The reward on the trail
Does your dog prefer a good game with his/her favourite toy over some yummie food?
Then we would suggest to try the toy as a reward on the trail first. Make sure you have a good trail runner, that knows how to play with dogs. You know your dog best – let your trail runner know, how you would like them to play with your dog. It can be a good game of tuggy, or just simply throwing the toy a few feet away. Please always make the trail runner aware, if your dog likes to snatch the toy and forgets about the fingers in-between…
The second trail we would try and reward the dog with food first, then get the ball out after the dog has finished eating. See if the dog is completely ignoring the person with the food, or the food tub or left overs that might have been spilled on the floor. If your dog immediately switches into toy drive, doesn´t even glance over to the food tub, we would suggest to stick with the toy.
Not every dog that is usually rewarded with a toy, will be as motivated by it on the trail. This is a different game to Agility, IPO etc. This game has a rather natural hunting drive to it.
If you have to “persuade” your dog to play with you/trail runner (or if your dog has to “think twice”), once the trail runner has been found, then we would suggest to switch to a food reward.
What food makes your dog feel like a kid going to McDonalds? Because that´s the food, the dog will be rewarded with. It can be tin food, that you would usually never feed your dog, for the sole reason of it being full of sugar, fats etc. But like you might treat your kids to something special once in a while, you should treat your dog to this special treat, when playing this special game called “Mantrailing”.
Our dogs are on a dry kibble diet, hence why their best reward is dog wet food. Because they go mad for it, and they only get it on the trail. Which makes this game the best game ever!
Some other food options are: Cat food, yoghurt mixed with e.g. tuna or chicken etc. sometimes even frozen, liver cake, fish cake, raw food, banana, liverwurst out of the tube, just to name a few.
Please make sure your dog is not allergic or does not have an allergic reaction to any of the foods you are giving him/her on the trail. If you´re not sure, please contact your vet first.
You know you´ve got the right food reward, when your dog is full of anticipation when he/she sees the food box coming out. And then when they can finally get to the food, it is being thoroughly enjoyed. If your dog keeps sniffing something else instead of enjoying the yummie food presented, you know you have to change your reward to something else.
You might even have to change the reward multiple times, until you have found what works best for your dog, or if your dog tends to get easily bored of the same food.
The communication between the dog handler and trail layer is very important. You need to instruct the trail layer exactly on how you would like the reward (toy or food) to be presented to your dog. The last thing you want is for your dog to get spooked or lose interest in the trail layer!
If your dog is rather shy, instruct them to just hold the food pot a bit further away without talking or looking at the dog (the handler can do the praising/talking). This will build confidence and trust between the dog and the trail layer.
If your dog is quite happy for a big party, instruct your trail layer to throw a BIG party. High pitched talking, stroking the dog, clapping hands, whatever your dog enjoys the most!
If you have any questions about the reward on the trail, please don´t hesitate to ask us.