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Mantrailing

[ Mantrailing rules ] [ mantrailing judges in Finland ]

Bloodhound was originally bred for tracking down large game. Nowadays the breed is mostly used for tracking down humans. The specific type of bloodhound tracking is called mantrailing. Bloodhound is very curious and has a natural instinct for trailing. He is capable of following even very old trails and identifying the exact correct person.

Every bloodhound should be able to use its instinct for trailing. If the bloodhound is not allowed to use his nose either in mantrailing or on his own, he might get frustrated.

Mantrailing is based on the ability of the dog to distinguish between individual scents: in the beginning of the trail the dog is scented on a piece of clothing the lost person or other item, that has the scent of that person (scent article) and the dog will follow this individual scent on the trail, which is left there by hairs, dead skin cells and smaller particles that humans shed constantly. Because these rafts and particles are very small, they can also be carried by the wind, which can cause the bloodhound to follow the trail at some distance from the actual path the person has walked, depending on the terrain and weather conditions (wind, rain).

When starting the training with a bloodhound puppy it is important not to require too much from him in the beginning – practicing has to be a fun game. Every practice has to be nice and fun for the dog and the owner, and even if the practice failed, it is not the dog’s fault but the owner has to think what went wrong and how it could be corrected the next time.

In the beginning, you can hide behind a rock or tree, while walking in the woods with the puppy and watch what the puppy does when he realized the owner is lost. This practice is best to be done when you are alone so that there will not be any distractions for the dog. When the dog notices he is alone, you can call him, so he hears you but does not see you. When he then “finds” you, you have to praise him so he will learn that finding people is the greatest thing. These kind of practices can be done several times a day. Similarly you can start training an older dog as well.

The next phase is, that another person holds the dog from the collar and another runs away and hides behind a rock or a tree, so that the dog sees to which direction the runner went. Then the dog is set free and he is encouraged to follow the runner by saying for example “Find him!””. Again the dog is praised when he makes the find. In the beginning these practices are best to be done in as neutral conditions as possible, in other words without any distractions. Some basic guidelines, that are good to be followed when training:

  1. Do not train immediately after feeding the dog (approximately 2 hrs between)
  2. Walk the dog a little before starting the trail, if he is too excited. Otherwise he might not have the patience to concentrate on the trail and can fail in the difficult points.
  3. Teach the dog a certain sign, which indicates him that it is time for trailing, for example by showing him the harness or saying a certain word. The mantrailing harness is put on only in the beginning of the trail, so the dog will learn that the harness is the “working outfit” and he will wait for to be scented.
  4. Remember that you and the dog are a team and not two separate individuals! When the dog has discovered the joy of finding people, you can start introducing him with the scent article in the beginning of each trail. Let the dog sniff the scent item after which the dog is allowed to follow the short trail immediately. This way the dog learns to connect with the scent in the scent article and the lost person. Little by little the trails are made longer and older and also by persons who are not that familiar for the puppy. In this phase it would be good that the dog has a harness and the lead (approx. 10 meters). The trail is laid by leaving the scent article (a glove, hat, sock etc. worn by the runner) in the beginning. The person walks into the woods, first maybe for 100 meters and hides. After 15 minutes or so the handler and dog arrive and the handler lets the dog sniff the scent article and says “Find him”. It is important that the dog always makes the find. Every practice trail must be ended with the find and the dog has to be praised then. You are never to quit the trail before you make the find.

When the dog solves easily short and fresh trails, the trails are made gradually longer and older. The trails can also contain turns and variations/distractions: different terrains; woods, fields, rocky areas – with an experienced dog even in the city. The runner can walk part of the trail on road, then go back to the field, cross roads and creeks, even climb a tree. Changing from one type of terrain to another is difficult for the dog and for example when coming from the woods to a rock, the dog usually has to search for the scent for some time.

The dog has to be allowed to solve the problems and find the trail by himself. You should not help him, only encourage him. You should also train under different weather conditions. Generally, moist ground is easier to work than a very dry ground. On a very dry ground the scent is usually more vague and it is evaporated rapidly, on the moist ground the scent stays better. Also open areas are more difficult because the wind can transfer the scent very far from the actual path. Wooded area with underbush is easier, because the scent is restored closer to the actual walking path.

Basically the team should be able to locate a person:

-          whose trail is 2-3 km long

-          whose trail is approx. 6 hrs old

-          who is a total stranger for the dog

-          identify this person among a few others

An important thing that one cannot learn from books is READING the dog. This means that the handler knows what the dog is doing; when he has lost the trail, when he has found it again, when he is following the scent aside from the path caused by wind, when the dog feels insecure. This ability of the handler is worth gold and necessary for excelling in mantrailing.

There are several stories about the unbelievable scenting ability of the bloodhound. The most famous bloodhound in US was “Nick Carter”. He solved 650 cases and his record of the oldest trail (105 hrs) was kept for 25 yrs. In the 70’s his record was broken by the bloodhound “Clyde”, who managed to find a hunter, who got lost 17 days before. Even after it had snowed for almost one meter after his disappearance.

Later there have been also several cases where a bloodhound has been reportedly able to follow a several weeks old trail. This of course requires a lot of training but nevertheless is possible.

Bloodhound is used to locate lost persons and runaway criminals especially in United States but also to some extent in Europe. Bloodhound was the first dog breed whose identification of the accused person was approved as court evidence in many states of USA.