October 5, 2010
From Adorable to Remarkable
By Vianna Marshall
This past spring I became acquainted with Diane Schmid owner of North Idaho Antler Dogs. At that time I had heard of shed antler dogs, but I had never seen them in action nor did I know what went into making a good shed antler dog. I expressed my great interest in the dogs and their training to Diane and she was gracious enough to share with me the capabilities of her dogs.
I learned that these are not dogs just running out in the woods chasing squirrels, birds, rabbits, deer or elk and accidentally finding antlers. They are highly trained Labrador Retrievers whose only focus is hunting shed antlers. Dogs trained by Diane are able to find shed antlers hidden in the woods and brush and even buried under several feet of snow. The speed and drive in which these dogs hunt is utterly amazing. Not only do these dogs understand that the task of finding antlers is their job, but they also love every minute of it.
It was in April that Diane’s dog “Arrow” had just given birth to a litter of puppies. These Labrador puppies were black and chocolate. They were all so small and so adorable, I would call at least once a week to see if I could stop by to see them. Soon enough these little guys were running all over playing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what these cute little puppies would be able to do. I was able to witness the training and accomplishments of these puppies from their first encounter with an antler to actually seeing them become hunters.
At five months of age the dogs are typically sold as “started” antler hunters. At that time, Diane has already spent every day since their birth working with the trainees. Some might say that an antler dog could be easily trained and they would be wrong!
A good antler dog is made, starting with the blood lines; in this case the blood lines are exceptional. Diane chooses blood lines which are not only proven for their physical and mental abilities, but also for their exceptional noses and trainability. Genetics are just building blocks to an amazing dog, the rest falls upon the trainer who actually makes the dog. Diane takes her job very seriously and on almost any given day you can find her out with one of her dogs training. You have heard the saying, “patience is a virtue” Diane exemplifies that saying. Day in and day out she keeps working with these pups even on those days when they don’t respond as she expects. Once Diane gets the pups to understand and appreciate the joys of retrieving an antler she builds upon that to encourage them to use their nose to find a hidden antler. The excitement of a successful antler search is shared by both dog and trainer.
Equally as important as having a talented antler dog is having a good companion. All of the North Idaho Antler Dogs are very loving, well behaved and eager to please. They have been well socialized and respond well to other dogs as well as children. These puppies observe their elder dogs’ excitement when working on antler retrieving exercises and also share the same joy of training exercises themselves.
Some might ask why invest in an antler hunting dog? The possibilities are endless with an antler dog. These trained dogs with their noses, eyes and ability to cover more ground can triple the amount of antlers that you or I could find. It enables you and your family to get out and break that case of cabin fever and it is also a good way to make some money. Shed antlers can be lucrative as they are used for medicinal purposes, decorative items, such as furniture and chandeliers. Current antler prices in the area are around $16/lb. Shed antler hunting is a great way to get outdoors with your dog and hunt antlers even when regular hunting season is closed.
Today at only six months old these dogs are antler crazy, but also very loving. I have been able to watch Arrow’s litter change from adorable little puppies to remarkable talented juvenile dogs that will go on to not only be amazing antler hunters, but also loyal companions. I have been blessed to become the owner of Brook, a North Idaho Antler Dog and one of Arrow’s puppies. She is already an excellent shed antler hunter. Am I looking forward to the upcoming shed antler hunting season? You bet! Not only do I have a love of dogs, but also of the outdoors and I am excited to enjoy both while shed hunting.
North Idaho Antler Dogs is expecting a new litter of puppies early winter 2014 and will be taking deposits for both started and finished antler hunters. The Schmids’ dogs are sold at various training stages. At age 4-6 months dogs can be purchased as started antler hunters and at 1-year they are sold as finished antler hunters. Several of North Idaho Antler’s trained dogs have made their homes as far away as the East Coast and Alaska.
“A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves.”
April 29, 2011
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