Tips for Training a ‘Shed-Hunting’ Dog

Have you ever seen on the outdoor channel the guys talking about antler dog? If you don’t know what that is, antler dogs are dog that are trained to find antlers out in the woods. It can be an extremely fun hobby for you and your furry companion to start doing, and it’s also a great way to mentally stimulate your dog. My antler dog is an Australian Shepherd. When I first got her, I didn’t even consider the thought of her being an antler dog but she showed a lot of potential and after some training and research, she can now find antlers in the woods.

So how do you train an antler dog? Well first let me say that I am NOT an expert animal trainer, or shed dog trainer, but I would like to share with you some things that I have done to help teach my dog to find sheds.

1. You can train any age of dog to do anything! You DO NOT have to have a puppy to start training, I have family members that are working with their three year old dog and training is going great!

2. Instead of playing fetch with tennis balls or sticks, play fetch with antlers. Your dog will learn that finding the antler means play time, and they will understand that picking them up is a good thing. Always make sure to give lots of praise for when they bring the shed back to you.

3. Let them chew on the antlers. It is a good way for them to get their chewing needs out, and it also gives them more time with the antlers. The more positive time they have with antlers, the better.

4. Teach them a command word. I know some that use the word “search” but I taught my dog the word “antler” and make sure to associate that word with antlers.

5. Go outside and throw some antlers in various places in your yard. Next to a tree, under a bush, behind a shed, anywhere that looks good. Let your dog out and say “Find the Antler” Or “Search” Or whatever command you have used. Walk around with your dog and see if he can find the antler or if he goes to them. If your dog doesn’t pick it up, encourage him to do so by saying “Bring it” or “Go get it” Etc. If your dog picks up the antler, give lots of praise and give him a treat if you’d like. Keep doing this until fido learns that finding the antlers is the coolest thing in the world. You can even try putting a treat next to the antler to see if that encourages fido to find them

6. Once you’ve worked with step four, take some antlers out in some wooded areas and hide them in there. Once you’ve hid them all (make sure you remember where you hid them) go get fido and give him the command. Walk around and see if he can find them. When he does, make sure you show how excited and happy you are, tell him what a good job he did, and tell him to go find some more! Keep doing this until you feel like fido knows what he is supposed to do.

7. Take your dog out with you on a real shed hunt and see what happens!

8. Another quick note, my dog doesn’t bring the antlers to me, she doesn’t even bring sticks to me, she will grab them and want to play chase. She holds on to that antler and wants me to chase her; this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I talked to a dog trainer and this person said that this can actually be good because it’s showing that they really want that antler. My dog will grab the antler and run about 10 feet and look at me like “Come get it if you want it.” If you can get fido to bring you the antler, great! If not don’t be discouraged. Training takes time and patience on both ends, but after enough training, you may have just trained yourself an antler dog!!!!

Shed hunting is a great fun activity, and training your furry friend to find them can be a great time to bond with your dog and also find some bone treasure. If your dog doesn’t find an antler, that’s okay too, you can still take him with you on your shed hunts and who knows, he may just surprise you!

Mar 09, 2014 | Category: Blog, Conservation, Deer hunting, Hunting Dogs, Shannon's Blog | Comments: 10


10 comments on “Tips for Training a ‘Shed-Hunting’ Dog

  1. Emily

    Great article! I have been thinking of training my pup to be an antler dog! This answered a few questions.

  2. Kevin

    I have an Aussie I bought with the intention of making an antler dog out of him! He has one heck of a nose and can sniff them out of the woods when I throw them into the treeline. However I was getting a little discouraged when he would find them and run away from me! He won’t bring anything back to me, much like yours. My guess is he’s still a pup, being 8 months old so he’d rather play than work. But it is reassuring to see another person having this issue too with an aussie.

  3. Laura Ziller

    I had no idea dogs could be trained to do this. I will have to try it with my Bloodhound!

  4. Kelly Westpfahl

    This is GREAT information!!!!! I learned a lot from it! Thanks! Job well done!

  5. BJ Barnes

    This has been very helpful. I just got a 4 week old German/Australian Shepherd and was wondering if she could be trained as an antler dog. I figured she could since they search out drugs and criminals. She is 5 weeks now and is already chasing a ball I toss. I will definitely use your tips and fingers crossed we find some sheds together.

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