How Do I Train My Dog to Find Deer Sheds?

There is really no limit to how many different items a dog can be trained to fetch. Everything from your basic ‘stick’ to sniffing out and retrieving wild underground Ginseng Root. Their uncanny sense of smell and ability to fetch makes them an ideal candidate for any type of retrieval training.

When I was a kid, we had a neighbor who had a cadaver dog. And you could tell when the dog was training. The smell of rotten flesh often wafted through the neighborhood. I know, right? But the dog actually made the owner a fair income from his ability.

But there is one item in particular, while not quite as disgusting, in which many outdoor enthusiasts search for. And has the dog do the actual search and seizure. We are talking about deer sheds.

Deer sheds are the antlers which are shed by the deer to allow for new growth to take their place. These ‘antler trinkets’ literally litter the grounds anywhere you can find a deer habitat.

And the hunting for and collecting deer sheds is just as popular as deer hunting itself. As with any other training issue, you can train your dog to find deer sheds. And we will further discuss just how to go about the training here today.

Dog breed

Any dog, with the right amount of training and patients from their owner, can be trained to retrieve. They can be trained to find deer sheds as well. Just start with a breed that is familiar with the instinct to retrieve.

  • Labrador
  • Golden Retriever
  • Beagle
  • Blood Hound

These are four breeds that come to mind rather quickly. These dogs love being in the woods, and they love to do what they do best…retrieve.

If you get yourself a puppy, great. If not, don’t worry. The dog you bought, adopted, or were given is a shed hunter in training. The process is the same no matter the breed or age of the dog.

Something to consider before training begins

Making a commitment to own any dog is serious. These shed hunters will only be hunting antlers for your collection two to three months per year. Ask yourself what the dog is going to be doing the other 9 to 10 months.

Will the dog be a family pet? Will there be other dogs around? Is the dog only going to be used for shed hunting?

If you only want the dog for the sheds, you might consider contacting an outdoor outfitter who can suggest shedding hunters for hire. Otherwise, jump in with both feet and get to training your new shed hunting/family pet. It takes a lifetime commitment to do it right!

First steps

Getting the puppy or dog accustomed to the shed cent is fairly easy. If you don’t already have a shed, go to the local outdoor store and ask.

There are hundreds of items to aid you in shed hunting training. Right now, you need something to smell ‘antler-ish.’ Once you have the smell, go ahead and purchase a shed training antler.

These are ‘antler shaped’ products that are capable of holding and dispensing the antler smell you just purchased.

These two items will be your dogs one and only toy for the foreseeable future.

Playing the antler game

It doesn’t make any difference where the training begins. Indoors or out, just as long as you are consistent from day one. Ideally, outdoors is preferred, but shed training can commence either way.

The first week or so all you want to do is play to their retrieving instincts. Allow the dog to smell the training antler then toss it a few feet away. Give treats when the dog properly fetches the training tool.

Do the exercise at least 5 or 6 times each week and toss the ‘antler’ further away after a few successful retrieves.

Play hide the antler

Once your dog is comfortable fetching his new toy, try hiding it. Don’t go to extremes and hide the antler in hard to find places. Just vary the degree of difficulty with each successful session.

Do it over and over until no matter where it is, the dog can sniff it out and retrieve it. Reward accordingly.

Moving to the real deal

Perhaps during these training sessions, you can get hold of an actual shed. Somebody may have one you can get a piece of. Try to get the dog an actual sample to continue working with.

Keep the dog hunting the training antler but create for yourself an ‘antler glove.’ Take the piece of real antler and place it in the palm of a good leather glove. Wrap the glove up and store it, with the piece still in the palm. Let the natural odor of the antler permeate into the glove.

Wear the glove next time you and the dog are working outside. Use the gloved hand complete with antler smell to use for any contact with your dog. Be sure to grab the dog by the snout, playfully, to ensure he gets the smell he will be hunting for.

While using the glove, keep the antler piece in the zip-loc until you return the glove for later use. The glove will be the one you use from now on when shed hunting.

Take it to the woods

Your dog should be ready for a trial run. Go to the places you will be shed hunting to allow your dog to get the lay of the land, and begin sniffing out those sheds. Start with the antler toy. Then remove the toy, allow the dog to sniff the glove and make a throwing action.

Your dog will be a certified shed hunter in no time flat!

In conclusion

It was mentioned before, dogs can be trained to retrieve just about anything. Just take some time and patients and you too can have an awesome deer shed collection. Compliments of your four-legged shed hunter!

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