The French boom in mantrailing, a great way to train distracted dogs

Using their superior sense of smell, mantrailing helps focus dogs and ignore distractions

Originally from Australia, Ann-Jo runs Mantrailing France
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The canine sport of mantrailing has recently increased in popularity.

“I introduced it to France when I arrived here in 2007,” says Ann-Jo Proos.

Originally from Australia, she runs Mantrailing France, and trains dogs as well as new instructors.

“I was a qualified dog trainer in Australia, and had a searching company in Holland before we arrived in France. I also work with Lowland Search Dogs in the UK. Mantrailing is having a moment in France. A person walks a trail and an owner and dog pair follows some time later, hoping to find the person. Urban trailing is the most difficult, because there is so much distraction, and scent contamination.”

She says the key to teaching dogs is training them to ignore distractions when they’re working.

“This can be very helpful discipline for difficult dogs because it helps them focus, gives them a job to do. Training the owner is the most difficult part. People think dogs are less intelligent than humans but dogs are smarter than us when it comes to sense of smell. Problem dogs are often not well socialised, and this training can help with that.”

In theory, any dog can learn to mantrail but in practice some dogs just aren’t that motivated.

“It’s just to do with the animal’s personality rather than the breed although there are general trends; greyhounds are often not very interested, and short nosed dogs like pugs tend to find it a challenge.”

“Many pet dogs aren’t properly exercised. Fifteen minutes a day in the same part of the same park isn’t enough. So many pet dogs are bored rigid. They need to live in a pack, whether that is with humans or other animals. They hate being alone, and they need activities. They need something to do.”

“Mantrailing is excellent for people without much dog training experience. It helps owners read signals from their dogs, which results in forming closer bonds. Owners learn to become more interesting to their dog. Mantrailing teaches them to read the information the dog is relaying as they are following a trail.“

“It makes life with your dog interesting. The police use play as a reward, but for pets food works. Dogs love to play, but many people don’t play with their dogs, wrongly believing that it causes them stress.”

The only equipment needed to learn mantrailing is a Y-harness and a 10 metre-long lead.

These allow the dog the freedom to work, and also act as a prompt to show them what they are doing and what is expected of them.”

Ann-Jo Proos runs courses in English from March to November, for dog-owners and for people wanting to become instructors. She can be contacted via her website:

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