How to Train Dogs to Find Antlers

by Melinda Weaver
 

Some dogs are natural hunters, such as retrievers and other working dogs.

For centuries, dogs and people have hunted side-by-side. Dogs are used in the field to detect prey that has been shot down, drugs, bombs and even missing people. Now, hunters have put them to use searching for antler sheds, which male deers shed each year when they molt. The antlers left behind can be quite beautiful and are prized by many hunters. Dogs are the perfect choice for hunting antlers since their noses can detect things humans may never see or smell.

Teach Your Dog to Hunt Antlers

Step 1

Place a practice antler in front of your dog and say "find it" or "hunt" or whatever you want your command to be. This antler should be scented with deer scent, which can be obtained at any hunting supply store. If the dog moves toward it, praise. Give your dog a reward when it finally picks up the antler and gives it to you. Rewards can include treats or a game of tug with a favorite toy, which only comes out when it's time to work.

Step 2

Repeat during several short sessions until your dog is eagerly picking up the antler each time you set it down.

Step 3

Begin making sessions harder by putting the antler farther away or on top of objects. Allow your dog to see where you put the antler.

Step 4

Hide the antler where your dog can't see it but make the location easy enough that your dog won't have too much difficulty finding it. Use big rewards when your dog finds these antlers. The game is much harder now. Continue at this step until your dog can easily find antlers anywhere in the house.

Step 5

Move the game outside. Start easy because there are now many more competing smells. Always give the command at the beginning of the game and give the best reward you have when your dog finds the antler.

Step 6

Gradually increase the distance your dog has to travel to find the scent, moving eventually into the area you eventually wish it to search. Keep sessions short so your dog continues to have fun. You should both think of this as a game. Once your dog can find the planted antlers in the search area, you can start hunting for real antlers.

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