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Why You Should Start Mantrailing With Your Little Dog

This month's blog is about why you really should start Mantrailing with your smaller breed of dog. There is no reason they can't get started!

Mantrailing is a sport for all dogs, but often smaller breeds only represent a small percentage of the dogs’ attending courses.

When you look into the origins of many small dogs, they are often compact hunting dogs, known for the use of their nose to find their prey. Often being smaller to the ground gives them a structural advantage to trailing, by virtue of being closer to the scent.

Little dogs are brilliant at Mantrailing and don’t let their stature hold them back. We asked some of our instructors and students to tell us more about their dogs trailing skills.

Dawn and Zebadiah:

Dawn Chapman told us about her amazing Dachshund Zebadiah who is deaf and partially sighted and is a natural Mantrailer. He took the sport straight away and really follows the trail accurately, he’s working towards his Level 1 assessment with Davina Roberts at Trailblazers Activity Dogs.

He is so excited for Mantrailing as soon as he smells or see’s Davina he starts to squeal with delight and can’t wait to get out to trail. He had previously done scent work, and it was a natural transition over to Mantrailing for him. His trailing start was adapted with a visual cue, instead of verbal to make sure he got into the game with loads of wins, and now even in more challenging trails he never looses the trail and works as hard as he can find his misper on every trail.

Rebecca and Myrtle:

Myrtle is a 12-month-old Chihuahua x Yorkshire Terrier who is owned by Rebecca Grant, and has been trailing for 7 months with Smart K9s. They put on a puppy specific introduction which she attended at 5 months old. She is also trained in Scentwork and will be starting to compete in that soon and she does obedience under the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme and successfully passed her bronze test at Crufts this year.

Rebecca had this to say about trailing Myrtle “It’s much more comfortable to trail a smaller dog than a bigger dog and she’s a welcome rest after I’ve trailed dogs over 30kg. Myrtle is probably the most enthusiastic of all my dogs who trail, and she will squeal when her misper goes, which is something she only does when trailing! She loves to clamber on her misper when she finds them and she likes carrying their scent article for a few paces at the start of every trail. Being only 3kg it’s been a little difficult finding a good harness which is different to her daily walking harness so Myrtle also has a collar which is her trigger to let her know she’s trailing. She’s more than happy to do the same trails as larger dogs although she sometimes wants to take shortcuts through tiny spaces in the undergrowth!

Pat, Puff and Munch:

Pat Eady told us about Puff and Munch the Toy Poodles. “I used to do grade 7 agility with my toy poodle Puff, and we were quite competitive. When she hurt her back and took some time to get right, I had to reconsider our agility. The amount of pressure that I was putting on her little body as she is so small, we needed to work harder, faster, tighter and it wasn't fair. I had got another little toy poodle, Munch, to start to train up for agility, but when she turned out to be even smaller than Puff, it just confirmed for me that we needed to find something else for them to do”

Pat joined Natalie Broughton at K9 Seek for an introduction, she’s been hooked on Mantrailing since June 2021! “I was astonished at how quickly the girls picked up this new game and seemed to absolutely love it! Their confidence levels have increased enormously thanks to mantrailing. In agility, the dog has to win up the grades in order to increase the challenge, whereas with trailing, the instructor knows what you and your dog are capable of achieving, and set appropriate trails to ensure that the dog is successful, while also increasing the challenge for both dog and handler. It’s got to be fun for the dog, and my two absolutely love it!! The moment the long line and the treat pots are loaded, the excitement levels increase!! The boot is on the other foot now as they know exactly what they're doing, and I need to do the learning!!

Pat went on to say, “People seem to expect that only the bigger dogs can trail and are amazed that little dogs are just as good, their little noses are just as acute as the bigger dogs, they just have to put in loads more steps!”. A statement we can agree with.

