Mantrailing – “Teaching pet dogs to find people in a game of hide and seek” Written by Joanne Bell
What exactly is Mantrailing? I’m asked this a lot – and as I answer I feel myself smiling because Mantrailing as a game is amazing for all sorts dogs and their people and it’s something they really can do together. Mantrailing has helped nervous and reactive dogs to gain confidence and relax, and their people to connect and bond with their dogs. It is great fun for all.
Put simply Mantrailing describes a dog (the Mantrailer) using just that awesome K9 nose to follow a scent trail to find a specific hidden person (known as the Misper). The Mantrailer takes the lead in the game, their human following in the hunt; which is a totally natural and instinctual canine activity. Mantrailing is supporting the dog by giving them the freedom to work independently and think for themselves.
Dogs “see” in scent – this skill is a super power, and with everything having a unique scent which all mingle and tangle together, the fact that the canine nose can distinguish each individual scent within the soup of thousands of others is just awesome (she smiles).
As we move scent streams from us and moves with the air settling and sticking to the environment, and we leave scent on anything we’ve touched or worn. In Mantrailing we coach dogs to take the scent by sniffing from an article or place a person has touched and gone away to hide, then to follow the scent trail, often problem solving and working out the best route, and leading their person to find that Misper focussed on just that scent, avoiding distractions and disregarding all else – and when they do, they get rewarded. Double whammy - Finding the person is fun and rewarding, using their super powers in a natural hunt is fulfilling too. It’s also fun and rewarding for the dog’s person as the pair develop as a team and succeed in different challenges, watching how their dog works out tricky trails, getting a buzz each time a Misper is found, and most importantly grow in confidence, bond and learn to understand each other more.
In Mantrailing we work the dogs individually, a team is the dog as the Mantrailer worked on a harness and long-line and their person handling the line, the “missing person” aka Misper who will find fun hiding places and lay exciting trails for the Mantrailer to follow, and an Instructor helping the team to progress their skills. A Mantrailing session lasts about 3 hours and will typically have four or five teams so it’s a social time too. There is no fixed amount of sessions, a team can join weekly, monthly or ad hoc – it’s flexible and fun.
Mantrailing is an activity for all dogs and all breeds, all ages - puppies to senior, and all personality, and because it’s a low impact activity, all mobility. Blind, deaf and tri-pawed too. Dogs who are anxious, under confident, reactive or too vocal find their niche in Mantrailing also. Mantrailing is more mentally tiring more than physically, very relaxing, calming and satisfying. We see happy relaxed dogs following a Mantrailing session.
We trail in all weathers, all sorts of different environments of rural, woodland, farmland, parks, common and urban, residential, village, town and industrial; in real world situations and also as a story or mystery to solve as added fun for the humans in the team. Who’d have thought that grown adults would happily hide under camouflage nets in the woods, or be in fancy dress acting as a victim for the dogs to find a “perpetrator” from? Mantrailing is of course the skill used by police and military to find missing people or criminals, we use the skill for fun hide and seek.
From a personal perspective my Mantrailing journey started as an activity for my senior German Shepherd. He was an amazing Mantrailer and absolutely loved it and trailing kept him active in brain and limb, so when aged 11 and a half he developed a progressive spinal degeneration - he trailed in wheels and became an icon and inspiration for Mantrailing as an accessible sport for all. And I became a Mantrailing Instructor to share the magic with as many dogs and their people as possible.
Mantrailing UK teach this in a fun and positive way. Find an instructor at www.mantrailingUK.com
Jo is a Mantrailing UK Instructor and Natural Canine Coach running sessions in North Hampshire and private sessions for groups across Hampshire and Dorset. www.thepawsomeK9
“Helping all sorts of dogs and their people to BE pawsome together”