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This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Spürnasen

Many of you will have heard or read about it. If the term “mantrailing” is completely new territory for you, that’s no problem either. This article will explain what it is and what advantages it has for you and your darling. Enjoy reading it!

What is Mantrailing?

„Mantrailers” are specifically trained dogs that find certain people by their unmistakable individual scent. A personal object, which the person has touched in any way, is placed under the dog’s nose. He is then asked to follow the trail and find the person he is looking for.

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell and a preference for hunting. When the dog has found the person (prey), he is rewarded extensively and the dog has a “hunting success”. In addition, it is enormous fun for our dogs to work together with us. Of course also us humans :). This promotes the bond and the human learns to read his dog even better.  At this point it is also necessary to get rid of a common prejudice: Dogs that have already hunted before the training for the mantrailer will not stop hunting and dogs that have not hunted before this training will not become hunters through this training.

How does it work?

The dog learns to sniff at an object with the signal smell (individual smell of the person to be searched), to pick up the trail and to follow it. In contrast to „tracking“, the dog does not have to walk one to one (i.e. exactly in the track of the missing person), but may use shortcuts. 
Knowledge of odour development is an advantage, as odours spread differently depending on the weather, can be tolerated by cars etc. and there are a few more things to be considered. Your trainer will pay attention to these and other things, especially at the beginning.
In the beginning your darling will learn on short distances and on floors where smells stick well. Later also on open areas. As you can see, there is a lot of space to increase the level of difficulty, so the mantrailing never gets boring. 

Mantrailer versus search dogs

How does a (normal) search dog differ from a mantrailer? The explanation is quite simple: Search dogs are used for area searches. That means that they are trained to find all persons, for example after an avalanche. Everything that smells of people is sniffed and displayed. Mantrailers are trained to distinguish different human smells from each other. They concentrate, despite many other odour sources, only on the scent of the person to be searched for (e.g. missing person).

dog harness that fits your dog

Which dog is suitable for mantrailing?

In principle, all dogs can be trained to become mantrailers. Long-nosed dogs often find it easier to work their nose extensively than short-nosed dogs. In each of our beloved  friends there can be a little snooper.  The fun should be present in any case with your darling. Special conditions are however not necessary. 
With one exception: For the “emergency search” it is recommended that both humans and animals are in top physical and mental shape.

What do you need for mantrailing?

  • Make sure you have enough water with you for your dog, because nose work makes very thirsty!
  • A well-fitting chest harness
  • A towing line
  • Reward (food, toys, etc)

Ask your trainer before the training what else you should take with you.

Positive effects on humans and dogs

Besides the fact that you can help other people (in need) through this teamwork, there are many advantages for humans and animals:

  • Promotes the human-animal relationship
  • Bond is intensified
  • Team spirit and environmental self-confidence are promoted
  • Dog learns strategies to solve problems
  • “Happiness hormones” are released (not only in dogs)
  • Communication between dog and owner improves
  • You spend a lot of time in nature
  • Nose work as a species-appropriate workload
  • Overcoming fears. A dog that is afraid of running over a fence can often overcome fear more easily in concentrated training mode 
  • Promotes self-confidence

Be in the mood to do a crime tour?

Mantrailing is not only suitable for serious cases when a person is actually missing. It is also ideal as a (sportive) leisure activity. So-called “crime tours” combine mantrailing and the preference to solve criminal cases, aka Columbo.

Hund spürt verschüttete Menschen auf


As you can see, Mantrailing is the ideal activity for humans and their beloved friends, if they like to be in nature, like to spend more time for common activities.