Deer are positively invasive in many areas, so naturally shed antlers are all over. You don’t need to live in the deepest woods to find them. In fact, chances are excellent that there are more antlers per square mile in many suburban neighborhoods than in Yellowstone National Park.
Teaching your dog to focus on the scent of antlers should be pretty straight forward. (Truth: I have not done this work but I have trained AKC tracking extensively so am confident this task can be done.)
Here are three ways to start, depending on your dog:
For the Ball-Crazy Dog:
- Put antler-scent on ball.
- Play “Find It” with that ball inside and then out.
- Encourage dog to search and throw a major praise party when ball is found followed by joyous but brief play.
- Hide an antler with scent on it. When dog finds it, whip out the ball and play! Antler = ball play.
- ONLY play with balls during these sessions. All other times, put the balls away. If your dog wants a ball, he must find an antler.
For the Fetch-Frantic Dog:
- Get the Dog Bone Shed Antler Training System and use that rubber antler toy to get your dog started.
- Then get some point-free antler hunks to start playing fetch with minus the risk of a poke in the eye.
- When dog is confidently retrieving these toys, start tossing them into the woods or the tall grass. Let him search for them and cheer him on when he finds his quarry! Good dog!
For the Food-Focused Dog:
- Put antler-scent on an store-bought antler.
- Put yummy dog treats in the other hand.
- Hold both hands behind your back.
- Now, show your dog the antler. If he looks or glances or sniffs it: say: YES and put that hand behind your back as you feed him a treat with the other. Now that hand goes out of sight, too.
- Pause for a second, repeat. Your goal is for your dog to link “antler-scent” with “praise and treats”.
- This game is very like any other Nose Work and can be in those ways as well.
So, if you want your dog to help contribute to his chew toy habit as well as stay seriously entertained, teaching him to find shed antlers might be a fun hobby for both of you.
Now you know!