In 2010/2011 we were able to train a dog for a great friend of ours, Nick Mundt, from the TV show Bone Collectors. Nick’s dog is named “Jeb”- an English lab from Wildrose Kennels. Old Jeb is turning out to be a fine shed dog! The title of this blog is “Set Your Dogs Up for Success.” This saying is something we use and repeat throughout our training in countless situations and you will find this out as we continue to post short articles here on EverythingShed.com. We will use this important rule here discussing our early “hunts” with our partners.
One thing we are very strong believers in when it comes to working our dogs is that we are never in a rush to get through our training. In fact, we are often accused of moving along with our training at a snail’s pace, which I’m not offended by whatsoever. The reason being- I know that when we take the time to ensure we have created solid habits through repetition and consistency, we have truly trained our dog and formed that solid habit of whatever behavior it is we are working on. Because of this, when the time comes for us to work our dogs in the field on actual shed hunts, our dogs will be set up for success.
In a typical year, I find between 200-300 sheds depending on a lot of variables (weather, time in the field, locations/access to ground, etc.). Some folks I talk with think that’s remarkable, while others aren’t so impressed. We do a lot of shows, seminars and appearances with our dogs and I often get the question, “Do you find sheds every time out?” and my answer is simple…ABSOLUTELY! My dogs will ALWAYS find sheds when they are out. Are they natural shed antlers that they are finding? No, I wish it were that simple, but it’s definitely not. I have some very good places to look for sheds, but there is no way that I’m going to find sheds or even a single shed for that matter every time we go out.
However, when I’m working with a young dog in training (and even with my older dogs at times) as the handler I have to realize that an actual shed hunt is nothing more than an extension of our training or of our lessons. In between our spring show schedule I try to line up at least a few shed hunts every year that are “cupcakes” (Iowa, Kansas, Canada for example) that I know we are going to put these young dogs on lots of opportunities for successful picks. This is a great way to build confidence and put the final pieces together for finish training. The problem is, sometimes I’m stuck looking in places like my backyard (in central WI) and unfortunately we have extremely high hunting pressure and low numbers of mature deer. After all, we can’t pick up sheds from bucks that are killed at 1 ½ yrs old! This forces me to put my dogs in an environment that will ensure success for them each and every time.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this on an actual shed hunt is to pitch a shed 50 yards from the truck on my way out to the field. Then, on the return, the last thing I do is circle my dog downwind and end the lesson a high note before putting the dog up. I also bring a small shed in my back pocket with me and throughout the walk, when I’m seeing my dogs focus fade, I pitch the shed while they are not looking, circle them downwind and let them find it and make the retrieve. This will bring new life into my dog for another short duration and then I repeat as necessary. I like to compare it to when I took my son fishing for the first time. We didn’t go to northern Wisconsin on a musky trip where we may cast for 3 days and never get a hit. Instead, we went to my dad’s farm pond and caught bluegills one after another to keep him having fun and keep his interest peaked.
Set your dog up for success and you will find a dog that is eager to learn and continue to work for you. When we are lucky enough, we make sure to take advantage of those “cupcake” trips, not just because it’s a great time picking up a ton of sheds, but because it allows for some of our best training opportunities. The picture attached to this blog is from a 1 ½ day trip to Southern Iowa that we took Nick Mundt’s dog, Jeb, along with a few others we had in training. We picked up 79 sheds during that time and when we came home we had some very tired, but confident shed dogs on our hands to keep moving forward in our training system.
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Remember, set your dogs up for success in training!
By Jeremy Moore