The Problem with Mantrailing is…

The problem with Mantrailing is its addictive…
The problem with Mantrailing is its dog led…
The problem with Mantrailing is its adaptive…

Well there isn’t really a problem, but there is many things about it which create problems for us. Us as handlers mainly, it’s no problem for the dogs to follow their nose.

Mantrailing for fun isn’t about being the most accurate or fastest against time. It is about having fun with your dog finding a weirdo in a bush, usually cradling some cat food mixed with cream cheese in a pot or a slobbery ball stuffed in their pocket. Locals twitching curtains because there’s a dodgy woman in a bush again, and they haven’t worked out it could the local dogging club only meet on a Thursday, but this a Tuesday.

To be honest it’s potentially much worse than a dogging club as mantrailing leaves you either with a huge smile on your face and feeling like your on top of the world, or it leaves you frustrated, down on yourself and confused. There isn’t always a happy ending.

The method we generally use within Mantrailing UK are an altered version of the Kocher Method. Set up to suit pet owners and the dog we see in front of us. It’s adaptive and really aimed at getting the dog to understand and enjoy the game. This method involves a intensity trail after the main trail, which is basically a short and exciting trail where the trail layer shoots off and the dog find them a second time. We assume this taps into their hunting part of the brain and creates the happy feeling that goes with a job well done. (Yay you’ve caught dinner, now time to eat it!). This becomes part of a multi approach reward for the dog.

Great stuff the dog is having fun. During this learning together, you as the owner becomes more addicted to the game as well. Seeing your dog succeed and enjoy the game, creates pleasure in our brains. Pride, happiness, enjoyment and any other happy feelings ping our brain into a happy state. We become addicted to the action of mantrailing as well the dogs.

This addiction in turn leads to us getting annoyed our local instructor doesn’t have enough sessions on or that our partner won’t hide in the bush yet again!

But it also creates conflict in us, as to why things go wrong when they go.

When a dog overshoots a junction, or switches trails to something else. We no longer get that happy brain and start to get frustrated and upset about the outcome. Your not longer getting your mantrailing fix, and your brain becomes deprived of it.

We hit that plato in training and wonder where it all went wrong, usually starting the internal or external blame game.

“I’m with the wrong instructor”

“I’m not handling the line right”

“The dogs messing about on purpose”

“I should change that”

“I’m not good enough”

A whole host of negatives aimed at something. When in reality it’s just life. Nothing is 100% perfect, and training is certainly never a straight line. It’s a curving, squiggly and very knotty line, much like a long line coming out of a bag. You may put it away neatly, but when it comes out it’s a tumbled mess.

Trailing is like the long line, it takes time to learn how to handle it. How to hold it correctly and how to keep that tension just right. You can’t learn that in a day, and you also will sometimes get tangled or drop the line. It doesn’t stop you learning how to handle it, but it does present an issue at the point. A solvable issue.

You don’t go out and buy a new long line and expect that to be magically tangle free. You work out how to handle it better.

Mantrailing is like that, when things go wrong you learn how to handle it better. Find a solution to suit you and your dog. As a team. But finding this solution to the problem has loads and loads of options, and this in its self can become a problem. Turning to different instructors, different methods, different mentors or trailing weird and wacky things in order to get the dog to understand something.

Mantrailing is dog led, and we really need to look at it from their point of view. The trail isn’t always where the scent is. Scent changes with a huge factor of things. Mantrailing uses a combination of dropped scent, air scent, ground disturbance and everything in-between. It is not an art, it is an A to B.

This really throws people, as its hard to quantify following scent as anything but yes you found them, no you didn’t find them, you were assisted to find them.

How accurate they are on the trail, and how they get from A to B are subjective to each dog and handler team based on the environment they are in at that specific point. Trails are physically viewable, scent is not and it is not going to be where you expect it to be at specific times.

For many following their dog is difficult as your not directing them. You can’t specifically say where the scent is, so you can’t force a dog to follow that scent or always set them up for what they can follow.

It’s led by the dogs reward history of finding a person, the environmental distractions and if they understand the game at all. All of which are then impacted by handling and mood, as well as the difficulty of the trail based on the dogs current level.

It’s not just following a dog about in the twilight watching for people in bushes… It’s a sport which should be fun, but often creates this conflict in the handler and dog.

When a dog doesn’t work how you think it will, a trail doesn’t end in a way that you assumed it would, or you have to be coached to the end. We’ll see it as failure. That the dog didn’t do a perfect trail, following the exact trail. It’s not failure at all, it’s learning.

The problem with Mantrailing is…..

….It’s not perfect. Nothing is, and to go home disheartened by a trail because of something out of your control, or to see a failure and not discuss a plan of action with anyone is going to lead to it becoming even more of a problem.

Mantrailing Failure

Want to join me and Joleen Carter at Carter’s Pet Services to chat about Plateaus in Mantrailing then check out our event – LINK

Kathryn Jones
Trailing K9s
Mantrailing UK Head Instructor and Assessor
Mantrailing UK Ltd Business Supervisor

Published by Trailing K9s/Complicated Canines

Canine Behaviourist, Dog Trainer, Mantrailing UK Head Instructor, Dog Handler and Dog Collector.

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