When I talk face to face with people about Mantrailing they often mishear me and think I'm saying Man-TRAINING.... like I offer some kind of miracle one size fits all service....sorry ladies and gents but no, I'm all about the dogs here at Cloud Nine K9s Scentwork & Search Dogs :-)
Soooooo Mantrailing....This is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing canine sports in the country, but what exactly is it? The short version is teaching your dog to find people / a specific human scent.
Simple as that....but that's a very basic explanation. Let me take you further into the scentwork journey and you'll see why this form of scentwork is so much fun and very enriching for your canine companion.
There are two types of search dog that most people are familiar with; Search & Rescue dogs and Police tracking dogs. The difference between these two more well known types of search dogs and Mantrailing dogs isn't much at all, they all do they same thing, just in different ways!
The more in depth answer is that Mantrailing teaches dogs to find a specific human scent and follow that trail to find the person at the end by scenting an item belonging to the person that has run off to hide for said dog. It is a bit like Search & Rescue work for pet dogs but we always find our person at the end....which sadly isn't always the case in real search and rescue work. In fact the success rate of finding an actual missing person is about 4% using just dogs alone, now I know that doesn't sound like a great number but remember that is only the dogs actually finding the person. The search and rescue dogs main job is to find evidence of a direction of travel, so which way the missing person went. Once established either the other search & rescue or authorities can also search that area for evidence or access potential CCTV to see if the person gets into a vehicle, public transport etc. There are so many elements to search & rescue work, a lot more than the tiny bit I have mentioned above and all those involved should be applauded and thanked for their continued dedication and efforts.
Back to Mantrailing and why you should find your local group today!
The great thing about this sport is that ANY dog can get involved! Usually when people think of dog sports they think their dogs has to be young and physically fit to be able to join in....that is not the case with any form of scentwork! I have all kinds of breeds, ages and physical ability join in with Mantrailing and Scentwork classes and ALL have had a great time! I have even started doing this with my own dogs Stig and Lily. For those that don't already know about my dogs, Stig is 10yrs and has had 6 ops on his back leg (cruciate ligament) and Lily is 13 yrs and has arthritis all over but especially in her front elbow due to a pin being left in her leg for several years when she broke it as a puppy (way before I got her). Both have very different styles when it comes to Mantrailing. Stiggy I have now retired as he goes full force forwards, pulling with excitement at the thought of finding his person and getting a fuss. This is great but he started going lame on his good leg after sessions so now we do occassional trails just for fun while I teach him to take it a bit easier (good luck right with a staffie cross boxer!! mental age of 6 MONTHS OLD! HA!). Lily on the other hand just plods along at her own pace and is a lot more methodical on her trail to find her person but is definitely a warm weather trailer as she doesn't like the cold and refuses to wear a coat! Scentwork is her year round activity as we can do it indoors!
The great thing about Mantrailing and Scentwork is that you can cater for dogs individual requirements; be it physical... psychological...or weather preference!
Also anxious and reactive dogs can take part!! This is a great confidence builder as it incorporates an activity that all dogs love, sniffing/scenting...with getting some really yummy food or toy reward at the end! I have a lovely Standard Poodle that joined a workshop and she was quite a nervy girl to begin with, she didn't like strangers or getting too close to them. When we started she would stand quite far away and just bark at her trail layer.... because why on earth is the strange person hiding behind a tree!! STRANGER DANGER!!! Now.... she is an EPIC Mantrailing dog! She pulls like a trail, squeaks, yips and does a little dance and when she finds her person she does a lovely sit while she waits for her reward. It is beautiful to see her work through and problem solve when trying to find her person. We have managed to work around groups of people and other dogs moving around while she works and she is super focused on her task. This is because we took our time with her, found the right reward and made it fun! As a trainer this makes my heart burst with pride! To see a dogs behaviour change over a relatively short period of time is simply breath taking and I even did a few happy dances myself (while no one was watching...no one wants to see that haha!)
