What is Mantrailing?
Mantrailing is teaching your dog to find a person based on their unique scent, very similar to search and rescue dogs, but we do it for fun. Mantrailing harnesses a dog’s natural ability to trail, using their nose and turning it into a fun sport.
We start off showing the dog the “runner” or “missing person” running away with their favourite food or toys. This helps to increase the dog’s motivation to trail for the person. Then we build up to not seeing the person go at all and the dog learning to sniff something the person has left or has touched. We have a specific ritual to start with at Mantrailing UK, using the Kocher method. We use harnesses and trail the dogs on a long line, allowing them to lead us to the missing person. We are building the foundations for the game, so as we progress we start to put our trust in the dogs’ super noses.
It is for all breeds and all behaviour issues, or attitudes. All breeds excel at mantrailing as all dogs have noses, from the smallest Chihuahua to the largest Cane Corso. Obviously more working bred breeds, such as the Visla, Pointer or Spaniel, tend to take to it quicker. But any breed can do it.
All dogs instinctively know how to use their nose, regardless of breed, sex, age, and temperament. Have you ever watched your dog following the trail of a long-gone rabbit? You know the dog will never find it but the thrill of the search is as much fun as finding a rabbit would be!
It’s a natural ability, and it’s an amazing sense we can’t even begin to comprehend. Dogs can actually tell the time from scent, and its direction of travel from its age. Sniffing in dogs has been proven to calm them – it reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, in the blood and helps the dog feel calmer.
How Mantrailing can help your dog and you
Since mantrailing is all about the sniffing, it can have a huge effect on our dog’s wellbeing through encouraging natural behaviour, helping to build confidence and building a bond between you and your dog. Sniffing is so freeing for a dog, and it’s something we forget about as our sense of smell is so poor. Often when we choose to do training with our dogs it’s about our end goals and how we want them to work something out. With mantrailing, we can’t take control as it is the dog leading the way, nose-first.
It’s the ideal challenge for dogs who are reactive as each dog is worked individually away from other dogs or only trail people the dog is comfortable with to start with. Once they start to progress it becomes rewarding for the dog to approach new people for a prize. It can turn a fearful aggressive dog into a confident dog in only a few trails. It has such a huge impact on them. Your dog’s happiness and safety are always a priority, and part of mantrailing is about making it fun for the dog.
When the dogs are engaging their nose to find the person, we are there to cheer them on. Putting their nose to the ground is natural and instinctive. By giving them an outlet for their sniffing, with a predictable reward at the end that they get time after time, you are not only tapping into the natural and comforting sequence of hunting, but you are providing a win every time.
“Sniffing in dogs has been proven to calm them, it reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, in the blood and helps the dog feel calmer.”
The dog’s confidence skyrockets and you can see dogs that were once very afraid to approach a person suddenly jump at the chance to hunt one out.
We aren’t teaching them anything new with mantrailing, all dogs can sniff. We are harnessing their natural talent.
It’s all about the reward at the end. The missing person has run off with their food or toy, and we encourage the use of wet foods at the end of the trail to further help the dogs release endorphins via licking. With toys, we can create a feeling of happiness by playing tug or producing the favourite ball at the end of the trail.
The dogs always work on a lead, so it’s a fantastic sport for dogs whose recall needs improving or dogs in need of low impact exercise due to age or injuries. It is especially good for puppies as it is mentally tiring more than physically, and it has little impact on their joints as they grow. It is one of the few sports you can start from as soon as the puppy has had its first vaccinations.
It’s a real boost for us as well, as often dogs that might have been kicked out of classes for being too vocal or unruly excel at mantrailing. They can harness that excitement and brainpower towards something that makes them truly happy on a mental level.
It is a real buzz watching dogs learn to find people and learning to read your dog. You start to understand it on an intimate level, watching their head turns and subtle body changes that say they’ve got the trail or lost it. Trailing is individual to each dog, and we as their owners need to learn to understand them, giving subtle help when needed or sitting back and letting them work it out.
Working as a team to get to the end goal is a great way to build a stronger bond. We are putting our trust in our dog and allowing them free reign to discover where the person may be, trusting them not to steer us wrong or get distracted by another scent. It’s good for us to let go of perfection and allow our dogs to lead the charge for once.
There is no pressure to the trail, you can do it as often or as little as you want. With Mantrailing UK there is an opportunity to work towards three levels of skill and gain awards in them. Or you can just enjoy trailing your dog.
How to get started
To get started in mantrailing with Mantrailing UK you need to find your nearest instructor at www.mantrailinguk.com/find-an-instructor and attend an introduction course near you. The introduction course teaches you and your dog about the game, leaving you with a dog that has started the early beginnings of trailing and you hopefully hooked on the sport.
Each Mantrailing UK Instructor is trained to help you find the best way to make mantrailing fun for your dog.
All you need to get started is a dog and some enthusiasm. Ideally, your dog would have a harness and long line to start off trailing, which don’t need to be fancy. But many instructors can lend you equipment to try to see what’s best for you and your dog.
Be ready to be a missing person for another dog on the introduction. We want to get as many people involved as possible, so family members are also welcome on many introduction sessions.
There are other mantrailing courses and associations in the UK but Mantrailing UK is the largest in the UK currently and we are expanding our instructor numbers every year to cover the whole of the UK. If there isn’t an instructor near you currently, there hopefully will be soon.
If you go with other organisations or an independent trainer then make sure they have experience trailing, and find out what methods they use. All for fun mantrailing should be force-free and about the fun. Mantrailing UK does not train operational dogs.
Trailing K9’s was set up to get more people into mantrailing with their dog, as it is one of the most exciting new sports in the UK. Kathryn started her trailing journey in 2019 and has never looked back.
For More Information: www.trailingk9s.com