Over a few years recently, Shed Hunting is a topic that is getting lots of attention. The dog owners with bird dogs also known as duck dogs know this concept of shed hunting as it is all about using dogs for hunting antlers.
As you can probably understand from the name shed hunting that when there are sheds (most commonly deer) around and are hiding in the bushes, the dog’s nose comes in handy. Dogs, in general, have great smell power. This ability of smell is well used to find the hiding sheds.
There are many breeds of shed hunting dogs. All of them have great smelling power. The idea is to make use of their nose. In fact, dog owners can try their dog for shed hunting if they believe their dog has great smell power. Some dogs are God gifted in terms of smell power. So, you may ask me what is the best shed hunting dog? The straight and easy answer is that you can use any dog that has a good smell of power. The most common breeds include Pointers, Setters, Retrievers, and Spaniels.
The best shed hunting sub-breeds have been listed below for your ready reference:
- Labrador and Golden Retrievers are good
- German Shorthair Pointer (this is different from German Shepherd)
- American Foxhound
- English Setter
- German Wirehaired Pointer
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Labrador breed is the most common and most popular in the USA and UK. As there are a lot of professional as well as hobbyist hunters, they like to keep a retriever dog. The qualities of this breed make them an excellent hunting dog.
The most common and the best reason why Labrador retrievers are loved is that they get trained quite fast when it comes to hunting training. This is the reason they are also called as retrievers. As per Wikipedia “A retriever is a type of gun dog that retrieves game for a hunter”.
Lab Retrievers have a long history with the USA and UK as well. People have been loving them and owning them for decades (more than 150 years).
Like I mentioned above, the strong noise, smell power, and fast training sessions response make them favorites. What is more interesting is to know that a large number of hunters want to breed the Labs when they are puppy and hence train them as per their own needs.
The Golden Retriever
For a normal person, a retriever is a retriever whether Golden or Lab. The basic traits of both these breeds are the same and both are used as duck/hunting dogs.
However, I can confidently say that Goldens are on the soft side when it comes to temperament. Thus, more training sessions may be required with a Golden as compared to a Labrador. Having said that, Golden Retrievers are as good as Labrador when it comes to serving as a hunting dog.
They are also too good for the birds that are hiding up. Any bird that is hiding in the bushes up above your head cannot escape from Golden Retriever’s nose. For this to happen, you have to first give them the smell of the bird during pre-hunting training sessions.
German Shorthair Pointer (GSP)
When it comes to smelling from long distances, GSP is too good at it. Just give them a lead with the initial smell from the corpse and then see how fast they get to work and find the prey for you. A target hiding at 50 yards is a cake-walk for their nose.
Even if you don’t need a super-strong nose, the level of energy in them is something that will attract you to pick them up as a shed dog. As while in your hunting session, you will need to travel and roam around a lot, you need a companion who has that stamina.
However, the downside of their high energy level is that while inside your home, when you are not on a hunting mission, you may find it difficult to channelize their energetic moods. For this, I advise to keep them busy all the time with one activity or the other.
You cannot go wrong with Pudelpointer dog breed. If you want the best of everything then get this breed dog. They can easily track inside the sheds without falling off or creating any kind of a disappointment for you. However thick the shed is, you can count on the Pudelpointer.
Pudelpointers are quite active and agile in nature. They have good jumping and running stamina too. They also never want to let the prey escape because they are natural hunters. Thus, if you are going out in the shed antlers, do take a Pudelpointer dog with you and his will power plus the athletic capabilities will be of immense help to you
It can be a curious thought as to why do they have this sort of name. Their name consists of two words Poodle and Pointer.
They have been aptly named after combining these two words because they are agile, athletic, intelligent, natural retrievers, fast to get trained and want to dive on their prey. Not to mention that they have great smell power too.
As you can feel from the above, they are the best in class and possess so many desired abilities.
German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP)
I would rank them below the retrievers (Laborador as well as Golden retriever). However, they are good for both birds as well as shed hunting. All in all, they are one single package that you may be looking for.
