Puppy Training an Antler Dog
Training a puppy for any hunting sport is very much the same. The most important task is to select the puppy or dog that is best suited for the hunting sport in which you wish to participate.

Posted by: Roger, on 2/14/2008, in category "Training Antler Dogs"
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Naturally, if you are a bird hunter, a German Shorthair, English Pointer or maybe a Brittany, would be the breeds you should be considering. Since we train our dogs to hunt antler sheds, we have found that the Labrador retriever is the breed of choice.

We have worked with several different breeds and after great time and effort we have found that the Labs have the qualities that are best for shed hunting. We select pups that are from hunting blood lines. We really like the new style lab that is somewhat smaller then the l00 pound fur friends of a few years ago.

The labs that we select are for the most part, black or yellow. That may just a personal preference, but the chocolates that we tried at first, seemed to be a little more difficult to work with. We do not find much difference in the trainability of the pup from the male to the female. Once again, most people have had dogs before and have a personal preference in that regard.

In selecting your prospect you will look for a number of qualities before you fall in love with one of those beautiful little fur balls. They are all so cute that it is easy to over look the reason that you want the dog and what his or her job will be as an adult.

We test our puppies for play drive and prey drive first and foremost. The puppy must be crazy about playing with a ball or squeak toy and willing to chase it as much as you would expect an eight to nine week old puppy to be able to. Naturally, a puppy that is so young will probably not be retrieving the toy or ball to you, but you will be able to tell if he is really interested in the game.

We have developed our own training program, which is a reward based training technique, which we call “The science of participative training.” It is extremely important to use positive reinforcement in training puppies. It is very easy to ruin a perfectly good dog, if you try to push them to hard and fast at the beginning of their training experience.

We have studied with some world class animal behaviorists and animal trainers and formed our own system. The science of participative training, SPT, is the safest and easiest way to get results in training your puppy. We have had great success with adult problem animals as well. The possessive reinforcement builds a confident animal by developing a mutual language. Dogs do not understand English any more then they understand German or any other language, until they are taught the meaning of the words that are being used to ask for a behavior. Remember a treat is only used as the reward as the dog begins to understand your commands.

No matter what type of puppy you are training, obedience is the first step in making your pup a welcome member of your family. Puppies can be very difficult to handle if they are not shown the rules of their new home. If your puppy is going to be a house dog, it is necessary to make sure he understands what you expect of him. Our puppies are started with simple commands such as sit. This begins are nine weeks. As the pup grasps the command, he will begin to offer the behavior for the reward. Your pup will pick up the sit usually in one session.

Find a treat the he will likes; we find good old hot dogs work well. We cut them into small pieces and introduce them to our puppies with a signal word or sound to indicate a correct behavior. A sound for an incorrect behavior is also necessary, as no harass treatment is ever used in training our pups. Everything in their early life should be just as safe and encouraging as it was with his mom.

From the puppy’s introductive obedience training, we progress at the pace of our student. Just like children, puppies all learn differently. Some will catch on quickly and others will take a little longer. The main concern in puppy training is consistence. Shorter more frequent sessions are always referred to one long session.

After your pup has the basic obedience behaviors in full inderstanding, you can move on to the retrieve. We use a ball that has been cut in half and an antler tine passed though the middle for the fetch toy. The movement of the ball gets the attention of the pup and he will quickly be drawn to the action and look forward to playing the game of fetch and retrieve.

Scent discrimination is an entire book and can not be covered in the words allotted. However, it is the all important next step in the progress of your pup. It is impossible for any dog to know what it is that you want him to look for without this step. Your pup is capable of smelling a single drop of blood in a fifty-five gallon barrel of water. Just like a drug or bomb sniffing dog, they will have to be taught which scent he will be searching for.

Our next step in training our pups is the search. We have a series of games that we have for our pups, once they understand the scent they will be sniffing out. We work our pups almost every day. It is like play time for them. They look forward to the games. With the old fear based training techniques, the dog that may have been a great retriever or hunter may be lost because of harass treatment, ie.(choke chains, electricity, etc.)

By the time our pups are between five to nine months of age, they are ready for controlled antler hunts. We may start them in our indoor facility, under a pile of hay or other similar covers at first. It is incredible how much they enjoy the hunt. From this stage, they move very quickly to the hunts outdoors. It is important to remember that a dog can smell you on any object that you have handled and may hunt your scent. We take great care to eliminate human scent from controlled hunts. These controlled hunts will go on for several months.

