Reading Body language
Reading the body language of your dog in mantrailing might be more important than in other branches of (dog) sport.
As said before: mantrailing is a kind of SAR to find a missing person and in the real world we have absolute no evidence where a person went after he left the house or car or ...
You are totally dependent on your dog if he shows you where the last scent of the person is. Then you are totally dependent on good reading the body language of your dog.
Of course, that depends on how you tried your dog to prepare you for such a situation. But that not the question in this blog, so I assume you had a good and honest training with a professional trainer.
It is important during those training that your dog has learned to work independently.
Of course you can give your dog support in the moments he doubt, show you he has some problems to work out a scent-puzzle.
But more then some support like show him the productive source or another alley, street he missed, you can't give. Because you don't know it either.
This is the way to train your dog, because then it's no different with the real situation.
Did you give your dog too much help during the training and sometimes actually indicated where the trail is, your dog will be dependent from you and missed in a real case situation.
But did you trained properly and honest, then there is a chance that you can interpret the body language of your dog in this particular situation and find the missing person together as a team. handler and dog working together.
Reading the body language of your dog, you can learn!
A well-known instructor, Kevin Baughn, from America (GAK9, California) has put in a schedule:
Nose, body, tail, direction and pull and it will be your guides in this work.
Not easy to learn, but it isn't impossible. It is hard work, but it will pay off.
My advice is, make a blueprint of your dog body language as it could guide you in your work.
Use this schedule:
The six points of the reading the body language
From the front of the dog to the end:
- Head / nose : Where is the nose of your dog when he's on the track? This can be different for every dog, also depending on the situation, such as weather, wind, temperature, etc.
- Body: How is his body at all? Is there tension in the body? Note: mostly when the dog has a slack body, he is busy with something else or not has make his decision yet.
- Tail: How is the state of the tail? Is he waging slow or fast (fast is mostly to much excitement) Is he straight or dropped down: Ask yourself the question: why is the tail dropped down here, is there a reasonable situation or... Sorry, it is not so simple as it looks like.
- Direction: Mostly you can see: this dog really wanted to work further on this direction. If the dog loses a common direction, mostly it is because the dog is not on the trail or searching for the scent. (or distracted)
- Focus, as a bonus, a kind of summary: do you have the idea if your is working or not. as you once noticed it, you know what I mean. Read also blog about the three Ds
So you think with this schema it's easy, sorry I have to disappointed you.
The problem is, it's not a science, every trail is different, like weather changes, for example, or the wind is blowing more or less, then your dog reacts differently to the smell. you have to learn it in a lot situations.
There is no instruction manual of your dog, you have to work for it, read your dog, learn, train hard. Mostly it cost you years, hopefully months to learn this.
So train hard and be honest and make a blueprint of the bodylangauge of your dog.
It is wise to ask your trainer to help you reading your dog and do some double blind exercises now and then to see if you really can read your do.
That's the training for to work one day in a real case and maybe save a life.