Mantrailing with Dogs

beagle dog in the grass

With mantrailing, your furry friend searches for missing people with the help of an individual scent.

Dogs don't just have a better sense of smell than their owners. They usually have a better intuition too – which says everything you need to know about mantrailing with dogs.

We will explain how you can recognise, whether your dog is also suited for this scent work and what you as a beginner need for mantrailing.

The principle of mantrailing

With mantrailing, the owner takes their dog on its lead – the mantrailer dog in front. The aim of the team is to find a certain person on a site or in buildings with the help of a scent article (e.g. a worn shirt).

Hence, it's a search for a person during which your dog perceives floating odour particles. Since these particles can be found on different levels, experts also discuss 'high, semi-high or low scent work'.

Working dogs practicing mantrailing and tracking dogs should not be confused. For instance, the police uses tracking dogs to follow a scent trail solely on the ground. As a result, specialists describe this as 'low scent work'.

Requirements: Is my dog suitable for mantrailing?

First of all, the most important requirement is fun. Mantrailing will only work for your dog if it enjoys trailing with you. The following points will outline what other factors you must consider:

  1. Size

The size of your dog doesn't matter with mantrailing, because small dogs don't automatically have a worse sense of smell than large dog breeds. If your little pet snuffles frequently on walks or loves playing hide and seek with you, it will be a very good fit for mantrailing.

  1. Health

Mantrailing isn't just a challenge for the olfactory organ, but the entire body. A tracking search can extend over several kilometres, which is why a trail lasting several hours can require several hours of physical work and concentration from you and your dog (the mantrailer).

As a team, you and your dog have to overcome both straight paths and impassable ground like forests or built-up areas. So make sure that you and your dog are in good health and can cope with the exertion. Your dog is less suited to mantrailing if it suffers from orthopaedic disorders (e.g. hip dysplasia).

  1. Age

In general, there's no fixed age limit for mantrailing with dogs. But if you would like to do it with your puppy, it should already be able to follow and listen to you. From the age of eight months at the earliest, puppies are mentally and physically ready to follow a track over long distances.

In contrast, there's no limit for old dogs. The main thing is your senior companion being fit and enjoying scent work.

chihuahua on the grass
Small breeds are also suitable dogs for tracking people.

The right equipment: What do I need for mantrailing?

You only need a few things for mantrailing with your dog. Once you've bought them, there's nothing standing in your way.

The following equipment is practical for mantrailing:

  • A chest harness (this should fit well and be in a warning colour)
  • A lead (drag lead) of 5 to 15 metres in length
  • Tasty food as a reward
  • A bag of food to portion out treats
  • A portable and always filled water bottle
  • A tightly sealed bag for transporting the scent article (e.g. freezer bag)
a woman giving her dog a snack
The mantrailer deserves a tasty treat at the end of every trail!

Mantrailing for beginners: How do I get started with mantrailing?

If you would like to do mantrailing with your dog and offer it a fun activity besides its normal walks, you can take up mantrailing as a leisure activity at a dog school.

However, mantrailing in groups does mean that you sometimes have to be the one who hides. So be certain that you are able to sometimes wait for several hours alone behind a tree or in a playground, even in cold temperatures.

If you would like to professionally train your dog to be a mantrailer rescue dog, you can ask your local rescue dog association about seminars or training.

Slowly increase training

Training generally starts slowly for beginners. All beginnings are difficult and your dog first has to learn what you want from it. Hence, your team leader designs the first trails to be only a few metres long. They will increase the distances once your dog has started to get the hang of it.

Never do trails with a collar and only put on your dog's harness during training so that it associates the harness with mantrailing in the long run.

Always make sure too that you don't overwhelm your four-legged friend. Motivate your dog during man-trailing and reward it immediately when it has completed the task. This is the only way to condition your dog to explore the area with its nose together with you as a team.

Would you like to discover even more exciting dog sports? Then take a look at the articles with an overview of all dog sports.

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