Teckel dog sniffing the ground while mantrailing

Can any Dog be a Mantrailing Dog?

Can any dog be a mantrailing dog? In short, Yes! Absolutely. 

Any dog with a nose can join in with mantrailing but some excel at it more than others due to breed traits we have bred into them for generations, but all dogs have fun. 

What is a Mantrailing Dog?

A mantrailing dog is a dog which uses its sense of smell to find a specific person who is hidden or missing. I work with sports dogs so the person is always hidden, and we always know where they are, whereas operational mantrailing dogs are looking for missing people and provide a very valuable service globally. 

Because all dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do. We just use 5% of our brain to process scent whereas the dog uses 35% of their brain, so their processing capacity is much greater than ours. They live in a world of scent and this makes them great assets to find missing people. 

Mantrailing as a sport in the UK means all dogs have the opportunity to use their sense of smell as a fun game of finding people hidden in bushes, up trees, in buildings and cars.

It is an outlet for dogs who want to hunt naturally but can’t due to being pets or their being no prey in the UK, for the dogs needing a job to do or with high energy but mostly as a fun game to play together. 

Best Breeds?

The best breeds are the hounds, with the Bloodhound being the dog bred to find people. It has an extraordinary sense of smell and can trail after human scent which is days old. 

Bavarian Mountain Hound puppy doing mantrailing on a green harness and long line in the wood.

But other hound breeds such as the Bavarian Mountain Hound, Beagle, Dachshund and Black and Tan Coonhound are all gaining popularity as sports mantrailing dogs in the UK. 

The hound breed were bred to hunt animals and people, relying on their sense of smell to find the route the prey has taken and hunting them alongside people or with people following.

They worked alongside people to help them feed their families, over the years this developed into other sports such as fox hunting or racing, but the dogs still have the genetic need to sniff and mantrailing is an excellent outlet for this behaviour. 

Herding and pastoral breeds such as the Border Collie,Belgian Shepherd, German Shepherd and Corgi have great fun at mantrailing.

While bred originally to herd or guard they love to use their intelligence to problem solve and mantrailing allows them to problem solve. 

Because it is an individual dog sport it means each dog is worked separately and to their own level it means dogs of all temperaments can join in. We don’t mind if they are barky, or herdy, or a little bit nervous, the trailing can be tailored to the dog and handler team. 

The Terrier breed are also excellent at mantrailing as they were bred to hunt down prey, so use these same skills to hunt down the trail layers. They find the game thrilling as a real hunt.

As mantrailing is always on lead it’s a great sport for terriers who often can’t be let off lead due to their high hunt drive. 

Mastiffs and Bull Breeds such as Dogue De Bordeaux, American Bulldogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and the French Bulldog are often dismissed as not being very good with their nose. When in truth most of these dogs are hunting descendant and have excellent noses despite their shortened muzzle or size.

Bull Mastiff cross Boxer coming into camera while mantrailing

Many people avoid mantrailing with larger breeds as they are worried about being pulled over, but the dogs excel at it and with good training aren’t strong on the trail.

Even the smaller breeds such as Toy Poodle, Pomeranians, and Manchester Terriers enjoy the game. They are very bright and giving them a problem to solve helps build their confidence.

Because there is always and instructor following the handler, there is little chance of the dog being abused by other dogs or people, which helps build confidence in all size of dog, not just smaller breeds.

Most Common Breeds Mantrailing?

The hound breeds aren’t the most popular mantrailing breed though, that goes to the gundogs.

Dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Spaniels, Pointers and Vizsla’s are the most common breeds we see in mantrailing.

Springer Spaniel looking at the camera waiting to start mantrailing with his owner.

I trail with my Springer Spaniel Captain, and have just taken on my second mantrailing Spaniel, Gin a 12 week old bundle of chaos currently. 

The gundog breeds were selected to do different roles within the game hunting community. The spaniels are bred to flush game for people to shoot, the pointers are to point out game for the hunter and the retriever to retrieve the game.

They all still worked in the sporting community, but due to their biddable nature they are popular pets in the UK.

Many of the gundog breeds in the UK have found themselves in homes without jobs. While they are biddable they are also intelligent and canny, and wish to do a job which can be hunting anything which moves.

Mantrailing has provided them and outlet for this need to hunt and they excel at mantrailing. 

I run specialist spaniel mantrailing days and free webinars with Carter’s Pet Services to tailor the mantrailing to this breeds specific needs.

Most Unusual Breeds Mantrailing?

Newfoundland finding its missing person in mantrailing.

The Newfoundland is not a breed known for its nose, usually known for its water retrieving skills as a doggy life guard, and being a carting dog but not often for their detection dog skills. But I have had the privilege to work with a fantastic Newfoundland who loves the game of finding people and her reward of fish and party at the end. She excels at it and really loves the game, as does her handler. It is lovely to see her thrive and do other sports that many would assume she couldn’t do.

The Shar Pei is one of the most unusual breeds I have enjoyed working with while mantrailing. The dog was accurate on the trail, and very lovely to read. Kept its head up most of the trail, but never used their eyes to search only their nose. The breed originally bred in China for property protection, but over the years in the UK diluted into a active pet often thought by many to be unintelligent, which is far from the truth. They are bright and love to learn and this one excelled at mantrailing. Passing its Level 1 Assessment with ease. 

Why Every Dog Can Do Mantrailing!

Australian Kelpie trailing after a hidden person while mantrailing, wearing a blue harness and long line.

Mantrailing taps into the predatory sequence that all dogs biologically have. The natural innate ability to be able to hunt to survive. 


So if they didn’t have nice owners feeding them, dog would have to survive. 

Over the centuries we have tapped into this genetic need to hunt to build some of the breeds we have today aka any hunting hounds or gundogs.

We have increased the need in some and others only selected for the parts we want such as hunt and not kill in gundog breeds (No one told my springer that the kill wasn’t supposed to happen).

Others breeds we have selected other components such as the collie to stalk only and the terriers to kill and not consume 

Predatory Behavior is normal, and in mantrailing we just tap into this behaviour sequence and play the game with them.

It helps build an outlet for the normal genetic behaviour the dogs want to perform, it is also the reason we often use food as a mantrailing to tap into the consume part of the sequence. 

This all means ANY dog can do mantrailing! 

I talk about this more in my webinar on the intensity start in mantrailing over on patreon, where I talk about the biology behind how mantrailing is so addictive to dogs.

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