In Shed Hunting Training Phase 1, I went over the training steps necessary to get your dog well on their way to finding antler sheds. In Phase 2, I will cover the next steps to get your dog shed hunting with not only their keen eyes but also with their very sharp sense of smell.
In this phase, we will continue to utilize the Shed Hunting Antler Retriever Training Kit from Dog Bone. This is an awesome kit and is a key part of Phase 1 and 2 training. The training antler provided in this kit is great for familiarizing dogs with the size and weight of a real antler while being able to take a beating from repetitive throwing and retrievals.
To begin Phase 2 of your dog's training, apply antler scent your training dummy. I suggest using the training scent included in your kit, which is the Shed Hunting Antler Scent by Dog Bone or Rack Wax by Dokken. The objective of this phase is to get your dog to increase the use of their sense of smell, over time, to find the sheds. With your dummy well-scented, start off with some simple retrieves as you did towards the end of Phase 1. This will get your dog on task and ready for the next steps.
Once you have your dog warmed up, find an area that you can throw the dummy into that the dog will lose sight of it. Great examples of these areas include high grass, brush, or even a standing corn field. Next, have the dog heel and throw the dummy into cover. Then, have the dog watch the direction in which the dummy was thrown but do not let them retrieve it at first. After the dummy has landed, send your dog in for the retrieval. If your dog will not hold until the antler has landed, use a check cord or stake out to hold the dog in place. By doing this, the dog is forced to use their sense of smell and eye sight while still knowing the general direction in which the antler dummy is located. It is important to not make this step too difficult at first. This will prevent your dogs from becoming discouraged and lose interest if they are unable to find the antler dummy.
Make the retrievals more difficult as your dog gets the hang of it. You should see that they are finding the antler dummy with ease. Once your dog has this mastered, it is time to step up the difficulty and make the retrievals more realistic. To do this, have your dog inside or in a kennel where they are unable to see you. Place the antler where they cannot see it. Remember to have a recent application of antler training scent placed on the antler dummy. Plant the antler in the high grass or brush then go back and get your dog. Lead the dog in the general direction of where you planted the dummy. By now, they should be keen to the antler scent and should be able to sniff out the dummy. Once they have found the antler, repeat this step, making it increasingly more difficult by placing the antler dummy under leaves, behind downed trees, and in thin grass/weeds. To up the difficulty even more, you can use the brown shed hunting antler dummy sold separately. Using the brown shed dummy, increases the difficulty level by making the antler harder to see, forcing the dog to use their sense of smell even more.
You have now completed Phase 2 of your training. Thank you for reading my take on shed hunting training Phase 2. Stop back next week for the final phase (Phase 3) of shed hunting training. Once Phase 3 is completed, your dog will be ready to hike the fields and ridges, finding a bounty of antler sheds!