Dawn and Storm:

One of our Mantrailing UK Instructors Dawn Seago of K9 Lifestyle Dog Training has achieved great success with her Dachshunds not only in Mantrailing, but also in the show ring. Proving that a dog can have several roles in life. Show dog, family pet, trailing dog.

Dawn trails with her Dachshund Storm who has passed his level on and is now working towards her level 2, and is an advocate for getting the breed into Mantrailing.

“Little dogs don’t care about where you are, they just follow the scent. They are bold and brave, following scents into bushes and under hedges without a care for their owners on the end. Mantrailing helps them build their confidence, be bolder and have fun. They aren’t just little ornaments they are little dogs with big personalities, and they don’t need to be picked up they need to be able to work. They need a job to do and Mantrailing is a brilliant way to give them an outlet for their behaviour which can help reduce behavioural issues within the smaller breeds, such as excessive barking, fearful behaviour, and some aggressive tendencies.”

Dawn and Buzz:

Dawn Heaton one of our Head Instructors, who has been part if Mantrailing UK since its start told us about her Poodles. “I trail with Teddy, my 14-year-old Toy Poodle and Buzz my 5-year-old Mini Poodle as well as 3 of my other bigger dogs! Teddy doesn’t do as much as more as he prefers to chill on the sofa, so he leaves the Mantrailing to the other dogs”

“Buzz LOVES to trail. I started him trailing because he needed some work on being more sociable around people and more positive exposure in a variety of environments. As a rescue dog he came with lots of issues, which we are slowly unpicking!”

“I totally love watching him work out the trail, and problem solve. His little legs go at super speed – but being a small dog that isn’t a problem. If he were a bigger dog, we would have to work on pace as I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him”

Since Dawn became an instructor, she has worked with dogs of all breeds such as the Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Dachshund, Benston Terrier, Jack Russel Terrier, Papillion, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, French Bull Dog, and even an Italian Grey Hound! These are just a small fraction of the breeds out there which can trail, despite their size.

She mentions that one of the main things to consider is the weight of the long line when trailing, as if its too heavy it makes it harder for the dog and just gets in its way. You also need to be gentler with your line handling to avoid accidental corrections.

Gerry and Leah:

They are more than capable of reaching the same levels as any other dog trailing with Mantrailing UK. Gerry Moss at JayK9, one of our Head Instructors completed her Level 1 Assessment with her “Don’t give a Shih Tzu” Leah in May, and she totally rocked it.

Any dog can Mantrail regardless of size, stature, and breed. Don’t let the look of a dog persuade you that it is not capable of using its nose. All dogs are born with the innate ability to smell, and all we are doing is harnessing it for fun. No matter the size of the nose, it still has 300 million olfactory receptors in its nose, compared to a human's 5-10million. To think a small dog can’t trail is ludicrous.

We may have to make some adaptations when trailing for smaller dogs, such as potentially shorter trails to start with, as well as thinking about the terrain the trail is on. Not all dogs can traverse longer grass, brambles or fallen forestry. You also must think about where the scent may go, as a smaller dog is potentially more likely to go under an obstacle or through a hedge to follow the scent, leaving the handler having to attempt to follow, or guide them around the obstacle. When starting Mantrailing this can cause some dogs to lose focus when moving them off the scent of the trail, but as they get more confident, they can recover quickly and carry on trailing.

Finding a suitable harness for Mantrailing can also be difficult as many sporting brands do not do very small harnesses designed for being in pull. The harness needs to now restrict the airways when the dog's head is down following the scent, which is something you need to consider when buying any harness for Mantrailing. It can be a bit of trial and error, but many of our instructors have a stash of harnesses to try on before committing to buying one for Mantrailing.

If you want to get started in Mantrailing when we suggest first starting by checking out our instructor map -

Want to find the perfect harness for your dog? Then check out our blog on it at -

We also highly recommend Sporty Paws or a huge range of harnesses for mantrailing, you can find their range here - (Don't forget to mention Mantrailing UK at checkout.)

Blog by Kathryn Jones, Mantrailing UK Head Instructor



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