Finding Sheds with Fido – Part II
If you are looking to train your dog to be a shed finding machine and are wondering where Part I of this series is, stop what you are doing and click here. You need to first have read Part I, as it thoroughly discusses all of the groundwork that needs to be laid before you can get to this point of your shed hunting training journey.
In Part II we are going to build off of all of the work we did in the previous article. At this point your dog should be doing the following: have an advanced comprehension and ability when it comes to the 3 most important basic obedience skills (sit, recall, and heel), know how to use their nose, and finally have a dog that is confidently working an open field in a well thought out pattern. If you have checked off all of the above, read on to learn more about antler shed hunting with dogs.
This step is absolutely crucial if you want to have a dog that will hunt sheds. Introducing your dog to shed antlers is not as nerve wracking as introducing your dog to gunshots, but much like gun intro work, if you screw this up it may result in a dog with some aversions. You are probably thinking, “How hard can this actually be?” Though this step may appear simple, if your dog catches an antler tip to the eye on its first go, there’s a good chance that he will not want anything to do with sheds in the future.
To avoid this we need to begin by introducing our dog to its first shed in the yard, back where it all originally started. Set up the same hunting drill that we completed in Part I but this time replace the bumper with a shed antler. Make sure you place the shed in short grass with the rack facing down. Return with your dog and give the ‘hunt’ command.
When your dog finds it, he may not want to pick it up straight away. If this is the case, give him a ton of vocal encouragement and make the situation a positive and exciting moment. When he finally picks it up and returns to you, let him know that he is the best dog that ever lived and repeat the process. After you have done this enough times that your dog is familiar with the antler, begin placing it alternating between tips up and tips down.
Moving To Your Final Location
Now that we have a dog who loves finding sheds as much as we like pizza on a Friday night, we need to go back through the process from Part I. As it becomes apparent that the dog has advanced in the backyard, we then move to another location and start introducing the dog to finding antlers in taller, thicker cover. Next we need to transition to teaching the dog that finding sheds won’t happen in open grass, but instead along tree lines, hedgerows, fences, and other areas you are most likely to find them.
For the final bit of glue to put this all together we are going to take our dog into the woods. Until you see your dog start advancing at finding sheds in the confines of your resident oak species, we need to keep things simple. Work on your dog holding and hunting in a very tight area (think of an area of about 40 square yards). As the dog progresses, begin to expand the area that he is hunting, making sure to oversaturate the woods with sheds as the size of the hunt area grows. We’re doing this, because we always want to set our dogs up for success, as they learn best through positive repetitions.
Today’s the day! You and your dog are finally ready and heading out on your first shed hunt of the season. This is a big day for the both of you, but all of the focus needs to be on your dog and making sure that they are successful. Your first hunt should not be an all-day affair. Short and sweet is the name of the game. Restrict yourself to a half an hour to an hour. Also, make sure to bring a shed along with you. If your dog is not finding success we can use this shed and plant it while he is not looking and then help guide him into it. This will help boost his confidence and keep his interest high until you are able to find the Holy Grail.
The final steps of getting your dog shed ready are very simple if you follow the process above. You finally get to introduce your dog to a shed for the first time and begin associating all he has learned with this very specific object. If you put in the work and continue to build on each of your previous successes, you are bound to have a great time the first hunt you and your dog go on. These moments only come once in a dog’s lifetime, so don’t put too much pressure or expectations on the dog. Let your dog’s natural instincts take the driver’s seat and help him be successful with well-timed redirections if needed. When he finally finds that first shed, let him know how proud you are of him and send him off for the next one. Happy hunting.Follow Us on Facebook! Click HERE