Often during the start of a journey mantrailing our instructors will be asked. Will doing mantrailing with my dog undo all the previous training I have done?
The answer is no. Starting mantrailing with your dog won’t suddenly make them forget how to walk nicely or teach them to jump at people. It instead gives them and outlet for excited behaviour or energy that is constructive.
Because of the way we teach mantrailing at Mantrailing UK, it involves a specific starting ritual along with equipment only used for mantrailing so it creates its own set of rules based on those specific cues. It’s the reason we use words that the dogs do not know from previous training, as well as a harness they don’t normally use for walking. We want the cues for mantrailing to only be for when the dog is mantrailing, not for everyday life as it can get confusing for the dog.
By creating this specific ritual to start mantrailing it allows the dogs to understand when certain behaviour is acceptable and encouraged such as pulling on the lead while trailing, or jumping at people whey they find their “missing person”. Normally behaviours we may find undesirable.
People often comment how much calmer their dogs are in the day to day life once they start mantrailing, as the dog is now mentally tired from a busy mantrailing session using its nose. Many owners have actually seen their dogs get more focused on walks and when training, as the dogs need for speed or to sniff is channelled into mantrailing, as a constructive outlet.
This isn’t the case for all dogs. Some can see joining mantrailing as an opportunity to start pushing some boundaries or “forget” previously learned things, but this is often a teenage dog issue rather than a learning mantrailing issue.
Mantrailing is an ideal sport for reactive or anxious dogs as it helps them build confidence. The dogs are given the choice to greet people, work in new places and progress a natural instinct. Many dogs have actually seen their behaviour improve on a day to day basis as they feel more confident, as they can process things which stress them in a more constrictive way, rather than lashing out or running away. Smell is the most distinct smell for dogs, and using it to help them process the world can create huge leaps in training.
Another frequently asked question by dog owners is if their dog will sniff more on walks now. The answer to this is no, they still do their normal sniffing checking the pee mail left by other dogs, and copious scents left by the local wildlife. A few people report their dogs are sniffing more on walks, but this is more than likely down to the fact they can read their dog better now from mantrailing and actually notice when they are sniffing. A bit like when you get a red car you suddenly notice more red cars on the road, there aren’t more, you just notice it more.
Regardless of if they sniff more on walks or not, sniffing is beneficial to the dogs state of happiness and comfort. It is important that they have time to sniff and be dogs, not dragged along only focusing on physical tiredness instead of mental tiredness.
Will starting mantrailing effect how my dog is with other sports? No because of the ritual we use is specifically for mantrailing, to get the dogs into the mantrailing mindset. Much like someone who does obedience may use specific cues or rewards for that training. Many of our students and instructors alike do multiple sports with their dogs which include mantrailing, scent work, obedience, gundog tests, agility, flyball and lure coursing. Each sport has a specific set of commands and training, so the dogs know what’s expected at that time.
Mantrailing can become a brilliant way to focus the owners and dog as a team. This then impacts into other aspects of the relationship together. We have had feedback from teams that their dog is more focused on them on walks or while training. This is due to the fact the dog now has an outlet for their behaviour and fulfils their natural need to sniff, as well as problem solve.