The knowledge and experience involved in training our own dogs and passing it on to others is combined with the willingness to maintain an open mind and in-depth study of the various methods of training around the world.
In the course of this quest, we have reviewed numerous training methods over many years, and over the long term, especially after working with them in practice, the advantages and disadvantages of each method became clear.
Out of this diverse range of experience, we’ve distilled a backpack full of truly useful knowledge.
We don’t work with knowledge out of a book, but with knowledge based on practical experience, supported by theory and scientific research.
Because every dog is different and learns differently, we cannot say that we use any single method. We are thus independent of any particular “school”, “direction”, “guru”, etc., although we have our preferences!
BUT: we do have a clear vision, which we explain below.
“Trust your dog”
One of the slogans you regularly hear in the mantrailing world is “Trust your dog!”.
It’s a marvelous slogan, but if you understand it to mean blindly following your dog because he’s moving in a certain direction, you are barking up the wrong tree.
I’ve seen K9 teams go miles in the wrong direction in the belief that they could trust their dog.
Of course you have to trust your dog – they are the ones with the fantastic noses.
But do you trust them blindly?
No! Of course not!
You have to build that trust: the dog has to earn that trust and you have to earn that trust – as a team!
You have to get to know your dog’s body language very well through honest training – not merely accompanying your dog along a trail and doing lots of “double-blind” exercises, but truly building trust… And then, yes, you can say, “Trust your dog”!
The following section applies particularly to those who are training for actual call-outs. It applies to a lesser extent to those doing amateur trailing just for fun.
We all want to be honest – but when are we really completely honest?
Our egos often get in the way, and we are frequently only too happy to believe that we are working beautifully with our dogs.
But it really feels fantastic when, after intensive, honest training and years of experience you find a missing person in just a few minutes’ time.
” The mirror”
If you are true to yourself, and you take an open-minded look in the mirror and ask yourself the following questions, you might come to a different conclusion than you originally thought:
“Are we really that good as a K9 team?”
“Am I seeing my dog through rose-colored glasses?”
“Am I not cheating by guiding my dog to the missing person and being rewarded for it?”
“My dog often runs a good trail…does this really mean we are ready to go on a genuine call-out?”
To test this, K9 SAR MantrailingNL offers a reality-based certification system: Someone is missing, and nobody knows where the person is.
The double-blind test!
What should you look for in a trainer?
First, look at the real record of the instructor. Don’t just listen to the usual tales of “I’ve completed numerous seminars and been on lots of call-outs” – that means absolutely nothing! Look at the facts!
Seminars are organized by people who offer you lessons, but who also want to earn money. Their organization will benefit if you return for more training. Unfortunately, it often happens that an instructor will tell you that you’ve got a fantastic dog, that you’re doing very well – only to retain you as a client. Sometimes the compliments may be true, but it is equally likely that they are trying to please you.
It’s good to motivate people and generate enthusiasm, but take a good, hard look at whether the trainer’s assessment is honest and realistic and whether you are really deserving of the compliments!
Mantrailing is serious work – people’s lives depend on it!
You are taking on a huge responsibility to the missing person, but also to their family and friends, as well as to the organization that has asked for your help.
They expect that a team will do what it has been “hired” to do, within reasonable limits (you are working with animals). In contrast to searches done with area search dogs, the responsibility for a mantrailing search rests on the shoulders of a single K9 team!
K9 SAR MantrailingNL works in an honest and transparent manner. We motivate our teams, but we don’t tell any fairy tales or pay compliments just to please our clients, and we test everything using a double-blind procedure to provide hard and fast evidence that you really are able to follow a trail with your dog and find someone.
The term “double-blind” is used both appropriately and inappropriately in the world of mantrailing.
Doing a “double-blind” trail means that the exercise or the exam is as realistic as possible.
Nobody – no one at all – knows where the person to be searched for has gone. The only thing known is the starting point, known as the “place last seen” or the “last point seen”.