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Tracking vs Trailing

We are often asked the difference between Tracking and Trailing. Both require a dog, a harness and a handler, and both involve following where a person has been. However, the sports differ from there. 


The main difference is that a Tracking dog follows disturbance left on the ground by an individual, whilst a Trailing dog follows the individual scent of the person who laid the trail. 


Tracking is a nose down sport where the dog is required to follow the scent of crushed vegetation left by footsteps of a person. The person can be the owner or somebody else as the dog is not specifically searching for the person but disturbances in the ground. Tracking also requires the dog to search for “evidence” (articles) that have been left behind on the track and indicate to the handler once found. You can take part in Tracking on your own as all you need is enough land to be able to pace the track out and let it age. When Tracking, the dog will need to keep its nose on the track and to be as accurate as possible while working at a steady pace, as accuracy and precision are highly rewarded in this sport. The skill of following a track over different surfaces as accurately as possible is assessed by a number of organisations (such as UK Tracking Dog Association) as well as being combined with other sports (such as UK Dog Sport, Working Trials). Scoring can vary but the sport has been long established in the UK with many titles to achieve.


In Mantrailing, the dog is required to find a specific person who is hidden or “missing”. The trail starts with an item that has the scent of the person, also known as a sent article or trailing key. The dog will then search only for that person and use scent from the ground, air, vegetation and any other available source of scent. The dog will be following a person who is not the owner. In Mantrailing, the dog does not need to follow the trail perfectly, instead following the scent wherever it may have gone due to environmental changes and disturbances. The dog is able to use scent in the most natural way to them. Contaminating odours from sources such as other people, the environment and wildlife are not a problem as the dog is taught to sniff out the specific person and ignore all other factors. The sport of Mantrailing is relatively new in the UK, but is starting to gain popularity with dog owners. Mantrailing is a fairly accessible sport as you can trail in many different environments from your local village to thick woodland. You always need someone to hide for you when mantrailing which makes it harder to practise at home. There aren't many assessment levels in the UK and most people like to enjoy Mantrailing for fun rather than achieving titles as their dogs love doing it.


Tracking and Mantrailing differ the most from the way we ask the dog to work. Both sports are great fun and use the dog’s amazing, natural sniffing ability. A longline is used in both sports at all times and is suitable for any breed. Both sports build a better bond with your dog, learning to read your dog’s body language and joining our like minded community. It is a great natural release for an energetic dog that is low impact on joints and high impact on mental stimulation.

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