How To Train Shed Hunting Dogs

If you’ve ever gone shed antler hunting, you’re aware of how challenging it can be. To locate any at all, you frequently need the ideal circumstances, a large number of friends or family members, and a lot of effort. Fortunately for us, a shed hunter’s best friend is also a man’s best friend! The appropriate mindset to hunt down more shed antlers than you could ever find on your own can be taught to almost any dog with a little shed hunting dog training.

Best Antler Dog?

Which breed makes the best antler dog? is one of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to shed hunting with a dog. Even while there isn’t a perfect solution, the question you should be asking is considerably more comprehensive. Because the majority of us only have a shed hunting season that lasts a maximum of 2-3 months, take into account the following factors before choosing the best breed of shed hunting dog.

  • During the nine to ten months when you aren’t shed-hunting, what do you want from your dog?
  • Will they initially serve as a pet? (Inside/Outside)
  • Will you employ them as a retriever during the upland game bird or waterfowl seasons?
  • Are you planning to utilize them to locate and recover injured deer or other large game?

When choosing an antler dog breed, you need also take into account pricing, temperament, and space requirements in addition to all of the above factors.

The simple truth is that they will make excellent shed hunting dogs if they have a keen nose and a drive to please. Fortunately for us, most dogs fit this description! So, if your dog already possesses these traits and you’re thinking about teaching them to discover shed antlers, you’re in luck! Here are some excellent breeds to take into consideration if you’re looking to purchase a new dog that will be adaptable and an excellent shed hunting companion:

  • Labs
  • Pointers
  • Retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • Setters

How to Train a Dog to Find Sheds

Finding shed antlers is a simple skill to teach a dog. Baby steps are the key. Don’t just leave a shed antler in the woods one day and hope that your untrained dog will find it and bring it to you when you order. It requires time! Begin with minor victories in situations where you have control, then gradually go to bigger victories in situations where you don’t. Work slowly and according to your shed dog’s pace. Your shed hunting dog training activities will have been successful once they quickly understand what is expected of them.

Retrieving Basics

Start indoors with your shed dog’s training. Distractions should be removed in order to help your dog concentrate on the work at hand. You can start introducing your dog to surroundings with more distractions as they advance and become more focused with time and training. The field is the ultimate objective…

The retrieving skill should be practiced first. Although the impulse is already present in shed hunting dog breeds, it is up to you to make it enjoyable for them so that they will use it. It’s acceptable to attract breeds that aren’t predisposed to retrieving using a small piece of food. It’s crucial to ensure that your dog enjoys every training session. This will eventually make them understand how much fun shed searching is after all.

In keeping with this, we don’t want to have the dog fetch anything that could hurt them or make them unhappy. This is a common error because most individuals who are just beginning to train their shed dog for antler hunting expedition will send their dog after a real antler, running the great risk of that dog suffering harm from the sharp points on the antler. A dog is delicate and sensitive; forcing them to recover something hard and pointed is dangerous because of this. Start with a balled-up sock or tennis ball and gradually introduce the antler shape to completely eliminate this possibility.

Introducing Shed Antler Shape

Once your dog has mastered the retrieving technique, it’s time to introduce the antler’s shape and smell. Wait!! That doesn’t mean we throw a piece of antler in their direction and let them go after it. We must nevertheless take care to ensure that every interaction the dog has with an antler is favorable. This is where we introduce the antler dummy because of that. The antler dummy will assist the dog in beginning to connect the antler shape with a reward. To train your dog to retrieve hard antlers, there are many things available online that serve this function.

Introducing Shed Antler Scent

It’s time to introduce smell once your dog is successfully bringing back the antler dummy for you. Antler fragrance can be purchased online and is a vital tool for teaching your dog to link rewards with both the shape and smell of antlers. It’s time to introduce the blind retrieve once your dog reliably returns scented antler dummies.

Blind Antler Retrieves

It’s time to spice things up now that your dog has a rudimentary idea of what an antler looks like and smells like based on shape and smell alone. They have been watching you the entire time while you either throw the item in their direction or go out and place it where they can still see it. Have your dog sit, starting back in a safe place like the house… Give them the instruction and toss or walk away, setting the antler dummy just out of their line of sight. With the exception of the fact that they aren’t certain of the antler dummy’s location, this is exactly like the retrieval they have been doing. Once they are aware of what is expected of them, gradually make the hiding locations more challenging before transferring to the outdoors. At this point, your dog is virtually searching for sheds. Setting them up for success moving forward is crucial to improvement. Do not assign your dog a duty that they cannot possibly complete. More antlers will be shed and more joy will be had by them as their level of success increases.

When we reach this stage, we can begin utilizing a real antler. Once the dog comprehends that the genuine antler and the antler dummy are interchangeable, start incorporating the real antler into your training schedule. The shed dummy will eventually be completely eliminated, leaving him with just thoughts of actual shed antlers.

