The scent inventory is part of the starting ritual for the dogs prior to starting Mantrailing. It consists of a roughly circular shaped investigation of the area around, normally near the potential starting point of the trail.
The dog is allowed to investigate all the potential exit points of the area which could be a whole car park for example.
The dog is allowed time to sniff the area and investigate the scents present in order to potentially determine a direction of travel out of the area by the trail layer, it is also an opportunity for the dog to pee or poo and check out any interesting smells.
This happens before the dog has its harness put on and is cued to follow the trail from the scent article. This is all part of the starting ritual.
It is one of the many ways we give the dog an opportunity to decide the direction of travel of the scent when we do the game as a sport.
The ritual originally came from the Kocher Method of Mantrailing, as the dogs were given 5 minutes or so prior to a search to check the environment, known as the pre-starting ritual.
The trail layer or the scent article is the centre of the inventory, with the instructor and others in attendance being on the outside of the circle so the dog knows they are not finding their scent and to disregard them. This is what we hope the dog understands in the context and they quickly start ignoring the people not in the scent inventory.
It is not used by every dog in the sport, but the majority of dogs find the starting ritual beneficial to catalogue scent, and also get into the mindset of Mantrailing as they know what is coming next.
How Does the Scent Inventory Benefit My Dog?
There are many benefits to the starting ritual for both the dog and handler. The main one being the opportunity to check out the scents present in the area and disregard the people already there as potential targets so they can find the exit of a trail.
The scent inventory starts the wheels in motion of getting the dog into the mindset that they are going to start Mantrailing and need to focus on the task at hand.
The scent inventory helps the dogs work out the direction of travel for the trail when there is no trail layer present. The dog will start matching the scent of the scent article present to trails which have exited the scent inventory.
If the dog doesn’t get an opportunity to sniff the local smells such as other dogs and critters, they will do it at the start of the trail anyway. They may go check out dog pee and this can create conflict with the handler as they attempt to pull the dog off, to move them on. The dogs should be allowed to check out other scents, but prior to starting so they focus on the task they are on when Mantrailing.
If you have a more nervous or anxious dog the opportunity to check out the area can be hugely beneficial to the dog. Giving them time to checkout the environment and become more comfortable with it.
Many times, there can be a few people watching a dog start trailing and this can worry some dogs. The opportunity to sniff and check out things can make all the difference to their comfort levels.
For the handler they get to also get into the mindset of starting Mantrailing and focusing on the dog’s body language. You can read a lot from a dog at the start of a trail, the potential direction of travel, where the dogs in the area have been, and where there is a big collection of distracting scent.
We need to focus on the game as much as the dog as you are usually working at speed and following the dog. Getting into the right mindset and leaving the days issues behind are very useful for the handler.
When should I not do the Scent Inventory?
For some dogs the scent inventory is frustrating and demotivating. They know where the trail is going as they understand the game and don’t understand why they are being made the do a circle.
Being adaptive is key in mantrailing as we are working in a world of scent we don’t really understand.
By dragging the dog around the area we are also inviting them to check out, and get distracted by other scents in the environment.
Many handlers like the scent inventory in order to get themselves prepared for the start of the trail, but are building more frustration in the dog by delaying the opportunity to work.
Why is it Part of the Starting Ritual?
The scent inventory is part of a larger starting ritual, for the reasons mentioned above.
The starting ritual starts the moment the dogs exit the vehicle as they come out generally in a flat collar and on a lead, and walk around the scent article or trail layer holding their scent article depending on the start they are doing.
Once they have checked all the exits and all the sniffs they are put into their harness and their long line attached to the harness. They are wound up by the trail layer if they are there. Once the trail layer it out of sight they cue the dog to take scent of the scent article and then cue them to trail.
The opportunity to check out all the scents prior to the cue to trail means that the dog focuses on the task better and is less likely to delay the start and get off the task.
Whether you use the scent inventory or not it is important to allow your dog time to check out the area prior to Mantrailing to allow them to detail all the scents there. Many dogs will do this themselves as they come out of the vehicle.