I would place them alongside GSP, as they need a lot of training. Once they are trained and know what is their aim then you leave all the heavy lifting of search and smell to them.
The smell of antlers can make them track down the prey is heavy sheds too.
Finally, I wouldn’t recommend them as a long-term hunting companion due to their training requirements and they can frustrate the owner with their expeditions.
Weimaraner are also one dog breed that grabs attention. There special coat color and abilities make them one of the sought-after dog breeds for hunting sessions. Once you train them to do their job then it is very easy for them to follow along.
The two things that are required in shed dogs are agility and smelling sense. Both these are given to these Weimaraner by nature. Even the color of their coat makes them look amazingly attractive.
They are also easy going and mix well indoors so they also are good Familienhunde to have. You will have a lot of fun activities by having Weimaraner in your home.
The only one single hurdle can be their training but that is not as huge as with a pointer breed dog.
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever may be a new name to you but it also is part of the retriever dog family. Similar to Golden and Labrador family, Chesapeake is are also loyal, good looking and athletic. Their training process is also the same as the other two retrievers which is the shortest in all breeds of shed dogs.
The one downside, however, is that they may not be a good companion on very long hunting sessions as compared to Labrador or Golden. If I have to choose one between Labrador, Golden and Chesapeake then first I will choose the Lab, followed by Golden and Chesapeake will get the last ranking from me.
When going on your hunting expeditions, the Chesapeake dogs are not that easy going with new people. This is a good point about them because you don’t want the dog to get distracted and want him to just focus on the task at hand which is hunting.
The American Foxhound is quite a focused dog breed. They always have their target in mind and don’t get distracted by the worldly things going around them. Because of this ability, you can take them for those very long shed sessions too which no other breed would sustain. You can start training a Foxhound as a puppy and he will never disappoint in your shedding when he grows up.
Because of so much single-pointed focus, they may not be a good companion for your family especially kids.
These are just like the Foxhound that we discussed above. Beagles are quite aggressive on their prey and are full of energy. Their size may be small but what they are capable of is huge. Their nose is also great for finding the antlers in the bushes.
In the USA, one can easily spot a Beagle. I also own a rescued Beagle. Their aggressiveness is not liked by people looking for a family dog and that is why they end up getting abandoned a lot.
Bloodhound is one of the dogs who will do the job given to him so well and in a professional way.
Even various agencies in the USA who do the investigation jobs will use Bloodhounds for their unique requirements. As you can guess, these agencies need dogs who are great at smelling stuff. You can count blindly on them when it comes to finding the trail to the prey.
Every dog will have some sort of cons and in the case of Bloodhound, it can be difficult to train them especially when you are a first-timer with them. In the training, you have to spend more energy and once the dog is trained then he will show his energy when going for shed hunting with you.
This should not be a reason to ignore this breed. Training is something that cannot be avoided at all. It’s just that some dogs need more training sessions and patience than others.
When it comes to English Setter, every hunting family in the USA will know their name. Their history goes back to not one decade but hundreds of decades. Primarily, they have been used as hunting dogs than a family dog.
Not only shed hunting, but you can also take them out for duck hunting or bird hunting too. The scent of power is excellent. Their memory is great which is the exact reason for them being popular. When you are on a shed hunting session, you always need a dog who is great at remembering things.
English Setter also has further sub-breeds and not all of these sub-breeds are suitable as a shed dog. So make sure you go through their abilities thoroughly before getting one.
Finally, what is the Single Best Shed Hunting Dog
I would personally go either with a Labrador or a Pudelpointer depending upon availability. But generally, I have seen that Labrador dogs are easy to find and own because they are super popular in the USA. For your country, you will need to check the availability in your state/city. If you are currently looking for a shed dog then I can tell you the biggest secret that you need to see two things:
- Their smelling power
- How agile and athletic the dog is
Training is not big of an issue as there are a lot of resources both online and offline available to help you with all kinds of training. So many YouTube videos, websites like ourselves are available 24×7 for your training needs.
I have even seen grown-up dogs given the toughest training sessions which used to taught to puppies slowly as they grew up. So, don’t let training efforts come in your way when choosing the best shed dog.