faster your pup will learn this skill and the more antlers you can add to your collection.

Getting Started

Training your dog to find antler sheds doesn't require a lot of supplies. In most cases, you should only need:

  • Several antler sheds: You will need these for scent training your dog to recognize the smell of shed antlers.
  • Treats: To reward your dog when he gets it right.
  • Plenty of open space:  You need plenty of room to work with and ensure your dog can find the antlers.
  • Patience:  While hunting comes naturally to many breeds, it can take time for your dog to master this skill.
  • Time: You should be able to set aside enough time to practice this skill daily several times a week until your dog masters it and demonstrates plenty of success before you take him out in the field. 
  • A quiet place to work: It can be very hard for your dog to learn anything, let alone finding antler sheds by sense of smell, when there are distractions that keep breaking his focus on the training at hand.

The Fetch Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Prepare an antler
File the points down of a single antler to avoid injuring your dog as he gets used to picking it up.
Step
2
Fetch
Try playing fetch with the antler by throwing the antler out into your yard and giving your dog the command you have chosen. When he finds it, be sure to give him a treat.
Step
3
Go on location
Move to the woods and start hiding the antler in a spot that your pup should be able to find it fairly easily. Each time he finds it, reward him with a treat and make the hiding place harder each time.
Step
4
Add antlers
Now bring in a number of fresh antler drops and hide them in several different locations at the same time. Give your dog the ‘find it’ command you have chosen. Again, plenty of praise and treats when he is successful at finding them.
Step
5
Get authentic
Now that he is successfully finding your training antlers, it's time to head out to the woods and send your dog off to find "wild" antler drops. By now, he should be used to seeking out antlers by their scent and he should bring you an endless supply during shedding season.
Recommend training method?

The Play Toy Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Samples
Put together a small collection of antler pieces for your pup to play with as chew toys.
Step
2
Name it
Once he has become used to playing with them, start asking him to bring them to you by name. Use something like "bring me the bone" or "fetch the bone" and reward him with a treat when he does.
Step
3
Hide it
Next, start hiding the antler pieces out in your yard and having your pup "find the bone" or "find the antler."
Step
4
Take it to the woods
Move the pieces out into the woods where he has to hunt for them in new territory. Reward him and give him lots of praise when he does.
Step
5
The real deal
Now that he is used to hunting for his toy antlers, it is time to take him out at the end of shedding season and put him to work finding fresh sheds. The good news is that freshly shed antlers have a very strong scent, which should make them relatively easy for your dog to find and bring back to you.
Recommend training method?

The Fresh Scent Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Practice antler
Start with a small shed that is coated with a readily available scent product to give it a nice fresh smell.
Step
2
Get excited!
Time to get your dog excited for the hunt by waving the antler around in front of him and calling out your chosen command such as "Find the bone!"
Step
3
Fetch
Toss the antler out in the backyard and send your dog after it. When he brings it back to you, be sure to give him a treat and lots of praise.
Step
4
Spread out
Gradually expand the "hunting zone" until your dog brings back the antler at least 90 percent of the time before you move out into the field to find actual antler drops.
Step
5
Take it to the field
In the spring when it's time to hunt sheds, take your freshly trained pup out into the field and let him put all of his training to work bringing in the largest harvest of antlers you can imagine. Make training fun and you will find going out for antlers takes on a whole new dimension.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd