6:00 AM hits and almost instantly my face gets hit with a hard wet slap, as a cold dog tongue starts scraping the skin off my right cheek. Welcome to my new alarm clock! This new morning ritual is just one of many things that  has changed for me since adding a black lab puppy to my family, but most all have been good additions! And as Booner has grown so quickly over the last couple months, I figured I ought to give you all an update on this future antler finding fiend before he’s all grown up!

In general, Booner is doing great. He’s gotten really good at coming when called, sitting and not chewing power cords. All key steps in learning the ropes at my household! But he’s also working on taking the first baby steps towards becoming a shed hunting dog. So for those out there interested in teaching your pup to find antlers, here are a few tips and thoughts.

From what I’ve read, you really can’t start training a pup hard to find sheds til around 6 months of age. But you can prime them for it. So with that in mind, I’ve done several things. First off, I’ve worked to really familiarize Booner with antlers and get him excited about them. He has four little dink antlers laying around the house at all times, that we use as chew toys. He’s come to really enjoy curling up on his bed with a nice fork antler! Also whenever he’s playing with the antler, I try to make an extra effort to reward him and get him excited. I want him to think that the antler equals a great time. In addition to just letting him carry it around, I also like to play fetch with the antler. Boone is getting really good at retrieving and that’s a huge step towards being a successful shed hunter.

When playing fetch with the antler, I’ll actually use a food treat to reward him sometimes, which is way better than the head pats I give him for retrieving the tennis ball. This, again, is in an effort to help him realize the antlers are freaking awesome.

So in a nutshell, my plan for the months leading up to him being a half year old are to continue getting Booner excited about antlers, working on his retrieving skills and fine tuning his basic obedience. In a couple months or so, I’ll probably begin setting antlers strategically around the lawn and rewarding him for finding them. And from there the real training will start. Hopefully by the time February roles around he’ll be ready to finish his training in the field!