The Real Deal (Shed Hunting with your Dog in the Field)

The last steps of training a shed hunting dog and actually shed hunting with a dog are very similar. The main distinction is that the dog could or might not be able to locate a shed antler nearby. As a result, it makes sense to start in high likelihood sectors. Winter food sources, S/SE-facing slopes, and thermal protection are a few of these. Bucks are also prone to shed their antlers in these areas. Similarly, if there is nothing to hunt, hunting is useless. Hold off on shed hunting until you’re positive there are sheds on the ground to be located while your dog is still developing confidence in their ability to find sheds. Your dog will likely remain motivated in the hunt if you train them to shed hunt in high likelihood regions when the timing is perfect.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your dog will ALWAYS use his #1 nose and #2 eyes! Work the downwind side of any topographical feature where you are looking for sheds, and he will probably catch the scent long before he finds the antler.

Shed Dog Training Takeaways

Although there was a lot of material presented in this article, there are a few crucial points to remember that will determine whether or not your shed dog training efforts are successful.

  • Make sure your dog is successful. They gain knowledge by success, not failure.
  • Never allow your dog to chew on antlers! Only use the shed during training, and give him lots of praise when he brings something back for you.
  • A disobedient dog cannot be trained to shed hunt. prioritise a hunting dog’s fundamental obedience above shed hunting dog

Can you raise a dog for hunting on your own?

A hunting dog’s lifestyle requirements are very different from those of a household pet. Toys can belong to a pet. Gun dogs require tools. A pet might need to be name-savvy and respond to your calls. A gun dog needs to be calm, at ease among gunfire, and submissive while working in the field. However, training a hunting dog is not difficult. If you manage their surroundings and set clear boundaries for their conduct, gun dogs will essentially teach themselves.

What makes a good shed dog for hunting?

All dogs have strong enough noses to detect antlers. A breed’s other characteristics, such as retrieving, are more crucial than the quantity of olfactory receptors it possesses. That’s not to say that dogs bred for smelling, pointing, and flushing can’t become good shed dogs, but these traits aren’t as crucial. Dogs that can retrieve naturally have a distinct advantage.

Moore claims that natural retrieval is highly desired.

I support minimizing what needs to occur there. I dislike having to teach a dog things that I shouldn’t have to. Every sporting dog has the equipment needed to do it.

If you end up with a breed of dog that isn’t inherently good at retrieving, Moore suggests teaching it with tennis balls. He claims to be able to train nearly any dog to chase one. Simply apply a small amount of Dog Bone’s Liquid Scent, then attack. Gradually move on to a soft (not hard) artificial antler once they get the hang of bringing the ball back.

The Best Breeds

Moore has a list of his preferred breeds for the task, despite the fact that we don’t have an official ranking list for you. The best dogs, according to him, aren’t taught to use their noses or to retrieve. “We extract it from them. As per Moore, it comes naturally to them. “We mold it to fit our desires.

Consider these breeds if you don’t currently have a dog and want a puppy who sheds only sometimes. Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Malinois (Belgian shepherds), English setters, beagles, German wirehaired pointers, and bloodhounds are among the breeds Moore lists. They display the best innate qualities, trainability, personalities, and intelligence, in his opinion.

  • Labrador retrievers are good options for retrievers “Of course, labs are the most typical, but Moore claims that’s just because there are more of them. “They have the most versatility of all. Golden retrievers are also beloved by Moore, who refers to them as long-haired labs. They have excellent noses, excellent retrieving abilities, and amazing personalities.
  • English setters and German wirehaired pointers are both excellent antler dogs and are frequently used as bird dogs. They have adequate noses and are skilled at retrieving even if their pointing and flushing abilities are useless.
  • The final group of his favorite canines includes search dogs, who have some of the best canine noses. There are 225 million olfactory receptors in beagles. The bloodhound is the king sniffer with 300 million, followed by German shepherds and Malinois (Belgian shepherds) with 250 million each. (In contrast, a person only has 5 million.) Although not naturally retrievers, these dogs are excellent shed hunters.
  • Other Breeds: Many breeds are promoted as good antler dogs, including American foxhounds, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, German shorthair pointers, Weimaraners, and others. Moore, meanwhile, is less enthusiastic about those. He claims that GSPs and Weimaraners don’t suit his personality and that Chesapeakes are more independent and difficult to handle. She simply lacks experience with several other breeds, including American foxhounds. Although Moore doesn’t really like these breeds, he believes they still possess the aptitude for the task at hand.

Any Dog Will Do

Regardless of breed, Moore thinks your current dog is probably the best for shed hunting.

“He responds, “I don’t think getting a new dog to accomplish this makes any sense.” ” Start with the dog you already have if you have any kind of hunting dog and are considering shed hunting. The answer to that issue depends on the skill sets the dog already possesses, which brings us back to the original question.

