What is Mantrailing?
You may be familiar with bloodhounds being used to trail after and find people in dramas such a Sherlock Holmes. That is mantrailing at its simplest and mirrors the use of dogs in the real world who do just that – find people.
Some of those people, such as criminal fugitives, won’t want to be found whilst others such as lost walkers will desperately want to be found. To a mantrailing dog that distinction is irrelevant, to them it is a highly rewarding game where using their nose, they will seek out.
A little bit of History
Historically, dogs were ‘trained’ by man to help hunt other animals for food. Later, man realised that the same scent trailing abilities could be used to ‘manhunt’ and so the science of ‘man hunting’, now called mantrailing, was born.
By the 19th century the use of bloodhounds as scent following hounds was established as a valid method for the police, thus often used to try and solve murder cases.
By the 20th century trailing had been adopted by search and rescue teams around the globe. More recently the leisure potential for mantrailing has been recognised and now any person with any breed of dog can enjoy this past time. It is even an established sport in some countries.
So what is Mantrailing?
When a dog is trained to follow and find an individual human. This feat is achieved by harnessing (no pun intended) the dog’s existing ability to follow scent as it might in hunting for prey. The mantrailing dog sole focus needs to be on a human`s unique scent, ignoring distractions.
A dog who is left to its own devices may begin hunting one prey but might switch to another easier prey trail it encounters along the way, as its priority is to find food. Thus, the training of a mantrailer focuses on teaching the dog to discriminate between the scent of the human (made exciting by the prospect of favorite food or game) and the multiple other interesting scents also in the local environment be they from other people, other dogs or animals.
What is scent?
Every living organism and nearly every chemical substance has a unique scent that can be distinguished by the canine nose. Human scent, the subject of mantrailing, consists of skin shed by the human and associated person-specific bacteria which inhabit that skin.
In favorable conditions those bacteria will survive in the environment and provide a ‘breadcrumb trail’ for a dog to follow.
Dogs can determine the direction of travel of a person due to their ability to determine small differences in age between individual scent rafts. Scent becomes ‘trapped’ and persists in items of clothing such as a t-shirt which can then be used to ‘give scent’ to a dog so it knows who it is searching for by following their specific scent trail.
Why is a Trailing Dog motivated to search?
As we said above, the aim is to focus on searching for specific humans in as natural a way as possible. The best way to do this is to create a ‘detective’ game which the dog enjoys, where the clues are to be found in the footprints and scent of the person being looked for.
The dog’s motivation to do this is encouraged and strengthened by a ‘reward’ at the conclusion of the game. The reward is usually food or toys and must be of a very high value in the dog’s eyes to be worth trailing for.
How is a Dog trained to Mantrail?
The purpose of the training method is to encourage the dog to use its superior olfactory senses (nose) to find a person that we nominate. At the very beginning of training, a person ‘runs away’ after getting the dog’s attention and having dropped an item of their clothing The dog is then led over the dropped item of clothing and sent to ‘chase’ and ‘find’ the person in a game of hide and seek.
Mantrailing Scent Dogs courses and workshops will help you to teach your dog the relationship between the scent on the item of clothing and the person running away.
Through a graduated series of training exercises and plenty of practice where the dog is rewarded for finding the runaway, a mantrailing dog comes to value the reward at the end of the trail more highly than any distraction along the way. Once that lesson is learnt, the dog can be relied upon to find the right person every time.
Why learn to Mantrail with your Dog?
You and your dog will invariably develop a special bond through your joint training. A fresh mutual respect will develop as you gain new skills which complement each other thereby deepening your relationship.
We have seen nervous dogs develop in confidence whilst concentrating on the scent and energetic dogs tire more quickly after using their brains to concentrate.
And of course, it brings much fun and joy to you and your Dog.