Can a dog be trained to find money? Yes it can. But that would prove useless in normal circumstances. Most of the money found would be the property of others. Unless, of Course, you were looking for buried treasure or relics. Remember a dog can be trained to sniff out anything from drugs to weapons. For our article I have chosen something of great value, ginseng. The ginseng root sells, per pound, more than any legal product I can think of offhand. I remember my father getting over $1500.00 just for a small shoe box full of the stuff in the late seventies.
Hunting ginseng is not only a very lucrative hobby but is also great exercise for both you and your dog. Personally, I love any excuse to tromp around in the woods.
So let’s get on with this great moneymaking plan so you can get yours.
01. Find a good puppy.
A good nose is probably not that big a deal as almost any dog has a sniffer capable of locating ginseng. You would think that a hunting dog would be a good candidate but such is usually not the case. A hunting dog, true to it’s nature, could be easily distracted by game. It is important that the puppy you choose be friendly, intelligent and playful. These traits are more important than their sense of smell. All dogs have a keen sense of smell. Scent dogs think of their work as play. The more playful the puppy is the better worker it will be. In my experience female dogs were always easier to train as they are not so headstrong or stubborn as the males. Note: I would avoid any toy breeds or non-working breeds of dogs. Retrievers and certain shepherds and athletic breeds of dogs are your best bet. Nervous, high energy dogs like Jack Russell terriers are a bad choice. Most hounds don’t qualify because they usually have no interest in playing when mature, although beagles are used in some airports with great success. My beagle won’t play at all. Others do.
02. Have the puppy spayed or neutered.
Not to be preachy but it is in your best interest if your dog does not take an interest in the other gender at the time you want to find ginseng.
03. The first order of affairs is to play with your puppy on a regular basis as soon as it is able. Their attention span will be short so keep playtime short. But do it often. Play is the basis for training. Training will be centered around play. Training will be the foundation for work. As the puppy matures teach it some simple tricks. I would start training as soon as the puppy is able to walk steadily.
I assume the puppy knows to come when called. That one is almost universal. To teach a puppy to sit, give the command and hold a treat before her and as you press down lightly on her rear end pass the treat over her head toward her back. She will sit automatically by trying to watch the treat. When the puppy accomplishes the goal praise her like she did the greatest thing on earth. Remember not to try to train a puppy complex tricks if she is too young to learn them. We want to keep the training simple at first. Always reinforce what the puppy has learned by going through each trick every day after they are mastered by your puppy.
Next teach the puppy to shake hands. Have the puppy to sit and give the command as you take the paw lightly and go through the motions with her. Soon the pup will raise her paw automatically. When she does, reward her.
Note: Remember that puppies are like children. Physical punishment will ruin a good working dog. Puppies are also like people in that some learn faster than others and that dogs have individual personalities like anyone else. Patience and consistency are the most important traits you can have. If the training is not fun for the dog you are doing it too long or you have a bad attitude and the dog senses it. Dogs can read people’s energy like a book. Even a puppy. Being mean spirited will only counter any productivity you may hope for. The puppy should become your life-long friend. If not, I beg you to forget this whole program. Money isn’t everything.
4. Eventually we arrive at the critical part of the training.
Learning to play fetch. Most puppies pick up on this rapidly. Especially retrievers and certain shepherds and athletic breeds of dogs. The object of the chase should be a tennis ball or any hollow ball that you can stuff ginseng root into. Go through all of the puppies learned exercises and then present the ball. Tease the puppy with it but don’t tease too much. You want to maintain the puppies trust. Toss the ball. When the puppy picks it up call her to you. If the puppy refuses to come to you turn and walk away. Puppies hate that and she will probably run after you because you may quit playing. If she has the ball remove it from her mouth and repeat the game. NEVER go get the ball if the dog drops it. Just quit. If you fetch the ball for the dog you will have given her control of the game. You cannot afford this. Simply walk away and try it again at the next session. This is where patience is paramount. This is where the type of dog you have becomes evident. This may or may not take longer than the other exercises you teach your dog.
Now play the guessing game. This exercise stresses the importance of scent. Put your hands behind your back with a piece of ginseng in one hand. Present your fists. Ask the puppy in an excited tone where it is. When the dog sniffs the hand with the ginseng in it praise her to high heaven. At this point it is OK if she gets it wrong. You are merely teaching the dog the importance of the correct scent. If she sniffs the wrong hand keep quiet and wait until she sniffs the correct hand. It is important that you keep a poker face and give no visual clues as to where the ginseng is. And keep it friendly.
5. Later when the guessing game is mastered give the sit command when she chooses the correct hand and praise her. We want her to sit as an indication that she has found the ginseng. We want this response to ginseng in all future exercises.
6. At this point we hide the ginseng in one of three containers that are identical. Put them in a row before her and play the guessing game. When this is mastered move the containers farther apart moving the ginseng to a different container each time you play. Do this until the containers can be hidden anywhere in the room and the dog can find them. Do not hurry this process. It is exciting but you do not want to jeopardize your progress at this point. If the dog makes mistakes slow down the pace or shorten the training periods until she gets it. You may have to regress the training a bit.
7. Another game involves the hollow ball.
Cut a tennis ball or any hollow ball and put a bit of ginseng in it. Throw the ball in view of the dog and let it go into a bush, under or behind any obstacle within reason and let her find it.
8. For this exercise hide the piece of ginseng in the open but out of sight. Tall grass works well. With the dog on a leash go with her as she searches for the ginseng.
9. In time hide the ginseng by putting dirt over it and let her find it.
10. Finally, dig a shallow hole and allow her to search for the ginseng. Be patient. Occasionally take her to places where you know ginseng is at and see if she can find it. At first literally take her directly to the ginseng. At least within five or ten feet of it. Later take her to where it is farther away until she is ready to go out with you and find that money.
It may be better to have the dog to bark when she sits in case she is out of view when she finds the ginseng. Personally I have problems teaching a dog to “speak”. Some breeds are more vocal than others. This is where a lot of bird dogs fail and other breeds excel.
Use only the tiniest amount for training your dog. This stuff is expensive. You may get by with commercial ginseng but I have never tried it. This program can be modified to meet you and the puppies needs. A different approach may work better for your dog. Always keep it fun. If you or your puppy are frustrated or tired take a break or quit the session. Never scold the dog for training or hunting mistakes. Try to isolate the cause and eliminate the problem.
Remember to have your pet spayed or neutered. It is good for your purpose here. I have found that the more pets one has the less appreciated the pets become. Buyers for ginseng can be found on the internet. We used to sell to Hamilton Bros. in Canada. I am not sure if they are in business anymore. Usually there are local middlemen who handle it but you won’t get as much for it. In West Virginia, at least, ginseng has a legal hunting season. Better check out the laws in your state before you go hunting. Ginseng must be air dried before selling it.
Some dishonest people put lead in their ginseng root to make it heavier. Do not try it. They will catch you if you do it.