Lacy owners are always wanting to know what kinds of activities and training are fun to do with their working breed. Most of our dogs work seasonally which can mean weeks or months of down time.
Antler hunting is simple nose work and a fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs. It’s easy to learn and provides mental and physical stimulation.
It is easy to teach a dog to find shed antlers through basic reward based training. To start out, you present an antler to the dog and every time the dog pays noses or mouths the antler , mark the behavior with good feedback and rewarded the dog with a high value food item. After a few repetitions, the dog will be excited to find an antler in anticipation of earning a reward.
After a few repetitions, you can begin hiding the antlers and encouraging the dog to search for them.
Some dogs are more food driven and will work harder for a food reward. Others are more motivated by toys and play so their reward might be to have the antler tossed for them so they can chase and retrieve it.
When we practice shed hunting, I will plant several sheds over a large area. It helps to wear gloves so the oils from your skin do not contaminate the antler. Fresh antlers are better than old, dry antlers. In fact, Spring is the best time to take a dog hunting because freshly shed antlers are ripe with fresh scent from the buck’s head hair, blood, and skin cells.
Like bird dogs, antler dogs work about 50 yards in front of a hunter. I work the dog into the wind to maximize the air currents. Antler dogs will cover at least three times the area a hunter could, including tight spots the hunter cannot easily access.
Here are a couple of videos of Rowdy working. The first video is longer the second. In both videos, you can see where she catches the scent downwind.