Never fear that prize-winning upland bird, waterfowl, rabbit, or field-trial dog will be ruined. It won’t take away from what they already do, and teaching them to shed hunt will only add value. It’s not the same as teaching a rabbit dog to hunt a squirrel or a coon dog to run deer. Your dog will be able to discover white gold if properly trained.

“According to Moore, I believe it has to do with matching the correct kind of dog to the proper kind of training. For finding sheds, “The best qualities in dogs are retrieving and trainability. The most crucial quality to look for in a dog is willingness to please, and intelligence comes in second.

Although dog training is not the topic of this essay, you should first make sure your dog has a solid foundation in obedience.

“No matter if the dog is a puppy or an adult dog, don’t jump right into shed training. Moore predicts that you will fail miserably.” After creating a truly strong foundation, training may be shed. No matter the breed, I teach the fundamentals in the same way. Then, depending on the breed, my shed hunting training methods change.

How is a hunting dog housebroken?

No, I’m not an expert because of this. Just like all of you dog owners, I’m still learning. It’s fun to do that.

I looked after my father’s beagles because I was the oldest boy and a lifelong dog enthusiast. On our trip to hunt Pennsylvania cottontails, as well as grouse, woodcock, and pheasants, we crated them (several of the best even acted “birdy on feathered game).

I’ve traveled and used Arkansas duck hounds for hunting. Pig dogs from Texas. Coyote dogs in Maine. many others, including experts on highland birds.

Hunting dogs, especially the English setters I’ve kept for the past 20 years, have improved and enhanced my quality of life. I have learned the most from these babies (and adult dogs).

Patience and time. Both are necessary in varying degrees. Here are some suggestions for crate training your hunting dog puppy.


The majority of your puppy’s time should be spent with you outside of the crate, whether you’re inside or outside.

Keep things brief and uncomplicated when it comes to crate training. Repeat the workout both during the day and at night. Place the dog next to you in bed, preferably on the floor, in a crate.

As you train the dog to go outside numerous times at night as part of the housebreaking process, immediately afterward, put the puppy back in the crate. If necessary, comfort it verbally, but keep the dog in its crate.

Put your dog in the crate as things go along when you have to answer the phone, meet the delivery person in the driveway, etc. Start by doing this for a small period of time and gradually extend it.

I frequently try this by placing a piece of clothes with my scent on it inside the crate, and frequently it succeeds. Be steady and reliable. Once more, use your voice to calm the little mischief maker since it will start to associate it with you.

And yes, the effort might be discouraging at times. You’ll get a little tired. Breathe in deeply. Hold on to it.

To be honest, you can crate train your dog from puppyhood to adulthood. Later, when the dog is older and a hunting buddy, you can let him or her ride comfortably in the backseat of your truck with the window down and the fresh air blowing by.

Assuming it doesn’t provide a safety risk, that is your decision. Dogs may become more laid back as they get older.

Heck, you need to chat to someone during lengthy drives. Dogs have excellent hearing.


Full disclosure: My late father, like many old-schoolers, thought hunting dogs belonged in outside kennels. He housed his beagles in a makeshift but roomy cage that he had constructed himself out of chicken wire and wood, with a hay-filled dog house perched on short beams above the ground.

“A dog confined indoors won’t go hunting. You’ll ruin them.” I was raised hearing this from older dog men who also held the opinion that if confined inside, dogs won’t hunt. And some people continue to keep their pets outside in kennels. I shouldn’t really be passing judgment, but

Mine hunt—have, do, and will. Our English setters have all resided indoors with us. In actuality, I believe—and I’m not alone in this—that having a dog live with you indoors all year long affords you countless opportunity to train a puppy, particularly when it comes to crate training. Bonding is important.

Seasons for hunting are also never long enough. Your bond with your dog (or dogs) is also incredibly fulfilling.

Meet up. Enjoy both indoor and outdoor spaces. Reward your puppy for being good. Use the commands “no” or “leave it” to stop undesirable behavior. And be reliable. And while you interact with your developing puppy, always strive to be positive.

Training your dog will help you develop a bond that will endure the rest of your lives. But enough of that, let’s get back to crate training.

Seven brief hints:

1. Crate training shouldn’t be done excessively or utilized too often. Keep your initial sessions brief. Expand upon this.

2. The goal of crate training is to keep you and your dog safe while traveling.

3. As you train a puppy to do this, crate training will become associated with “your dog’s area.”

4. Train the crate with the instruction “kennel up.” To strengthen it, include “remain.” Give vocal praise afterward.

5. When crate training, place a cozy dog mat (or a soft bath towel) inside. This might encourage the dog to visit.

6. Travel crate training differs greatly. Some people keep a container inside the truck’s cab, while others put one in the trailer’s back under the truck cap. Some have luxurious, pricey crate trailers.

7. Crate punishment is never acceptable. For them, it’s supposed to be a “nice place.”