how to get started in mantrailing

How to Get Started with Mantrailing

Mantrailing is teaching a dog to find a specific persons scent. The dog follows a unique mixture of sweat, hormones and environmental scents on the person to find them. This can be done as a sport or within operational roles.

How do you start a dog with Mantrailing?

To get started with mantrailing you need to complete an introduction course which will teach you how to safely handle the long line, select the correct harness, and work with your dog to find the hidden person. Setting you up to join further progression sessions or have fun at home with family.

Belgian Malinois mantrailing to find its reward

We use a specific method to help any dog enjoy the game and immediately start having fun finding people. This can be adapted to each and every dog individually.

The Introduction Course to Mantrailing

Attending an introduction course allows you to not only practically learn about mantrailing but also the theory behind how dogs perceive scent. You’ll be introduced to the fun sport of mantrailing.

The instructor will guide you through the starting ritual we use to get the dog to understand this is a different game to others, set up a trail for your dog to succeed, and show you how to safely handle you dog no matter the size or enthusiasm level.

Any breed, age, sex, temperament and training experience is welcome to do mantrailing, as there are no pre requirements to have done any training. Puppies can benefit from mantrailing as it’s a great way to meet people calmly. Reactive dogs are welcome to join as the dogs are worked on a lead at all times, and one dog is out at a time.

Patterdale Terrier using his nose to find the hidden person

You will be sent some pre-course requirements to bring, and you will be expected to hide for the other dogs there as well. Mantrailing is just as enjoyable for those hiding as those handling. It is a great thrill to be found by a dog purely using its nose.

The course is usually three hours long depending on the number of attendees, and how each individual dog picks up the game. The instructor will work with you one on one within the group, as the students watch each other do the tasks as well as doing them themselves. This helps solidify the different steps in your brain, and feel confident to continue mantrailing after.

Equipment for Mantrailing

To get started in mantrailing you will need:

  • a Y fronted harness
  • an 8-10 meter long line
  • tubs of tasty wet food or high value treats
  • a toy for added fun at the end

Your instructor should be able to lend you equipment on the introduction course to get you started with.

It is important that the harness is a Y fitting harness on the chest, as not to restrict the natural movement of the dog when pulling. You do not need to purchase an expensive harness to get started, and can enjoy mantrailing on a small budget.

It’s important when you turn up that the dog is not already harnessed as the harness is part of the trigger for trailing, we put the harness on at a specific time so its important its not on when they arrive.

Doberman wearing a mantrailing specific harness

The long line needs to be 8-10m long and statice, retractable leads are not permitted as they are too dangerous to use with mantrailing. You will be shown how to safely handle the line so that you don’t hinder the dog when trailing and don’t get in a tangle.

You as a trail layer will need to bring a scent article with you which is something which smells like you, such as a hat or neck warmer. But as you progress these scent articles may become more novel and provide a harder start for the dog.

Rewarding your Mantrailing Dog

The reward in mantrailing is important as this is the payment for doing the work. We usually use wet food in small tubs. The wet food allows the dog to lick out the reward for longer at the end of the trail. This licking action releases endorphins in the brain, the happy hormone.

We find that wet dog food, cat food, sardines and cream cheese are the best rewards in the pots for most dogs. But it can be anything the dog values above normal rewards or kibble.

You can also introduce a toy as a reward as well to suit the dogs own preferences. A tuggy toy such as those from Tug-e-nuff work really well as they can have a game of tuggy, linking into the primal part of the brain as part of the hunting sequence.

Throwing a ball can be just as much fun as tugging games, and it is important that you consider what your dog finds motivating not what you find convenient.

Check out the webinars page to learn more about motivating the dog in mantrailing. This gives a verbal discussion on motivations you can use to increase the reward your dog has in mantrailing.

The Journey to become a Mantrailing Dog

After you have completed your introduction you can attend progression sessions with your instructor or visit others to have even more fun.

The progression sessions help you build your skills as a team, and learn to read your dog’s behaviour on and off the trail. This knowledge is built over time, and allows you to achieve so much with your dog.

You can also attend workshops and themed events to increase your skill level or be pushed as a team. I run these fun workshops throughout the year and have great fun with the mantrailing teams.

Your journey together is individual, and there is no race. Each dog progresses at their own pace with some breeds being quicker to pick up the game than others, such as natural hunting breeds like Hounds or Retrievers. But all breeds can do mantrailing, and excel within the sport.

You can start practicing trailing as home with family, and have fun but will need to attend sessions with an instructor to get the most out of your mantrailing progression.

Labrador setting off to find his trail layer


Do I need to run when mantrailing? Not at all. We do not allow running at all as you will never be able to keep up with the dog while it runs, and you also miss vital body language to help you read the dog while it is mantrailing.

Does my dog need to be well trained to attend? You dog only needs to be able to sniff and wear a harness. We can teach you the rest, they do not need to know sit or stay. But do need to be able to be settled in a vehicle between trails, but you can always bring someone to sit with them if they cannot settle alone.

Will mantrailing encourage my dog to hunt more? No it will not. Actually it will help provide an appropriate outlet for predator behaviour in your dog, and reduce the need to hunt other animals. It is a perfect release for breed specific behaviour which is why it is a favourite sport for Spaniels, Hounds, Shepherd Breeds and Terrier

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