Shed hunting has gone to the dogs. Literally. The endeavor has grown in popularity over the last decade and several pro trainers are taking a cue from the public's interest and have started training dogs to assist would-be bone collectors.
One trainer, Tom Dokken of Dokken's Oak Ridge Kennels, has taken it beyond just training dogs to find shed antlers and has created an association, the North American Shed Hunting Dog Association, a World Shed Dog Hunting Championship event and a new website that covers not only the planned events but also offers tips and products to help you train your own antler-finding Fido (such as this step-by-step training handbook).
Dokken created the association about a year ago and just last week launched the companion website, sheddogtrainer.com, to help promote the events and championship efforts as well as to support do-it-yourself trainers interested in training their own dog.
The site features upcoming events, sells training aids and will soon feature tips and columns for trainers. A trophy room gives users a place to send in pictures of their pooch with found sheds.
The World Shed Dog Hunting Championship will be held on Dokken's property in Northfield, Minn., in April...hopefully. "We've still got a lot of snow on the ground here," said Dokken. "So we're shooting for April sometime but we have to be flexible."
The inaugural championship event will be an invitation-only affair, but Dokken is proposing two qualifying events for 2011 that will hopefully serve up a field of 15 to 20 dogs for a 2012 championship. The proposed events would be held in late summer and early fall. Ideally, Dokken sees qualifying events taking place throughout the country with regional events filtering the best shed-hunting dogs into the championship similar to the Super Retriever Series or other dog-related testing associations.
The events would be broken into three divisions: an Open Division, for professional and amateur trainers alike; an Amateur Division, for weekend-warrior-only participants; and a Junior Division, for dogs two-years old and younger.
Any breed of dog can participate in the events and judging criteria consists of points for the number of shed antlers found, and delivered to hand, within a specific time limit.
Dokken sees not only room for the events in the dog training world, but a need for them. "There's been such a great interest in this new sport and it's growing by leaps and bounds. This gives people a place to compete and develop shed dogs through competition; that's normally how these things develop," said Dokken. "It gives people who are training and breeding shed dogs a place to showcase their dogs and exchange information."