How to Train a Labrador Puppy to Shed Hunt

Hard
6-8 Months
Work

Introduction

Imagine walking through a Spring woodland when the weather just begins to get warmer and the leaves begin to turn green. Visualize bringing home a prize at the end of this to hang on your wall giving your house the ultimate hunting lodge feel.

Shed hunting is a popular hunting practice in springtime. This is when adult male deer begin to shed their antlers, leaving them on the ground. This is the perfect time for you to hunt with your Labrador and pick up the prize. Labradors are bred to be retrievers, as they have an amazing sense of smell. Combine this with their intelligence and it allows them to track for miles. Labradors also come in a range of different colors and can be Showline or Fieldline bred, therefore you can pick the pup the suits you. Both types of Labradors can prove to be invaluable out on the hunt, so no matter what line your dog is bred from, you'll have a great time looking for those antlers when the season is right. 

Defining Tasks

Training your dog is important for a number of reasons. It keeps your pooch physically and mentally exercised, allows you to form a bond with your pup, and increases your dog’s obedience. Training any dog to hunt is a difficult task. However, since Labradors have been bred for hunting, it make the task a little easier.

Shed hunt training can take anywhere from six to eight months. It is easier to train your pooch when they are young and you can start this from as young as eight weeks old. This is when your pup is old enough to understand and retain the meaning of commands. Although the saying isn't true, you can teach an old dog new tricks! It would just take a little bit more time and patience. Either way, any Labrador can be taught to shed hunt!

Getting Started

To get started, you will need a lot of treats! Labradors are easy to train because of their love for food and so it is handy to supply them with lots of snacks for encouragement. You'll also want to find an area of land in which you know deer are likely to be during spring time. Large woods or forests are the perfect place for your pooch to find deer and their antlers.

You'll want to teach your puppy obedience training before you get started. This includes commands such as 'Sit’, ‘Stay' and ‘Come’. Recall is extremely important when letting your puppy off-leash. It will give you the confidence that your pup will come back when called. 

The Tracking Method

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Step
1
Treat tracking
Spread some of your pooch’s favourite treats around a room in your house and allow him to find them. You can hide them in easy-to-find places at first, making it more difficult as time goes on.
Step
2
Tie treat tracking
Tie your pup's treats to a piece of string and pull it around the room. Watch him follow the scent with his nose and redeem the treat at the end. Make it fun, as he is more likely to respond if it's framed as a game.
Step
3
Use deer and antler scent
A good way to get your pup used to the smell he will be tracking is to allow him to sniff a pair of antlers. You can usually purchase or find them out in the wilderness. A fresh pair is best, as it contains more of the scent than a store-bought pair would.
Step
4
Antler tie tracking
Once he is used to the smell and nose tracking. Take your pup outside. Tie the antlers to a piece of string and pull them around a field, leaving them in a hidden place. Allow your pup to use his senses to smell the antlers and find them.
Step
5
Woodland tracking
Take your pooch to some woods or a forest in which you know deer live. Let your pup off the leash and let him begin tracking! Remember that your Labrador should have exceptional recall before letting him off of the leash.
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The Experienced Dog Method

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Step
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Skilled dog introduction
Introduce your pup to an experienced shed hunting dog. Your dog will learn more readily with other dogs to learn from. These more experienced dogs can be of the same breed or not, as long as they are familiar with shed hunting.
Step
2
Scent recognition
Give your pup a helping hand to recognize the scent by allowing him to sniff previously hunted deer's antlers. You can buy these commercially or find them yourself, but you should ensure that they have the correct scent on them, regardless.
Step
3
Skilled hunt
Take them both your dog and the experienced shed hunting dog out into the field. Your Labrador will pick up necessary skills and behaviors from the older, more experienced dog as you work on shed hunting. If necessary, keep your pup on a leash until he is fit for being off-leash in a forested area.
Step
4
Practice
Go on hunts with the experienced dog fairly often. Your Labrador should experience a variety of different environments and terrains while picking up on crucial scenting and tracking skills. This will likely take up most of your training time.
Step
5
The real hunt
Take your dog on a hunt without the experienced dog. This will allow him to grow in confidence. Practice basic obedience skills throughout each hunt and provide plenty of support and encouragement for improvement.
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The Neutrality Method

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Step
1
Adjust to the scent
Let your pup get used to the scent of a pair of antlers by allowing him to sniff them. You can either purchase or find a pair of antlers, but ensure that their scent is similar to the types of antlers he will be hunting later on.
Step
2
Tracking the antlers
Drag the antlers along the forest floor in order to create a track for your pooch to follow. You can do this in a variety of environments to get your Labrador adjusted to things like grass, leaves, and dirt.
Step
3
Hide the antlers
Place the previously hunted pair of deer’s antlers in a forest at the end of the trail. You'll want to start off simple, by making them easy to find. You can then increase the difficulty as your pup gets used to finding the antlers at the end of the trail.
Step
4
Follow the antler trail
Bring your pup to the start of the trail and allow him to trace the scent. You may need to offer him some assistance at first, but eventually, he will pick up on what you want him to do and will be able to perform more readily.
Step
5
Practice
Carry on doing this every time you take your Labrador out. Eventually, he will begin to pick up his own trails and lead you to the antlers that you want him to find.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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