Deer antlers have multiple uses after taking a deer down during a hunt. Some people use them to lure deer in future hunts; some use them to hang on their wall to remember the trophy buck.
However, antlers can also be used as a reward for a good hunting dog. Maybe you have a regular dog at home who doesn’t hunt but deserves a tasty treat. Antlers can be the perfect gift for any canine friend you might have; you just have to know how to harvest them properly.
Alternatively, you can use elk antlers for this purpose as well. Elk antlers tend to be larger, so you will have more to work with. An elk antler would be more readily available in the Pacific Northwest areas, but not so much in the eastern region of the United States.
If you can source them, reindeer antlers are a soft alternative that can be good for older dogs. Antlers for dogs vary depending on the animal, so you might have to experiment. Anything from the deer family will work.
Cutting Deer Antlers from a Deer Head for a Dog
If you are removing antlers from a deer head for mounting on your wall, you will need to pay special attention to the angles. You don’t want to scratch the antlers or mess the cuts up.
However, since we are using these antlers for a dog, it doesn’t matter so much what the final product looks like. As long as they are removed containing the whole set of antlers, the dog won’t mind a few scratches or the lack of perfect angles.
These are the tools you will need to remove the antlers:
· A hacksaw
· A hunting knife that’s very sharp
· Extra sawblades
You will need to make sure the pelt is removed from the deer head and all of the organs are removed, including the eyes. Nothing is needed but the bare, empty skull.
Use these steps to remove the antlers from the head efficiently:
1. Position the deer head on the ground with the jaw resting on the bottom. The antlers should be pointing up.
2. Place the hacksaw over the buck’s eye sockets, right near where the eyebrows would be. Cut horizontally, from one side of the skull to the other.
3. This will cut the antlers right at the base. Move to the rear of the antlers, leaving about two or three inches from the very back of the skull. Start another horizontal cut on the backside of the antlers.
4. Now, place your saw about three inches behind the base of the antlers and saw in a vertical motion, perpendicular to the first two cuts you made.
5. Continue sawing until this cut meets the second cut you made near the back of the antlers. This should sever all connectivity.
6. If it doesn’t, use your hunting knife to cut away any small connective tissue that might remain.
7. Twist both of the antlers, and they should be free from the skull.
Making Final Preparations On Deer Antlers or Elk Antlers for Your Dog
There are a few other steps you need to take to finalize the deer antlers for your dog. The antlers have to be chopped down to size, cleaned, and blanched so they are softer and a bit more sanitized.
Some hunters prefer to boil antlers to make them suitable for dogs. However, this can make the antlers brittle, causing them to be destroyed prematurely. The main idea is to create a long-lasting chew toy for your dog. The antlers’ age will also have an effect on longevity.The older the antler, the faster your dog’s teeth will destroy them.
Proportion Cutting Deer Antlers for Antler Chews
What we will be doing here is sanding down rough patches that would normally cut your dog’s mouth. We will also cut the antlers down into more manageable and chewable sections for your dog to enjoy.
Use your saw to cut the antlers into proportioned sections. Make the first cut to separate the main beam from any other sections of deer antler.
- Sanding Sharp Points and Rough Edges
Use a sander to smooth down the sections you have separated. Make sure there are no rough points or edges.
- Cut Main Beam
After you are left with only the main beam, you can cut this in half so it matches the smaller portions. Sand these portions down as you did with the others.
- Separate Pieces
Depending on how large the antlers were, you should have around six-to-eight separate pieces of deer antler for your dog to enjoy.
- Save Extras
Give each deer antler to your dog one piece at a time. They should last them a decent length of time, assuming you didn’t boil them and provided them fresh antlers.
Split-Cutting the Deer Antlers to Make an Antler Chew
Split-cutting the antlers is a process that involves directly splitting the antlers in half so the dog has access to the bone marrow.
This method is usually best for smaller dogs or puppies because it makes the antlers easier to completely chew down. Split antlers won’t last nearly as long as ones that are left whole.
Cutting the Deer Antlers According to Your Dog’s Size
How you cut the antlers depends heavily on the size of your dog. The following section can give you a good idea of how to cut the antlers based on the size of your dog.
Puppy and Small Breed Antler Chews
We consider a smaller dog a breed that weighs anywhere from five-to-twenty pounds. This includes dogs like Pugs, Spaniels, Miniature Pinschers, Terriers, Dachshunds, Miniature Schnauzers, and other small breeds.
Make sure you cut the antlers down until they are in about twelve-to-fourteen separate pieces. This works well for puppies as well.
Medium Sized Dogs Antler Chews
Dogs between twenty-and-fifty pounds are considered medium-sized. They can handle the types of cuts we previously mentioned that end up with six-to-eight pieces of antler after you’re done cutting.
This includes dog breeds like Border Collies, Beagles, Whippets, Heelers, and other types. They don’t have particularly strong jaws, but they can handle moderately sized pieces. Eventually, they will chew the antler pieces down completely.
Large Sized Antler Cuts for Dog Chews
These are breeds that are between fifty-and-seventy pounds. This includes Shepherds, Retrievers, and Huskies. Their jaws are considerably stronger than medium breeds, but they aren’t the strongest when it comes to a dog’s mouth.
We prefer to keep these pieces around the six-to-eight count mark. The next size of dog will require you to cut the pieces into larger sections.
Extra-Large Antler Chew Cuts
These are made for breeds that are over seventy pounds. The dogs that fall into this category are Rottweilers, Mastiffs, Akitas, and other Bull breeds.
These pieces you can cut between three-and-five counts from the whole pieces of antler. However, you should be warned; these large dogs chewing can make quick work of these antlers, depending on your dog’s chewing habits.
Pros and Cons of Using Deer Antlers for Treats
We are sure you can imagine that some dog owners frown upon using antlers as a treat for your dogs. Just like any other item you can use to reward your dog, there are pros and cons to using this method. Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of using deer antlers for your pets.
Pros of Using Deer Antlers
1. Deer antlers usually last quite a long time for dogs. Assuming you don’t have an extra-large breed, the antlers should last anywhere from several weeks to a month (each piece).
2. The antlers don’t splinter like other types of bones you can give your dog.
3. Using deer antlers can cut your costs substantially when compared to buying other treats at a pet store or grocery store. You could either harvest the antlers on your own or find a hunter that doesn’t mind sharing some of his antler take for the season.
Cons of Using Deer Antlers
1. After a dog chews on antlers for several weeks, they can become incredibly tough from a combination of saturation and twisting. This can be very bad for your dog’s gums or teeth. Once they hit a certain point, you should switch them out for a fresh set if your dog hasn’t eaten them.
If your dog is an aggressive chewer, there is a potential for a tooth fracture. Many dog owners shy away from using antlers because of this.
2. Antlers can contain harmful bacteria sometimes if you don’t clean them properly. This can give your dog a stomach ache or lead to diarrhea.
Are Antlers Safe?
Deer antlers can be a great way to reward your dog. They are a great alternative to expensive chew toys and can last quite a long time. The question remains – are antlers safe for your dog?
Many pet owners argue that antlers are not suitable for dogs because of their bacterial properties. However, assuming you’ve cleaned the antlers efficiently, you shouldn’t have any issues with these treats making your dog sick. However, not all dogs have the same reaction to new food items.
Dog Friendly and a Great Treat
Remember to clean them thoroughly, cut them to the right size, and switch them after they become tough. Pay attention to your dog’s chewing habits. Following these steps will lead to an enjoyable experience for your furry friend having their own antler.
Most dogs love these as a chew toy, and they make a terrific treat for your four-legged kids!