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 Post subject: Shed Hunting with Dogs
 Post Posted: Tue Aug 27, 2013 10:04 pm 
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People are always wanting to know what kinds of activities they can do with their working breed. Especially blood trackers during the off-season. If your lacy is primarily used for wounded deer recovery, then you know that means roughly six to nine months of downtime.

I have a tracking lacy that cannot sit still. She is the type of dog that needs to work on a regular basis. Inspired by working scent detection dogs, I decided that I wanted to train her to hunt for shed antlers.

Antler hunting is simple nose work...a fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs. It's easy to learn and provides mental and physical exercise for the dog.

I started with basic scent detection / reward based training. I presented Rowdy with an antler and search command and every time she paid attention to the antler, I marked the behavior and rewarded her with a high value food item. After a few repetitions, I started hiding the antlers and encouraging her to search for them.

In the beginning, I consistently rewarded her with food but she is so motivated for toys and play that her favorite reward is for me to toss the antler so she can chase and fetch it.

When we practice, I 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 have a ton of scent attached to them....potent scent from the buck's head hair, blood, and skin cells.

Like most bird dogs, antler dogs work about 50 yards in front of a hunter. I work into the wind to maximize the air currents so she can catch the scent and find the prized shed. Antler dogs will cover at least three times the area a hunter could, including tight spots the hunter cannot easily access.

While retrievers are best suited for antler hunting, any dog with play drive can do it. If your Lacy enjoys chasing a stick or ball, you can condition him to enjoy an antler.

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.





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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:25 am 
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Great job Courtney & Rowdy!! This is something I want to try with Sam and Belle ... once the juvenile delinquency phase lately calms down.

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 9:35 am 
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I would love to do this! I still get a thrill when out walking and I run across a shed antler. It's the naturalist in me, I guess. Roy found a nice 8 point shed yesterday when we were working with the donkeys.

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:43 am 
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I think this is really cool. One question: when deer season comes around again, how will she know that she's searching for blood instead of antlers?

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 Post subject: Shed Hunting with Dogs
 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:18 am 
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AmberLowMiddleton wrote:
I think this is really cool. One question: when deer season comes around again, how will she know that she's searching for blood instead of antlers?


Deer have antlers right.......:)

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 2:11 pm 
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AmberLowMiddleton wrote:
I think this is really cool. One question: when deer season comes around again, how will she know that she's searching for blood instead of antlers?


you could use a different command...."Search" for antlers and "Find it" for deer- but I'm not even sure that is necessary. Kathy could probably chime in here and straighten me out, but the antler searching is much like an area search, while blood tracking is a hunt for a specific animal. We're going to have to settle for one dog to do both - just to keep the kennel size down to a manageable level. :))

I bet she figures it out pretty quick - especially since the routine is so different. When we hunt, the dog is in the box until we come to put them on the trail, and it is usually in the winter. Antler search would normally be in spring, with a totally different routine.

dogs are much better at this than we tend to think, though -- lots of dogs combine scentwork and bitwework -- the Malinous is a breed than is frequently crosstrained.

This type of work is all scentwork - I'm betting she has no problem distinguishing, while I wouldn't like her finding a shed while on a blood trail and then redirecting to search for the deer, my guess is that the blood trail will be so enticing that antlers won't even be on her mind. :)

My general thought is that the scentwork for antlers is much more difficult than trailing a wounded deer and that work is good for sharpening her skills.

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:00 pm 
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Amber, Rod is correct about the difference in search commands and routine...and I'd like to hear what a professional working dog trainer has to say about cross-training, but I can tell you when it comes to antlers vs. blood, blood trumps antlers!

Say you are playing fetch with one of your best hog dogs and a hog runs through the yard...you can kiss that game of fetch goodbye, right? Because the dogs are so much more motivated for hog hunting.

The motivator is the fact that from the beginning of the dog's blood trail training there is always a deer at the end of the track. When a dog gets out of the box and gets into his tracking collar or harness, he knows for sure there is prey out there for him to find. His motivator is the possibility of a chase or fight or very high value food item (blood, meat) at the end of the track.

Antlers are fun but lower on the value scale than pursuit of game.

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 Post Posted: Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:20 pm 
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Quote:
Antlers are fun but lower on the value scale than pursuit of game.


That's what I assumed. Thanks for the insight!

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 Post Posted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 11:56 am 
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using "fetch" for retrieving and sniffing out downed dove right now with my puppy Slim. Using "track the deer" or "track em' " for trailing. She seems to know both words mean different things already and she is 16 weeks old.


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