The next step is the actual natural hunt. Remember this all important fact. A dog, even a seasoned dog can not find antlers where there are none. It is for this very reason that we like to take our dogs to the Canadian prairie in the spring. If there is any place you can find antlers, big antlers, its there.

It is a thrill to set those young dogs out for the hunt for the first time and watch them cover the terrain, nose down, quartering in front of you like an old pro. With each season, the dogs just get better and better.

We have puppies for sale of all ages at different times of the year. If you are interested in more information, you can visit our web site, www.r.s@randssigler.com. Feel free to contact us at 1-816-289-1154. We have DVD’s available that can give more detail about antler dogs at Antler Ridge. Remember, if you are hunting sheds without a dog, it’s just a walk in the woods.

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User Feedback

Comment posted by Natasha Henrie on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 12:06 PM
I love your article. I was wondering if you train the dogs and then sell them and for how much?
Comment posted by Eric on Sunday, March 16, 2008 9:34 AM
I have a Blue-Lacy Lab cross i was wondering what the thoughts were on her?
Comment posted by JCROM on Monday, March 24, 2008 2:55 PM
Comment posted by garett wolfe on Monday, March 31, 2008 4:10 PM
I have a black lab that is 15 months old. He is very obidiant and retrieves very well. I was wondering if he is too old to learn to hunt for sheds and if not what would be the first steps?
Comment posted by corey tucker on Monday, April 21, 2008 3:46 PM
  that's very interesting. do you only sale pre trained dog's or will you train other's? an for how much?
Comment posted by D-COY on Thursday, May 8, 2008 5:32 PM
I would have to say that a blood hound would be the best for the sport, but i am getting 1 or 2 lab puppies on june 7.
Comment posted by Rory on Friday, May 9, 2008 10:10 AM
What about a chesapeak retriever. Pure Blood with a great pedigree. Will this be a good dog
Comment posted by hoyt grooms on Sunday, April 12, 2009 1:05 PM
can i use a english setter for shed hunting and what do i need to do to make him good?
Comment posted by Kip on Friday, June 5, 2009 6:28 AM
Can you please send me your correct email and/or website.  I am interested in you training a puppy for me.
Comment posted by Ronnie on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:32 PM
I have a 4 year old Border Collie that hunt's Elk & Mule deer antlers, We have 10 acre's in the mountains of Colorado and decided to go hiking one day , He found his first antler and he has been non stop sense. He has his favorite antler that he keeps in his Crate with him to chew on, and just this week he has found 5 HUGH antlers, Border Collie are none for hearding but our's would rather hunt antlers  :)
Comment posted by roger on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 9:55 AM
That's really cool.  I have an Aussie and although he is 15 now he would have NEVER found antlers.  Congrats!  Amy
Comment posted by Adam on Saturday, June 26, 2010 3:04 PM
I have an english springer spanial. would he be able to hunt antlers?  How old is too old to train?
Comment posted by brandon citty on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 12:33 PM
i just got a 8week lab pup female i am planning using your training method is ther any other advice you can give me, i started looking for sheds about 5 years ago i go when it is cloudy and drizzling rain the horns stand out like a sore thumb so far i have found 62 8 in one day i just wa ine
Comment posted by The steel beaver on Sunday, December 29, 2013 1:31 PM
I've heard if you want to train a shed hunting puppy, they can only play with and retreive sheds.  If you let them play with other kinds of things ie: balls, squeaky toys, bones, ropes etc... It will ruin them, and they won't be very good or as easy to train for sheds.  I would love some feed back on this.  My lab pup is 9 weeks old, and looses interest after chewing horns for awhile, then he looks for different things to set his teeth to.  Thanks
Comment posted by Toni Eastlick on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 6:50 PM
I have a year old boarder collie who lost a rear leg from being kicked by a cow. Long story short I have been researching different activities I could get him into that would be a good way to burn off energy yet salvage the joints of his 3 remaining legs. He's very smart and loves to please. I was wondering if you have heard of any successful herding breed shed-dogs? Thanks :)  
Comment posted by Ty Bippus on Friday, December 18, 2015 10:22 AM
I was wondering if there is any good border collies that were shed dogs, I have a 6 week old dog. She is very smart and active, already potty trained and was just wondering if y'all could help me with tips or anything else that might help me

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