Introduction to Mantrailing

Mantrailing Contacts:

National Chair - Terri Heck (717) 443-7627
NE Regional Representative - Jan Rothwell (603) 860-8867

Introduction to Mantrailing

“Trust your dog”

Disclaimer: The American Bloodhound Club (ABC) Trailing Event Standard clearly states: “Levels of certification, as described in this standard, are for the sole purpose of titling a bloodhound in a sporting event and should not, in any manner, be considered a qualification for police or search and rescue work.”

  • The objective of this presentation is to:
  • Provide an introduction to the sport of mantrailing for the first time bloodhound handlers.
  • Review equipment.
  • Provide a brief glimpse of scent theory.
  • Describe how to get started and introduce scent articles.
  • Discuss when and how to increase the length of the trail, increase the age of the trail and add distractions.
  • Briefly describe the different level of titles recognized by the American Bloodhound Club.
  • Provide resources for additional information.

The first question most people asks is ‘What is the difference between tracking and trailing?’

  • A tracking dog must follow the runners trail within a few feet of the trail laid and find articles left by the runner. There is no runner at the end only an article.
  • A trailing dog works from start to finish and may even cut off sections of the trail.


Equipment is very important to the safety of you and your dog

  • The harness is usually made of leather or nylon and should have sturdy buckles and rings.
  • The trailing line is of good length usually between 15-20 feet long.
  • A good set of gloves will save your hands from rope burns and hazards (i.e. briars).
  • Good sturdy footwear will help prevent injury to your ankles and feet.

Basic commands:

  • “Track” (or whatever word you choose as the cue to start the trail).
  • “Leave it” will prevent your dog from eating bagels off the sidewalk and other unwanted items (i.e. goose poop) as well as get your dog off of a critter trail.
  • “Wait” is used for hazards and to rest.
  • “Get to work” used after a ‘Leave it’ or a ‘Wait’
  • Praise and encouragement

A very small glimpse of scent theory:

  • What is scent? "scent will be interpreted as all those combinations of odors or smells that characterize an individual". From: Scent and the Scenting Dog by William G. Syrotuck .
  • What affects scent?
    • Temperature - Wind
    • Moisture - Terrain
    • Emotion – Race

Before you start a trail:

It is important before you start a trail to walk your dog. Allow your dog to stretch out a bit before being put to the task. There will be less chance of soft tissue injury.

Stretching exercises are good as well but need to be done correctly and are time prohibitive. Walking works well to acclimate the dog to the area and stretch them out a bit at the same time.

The following will demonstrate how to start your dog:

  • Runaways
  • Introducing scent articles
  • Lengthening the trail
  • Increasing the age of the trail
  • Adding contaminations and distractions
  • Training Tips


Initially the runner will play with the dog and get it excited to follow. The runner will go about 25 feet away and call the dog. The handler will give the dog the cue word (i.e.‘Track’) to start and allow the dog to go to the runner. When the dog reaches the runner the dog receives praise and/or rewards.

  • The length of the runaway gradually increases.
  • The next step is to have the runner duck around a corner or tree.
  • After that the runner ducks around two corners. It is always exciting to watch the dog go around the corner expecting to see his runner and when he does not how instinctively the nose drops to the ground and the dog begins to work.

Introducing scent articles:

  • What is a scent article? Just about anything. For testing purposes it is a double bagged sterile gauze pad.
  • Introduce a scent article by going back to basic, short runaways. Just present the scent article to the dog prior to giving him the cue to trail.

Getting a Good ID:

  • Be consistent
  • Use a definitive ID (e.g. jump up)
  • Be consistent
  • Give a lot of rewards
  • Did we mention be consistent? 🙂

Have your runners be in different positions. In test situations the runner is usually standing or sitting.

Tips on lengthening the trail:

  • Increase in gradual increments.
  • Vary the length.
  • Never increase length in conjunction with an increase in age and/or difficulty.
  • Shorten the trails to motivate.

Increasing the age of the trail:

  • Increase only when proficient at a level.
  • Vary the age.
  • Never increase age when increasing length and/or difficulty.
  • Use fresh trails or runaways to motivate
  • Helpful hint-Train above level of a test

When ready add contaminations and distractions remembering to use short, fresh trails at first:

  • noise: heavy traffic areas, construction zones, airports, train yards, playgrounds (children), ball fields
  • odors: traffic farms, sewer plants, factories, waste management plants
  • visual: wildlife, domestic animals, farm animals, vehicles: big trucks, tractors, bikes, motorcycles, people

Training Tips:

  • Train often
  • Vary runners – age, race
  • Vary position of runner at end
  • Vary number of individuals at end
  • Vary scent articles
  • Train in all weather
  • Vary terrain, elevations
  • Vary venues (include rural, suburban, urban)

Rules for entering a trial:

  • In the USA an EECT must be obtained prior to applying to a trial.
  • An EECT may be obtained from an approved ABC trailing judge at any time after the puppy has reached six months of age.
  • In Canada the CBC does not require an EECT to attempt an MT title.

The Event Entry Certification Test (EECT) is the first step on the way to earning American Bloodhound Club (ABC) trailing titles.

  • The bloodhound must be at least 6 months old.
  • The length of the trail is at least 1/4 mile.
  • The age of trail is at least 1 hour old and no more than 2 hours old.
  • The trail follows a natural wandering path.
  • The team has one hour to work the trail.
  • There is one runner at the end.

There are three recognized titles in the American Bloodhound Club (ABC):

  • Mantrailer (MT)
  • Mantrailer Intermediate (MTI)
  • Mantrailer Excellent (MTX)

These titles are now recognized by the AKC but must be registered with the AKC prior to being included on entry forms and in catalogs. For instructions on how to apply to the AKC for recognition of these titles visit:

Mantrailer (MT):

You must have your EECT before entering a trial for your MT.

  • The bloodhound must be at least 6 months old.
  • The length of the trail is 1/2 to 3/4 mile long.
  • The age of trail is 4 to 6 hours old.
  • There is one change in direction.
  • The team has one hour to work the trail.
  • There is one runner at the end.

Mantrailer Intermediate (MTI):

  • You must submit a copy of your MT certification to enter a trial for an MTI.
  • The length of the trail is 1/2 to 3/4 mile long.
  • The age of the trail is 8 to 18 hours old.
  • The trail will have moderate contamination.
  • The trail will follow a natural wandering path.
  • The team has one hour to work the trail.
  • There will be one runner and at least one crossrunner at the end of the trail.
  • The team must identify the correct runner

Mantrailer Excellent (MTX):

  • You must submit a copy of your MTI certification to enter a trial for an MTX.
  • The length of the trail is 1/2 to 3/4 mile long.
  • The age of the trail is 24 to 36 hours old.
  • The trail will have heavy contamination.
  • The trail will follow a natural wandering path with three obstacles (i.e. roads, water, bridge, crosstracks, etc.).
  • The team has one hour to work the trail.
  • There will be one runner and one crossrunner at the end.
  • The team must identify the correct runner.

Passing at a trial does NOT qualify you and your dog for search and rescue.


  • American Bloodhound Club
  • Scent and the Scenting Dog by William G. Syrotuck
  • Ready! The Training of the Search and Rescue Dog by Susan Bulanda
  • On the Trail! by Jan Tweedie

This presentation was prepared by Roxanne Chandler and Terri Heck with the input of many ABC trailing members. Our hope is that it serves as an introduction to ABC Trailing for some and a stimulus for discussion for others. We strongly encourage participants to train with experienced hound/handler teams and to attend structured seminars. It is an incredible experience working with these hounds as they do what they were bred to do. Above all be safe and ENJOY!