Training Your Shed Dog – Shed Hunting

Training Your Shed Dog – Shed hunting


Blacktail shed

Shed hunting for me has never been about the money or for the trophy but ive always used it as a scouting tool for my guiding business.

It has led me to some awesome hunting experiences over the years. So when I saw that more and more guys were training their dogs to find sheds, I thought t o myself “Ive trained dogs to retrieve birds and ducks why not sheds.” After having success with a few dogs I wrote this article on training your dog to shed hunt.

Training your Pup to Shed hunt:

Shed hunting has become a sport in itself, where in the not so distant past it was a way to stay connected with hunting in the off season. Now, people from all over the world come to part take in shed hunting, fueled by the growing market of selling shed antlers this once tool for finding big bucks and bulls has become an industry of its own. In this highly competitive niche everyone is looking for an edge from , trying to keep wintering animals on their property to –  contraptions to help shed fall off where they want them to. Many people, myself included have trained dogs to find sheds.

Starting them young:

One of the first steps to training your dog for anything really, is to get them used to the idea that when they do what you ask of them they get rewarded. One of the things I do from the get go with my pups is make them wait when I feed them. Most people pour the food into the bowl and their dogs are already at the bowl chopping away before they are even done pouring. I make my dogs sit and wait while I pour and then wait even longer till I give them the OK to eat. This does a few things for you and your dog: 1) stops them from trampling all over you while you are trying to feed them 2) Establishes your dominance and 3) instils the reward system.

Obviously we can write a whole book on dog training and there is a lot more too having a good shed dog than just techniques in getting them to find and retrieve sheds. You must learn how to control your dog, obedience training is the pillar in any sport specific training for dogs. A good shed dog has a love for the hunt, is obedient, and has a good nose. However, for the purposes of this article we will only be discussing techniques for shed retrieval    

Bow with a muley shed

Step #1 check out my shed dog video  

Start your pups out by playing fetch with rubber dummy antler laced with antler scent. Have the pup sit by your side show him the antler, have him smell it and then toss it out a few feet. More than likely instinctively he/she will run right to it smell and maybe mouth it or chew it. But the idea is here to coax them to bring it back to you. Don’t go get it from them just keeping trying to get them to bring it to you and when they do reward them with a treat and affection . Slowly start integrating having them sit/stay until you give them the command to fetch and eventually only play fetch by making them sit/stay, fetch on command.  Once your dog has mastered fetch on command start making them sit/stay and instead of you throwing tossing the antler go place it out a few feet in front of you walk back to them then command them to fetch.. Always use the same word or phrase that they can associate “go get the antler and bring it to me” while training them to fetch.

note: never allow your dog to chew on antlers or anything resembling an antler. That’s what chew toys are for. You don’t want your dogs to find a beautiful brown out in the field and run off under a tree to chew on it

Step #2 Check out part two of my shed hunting video 

Once your pup has mastered “retrieve on command” start placing the antler out of sight when you play your retrieve on command game, progressively making it more and more challenging to find the antler. Also start placing the antler in other rooms and once you give your pup the command to go get it, you yourself move to another room forcing him/her to find you. Again as they master this progress to the next level

Now in this stage you can start bringing it outside. The game I play with my pup is lock him in the house and I go hide an antler I open the door and give him the command to go find the antler and I go back inside the house and wait for him to find me. Be sure to always do them same thing repetition is key. One of the things I do with my dog is every retrieval there is a reset sequence. That way he knows that his job isn’t done after he finds the antler. A good example of this is shown here in this video. At this time I introduce the backpack as well alternating antlers each fetch from my backpack.

Also about this time is when I introduce the training collar and whistle. Using the same principles as above I begin making my dog sit/stay walking 20-50 yards away than I call them with the vibration, whistle and hand motion all at the same time and give them a treat when they come. I will keep practicing this leaving some of the parts out. Eventually I will move out of sight and just use the whistle or just the vibration mode of the collar to call them. This helps you keep control of the dog while out in the field and when he/she is out of sight. Also now your dog will recognize every time you put the collar on its time to work..


 Note: During this stage if your dog has completed teething than you can begin introducing real antler keep them small at first and progress to larger.

Step #3

If your dog has mastered finding antlers in the yard by alternating antlers from your pack, you are ready to start multiple antler retrieval. The game is the same but now you hide 3 antlers instead of 1. And when your dog comes back with the first you reward him, reset him with the sequence you have implanted and send him/her back out until they bring back all 3. Always be sure that he/she sees you put the antler in your pack before you send them out for another antler, that way your dog is not tracking you down.  Another good practice is every time I see them losing focus I call them back with the E collar and reset them. Also, depending on their age when they get into stuff that is not favorable or chase game that is not favorable I introduce negative feedback with the E-collar. Yes I zap him!

Note this is also a good time to have your dog Snake trained. Snake avoidance is key since often shed hunting is done in spring and snakes can be emerging at this time.

Shed hunting dog

Step #4 Check out part 3 of my shed hunting video

It’s time to start expanding the playing field and being creative with your hiding spots. Start bringing your dog to other controlled environments outside their normal daily life and use multiple antlers. Dogs will start to remember your hiding spots and will remember the specific smell of “his/her” antlers.  Be sure not to set your dogs up for failure because them may lose interest and you may have a dog that will quit on you prematurely out in the field.

The last piece of the puzzle is working with them and giving them your parameters during this stage. And this all depends on how you like to operate in the field. Myself I keep my dogs on a shorter “leash” as I hike I limit their range to about 50-60 yard circles. Basically as I hike my dogs will run circular patterns around me 50-60 yards but some of you may just want to send them out into a field or stay by your side, its all preference. But you achieve these limits by using the e collar and whistle.

Note: Important to continually wash the antler after use to keep the smells natural  


Your dog is almost ready. Just like everything else we have done so far just naturally progress them to your end goal, taking them to the next level after they mastered the last. Keep it fun and he or she will live for the hunt…

Checkout my podcast bellow with Shed hunting Mogul Josh Corbin