As we work one dog at a time reactive dogs can also join in the fun! we can control the environment in which they work so they are more comfortable and be able to build their confidence around other dogs / situations where they would usually react. I have a few dogs that, to begin with, couldn't be in crowded public areas with lots of people as this would cause anxiety, reactivness or even the dog shutting down. But through the fun world of Mantrailing, selective venues and time these dogs have managed to trail, very happily, How cool is that!!
This is why I love Mantrailing (and scentwork) so much....be everyone is welcome and can take part! Its all inclusive!
As well as all the benefits for the dogs, it's also great fun for the owners too as they get to learn how to become a great trail layer! They get to run and hide for other teams and get creative in how to hide. Now if your new to this it doesn't sound very exciting...but it is!! Yes it can be a little daunting to lay in a wet ditch or hide in the dark woods but its also super fun hearing that dog getting closer and the excitement of being found...well don't take my word for it....come and join in!! You also get to see how the other dogs work, pick up some tips on what others do that might work for your own dog and be a part of helping another dog learn the sport! Which is actually a great feeling! Being a trail layer is much more than just hiding for a dog, its about how exciting or fun you make it so that the dog WANTS to find you! I have some great trail layers in my group and I even managed to get a teenage boy to loosen up and become really happy, exciting and squeaky for the dogs....who by the way all loved him and found him very quickly!
But doing a new sport means spending lots of money one equipment I hear people say! Actually no...as long as you have a Y fronted harness and a long line, you don't need to buy anything else if you don't want to. Yes there are special types of tracking or trailing harnesses and long lines etc, but you can also use what you already have. If your dog is already walked on a harness and that's the only one you have, great! You just need something like a bandana or neck chief to put on your dog. We use these things as part of a ritual, so after some time, the dog learns that when these things go on (the Y harness or bandana) then they are going to be doing the fun "Find the person game!". So just like your routine of taking your dog for a walk, you get certain things ready and your dog instantly knows he's going out....the ritual for Mantrailing is the same premises. This way your dog know they are about to play the game, they can pull a bit if they need/want to (but NO RUNNING...that's not allowed) and its allowed because it part of the game. Once the harness or bandana comes off it back to normal walking again. Your dogs are a lot smarter than we give them credit and they can very quickly put all this together so please don't worry that your dog will always be pulling you over to people in hopes they get a treat or fuss.
But why a Y fronted harness I hear you ask.....Well this is because Y fronted harness allows free movement of the shoulders and is a lot more comfortable for dogs when trailing. If you have a harness that has a single strap going across the chest and shoulders it is a lot more restrictive and over time can cause joint problems, the dogs may not want to trail as its uncomfortable and that's just not fun for anyone. Imagine your a runner (HA! I know....me either but go with me on this) you use your arms when running don't you? They swing back and forth, give you balance and momentum etc.....now imagine trying to run like normal with a bit of tape strapped tightly around the middle of your upper arms and chest. Your arms can no longer move freely, its quite uncomfortable and you can no longer steady yourself if you misstep and you fall over. Would you want to keep running after experiencing that? probably not.....the same goes for your dog so a nice Y fronted harness is much better for health and comfortability (that's a word right? ha!).
Your dog MUST wear a harness to trail in, they cannot do it with just a collar! The anatomy of a dogs throat is actually very delicate and doesn't take much to damage. Most dogs get really excited when doing Mantrailing as they get to use their natural instincts of sniffing and searching so they are going to be pulling. Some more than others but we must always think of safety first!
So come and get involved in a fun new game for both you and your four legged (or maybe you have a tripod, they can still join!) today! There are great physical benefits for both dogs and owners, the dogs get to trail and find people and the owners get to run (or walk) for other dogs. The dogs also get a great mental workout too! sniffing and searching can be hard work on the nose and brain, problem solving at its finest! Don't believe me? Check out my Facebook page for reviews, pictures and posts about how relaxed and tired owners dogs are after some scentwork.