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Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing

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If you’re in Stroud and spot a dog and its owner enthusiastically sniffing out a person in ‘hiding’, don’t be alarmed, they’re probably taking part in a trailing session.

DSC09591 | Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing
Ready of off: Maria Daley (centre, front) who runs For Paws Dog Training and some of the participants in an urban trail around Stroud. Pictures: Matt Bigwood.

Maria Daley, from Standish, runs For Paws Dog Training and group trailing sessions are held in both urban and rural locations: “A human will set a trail, just by walking a route. They’ll have a reward for the dog that is searching for them, either treats or a toy, whichever the individual dog prefers. It’s all about tailoring it to that individual dog and making it work for them,” explained Maria.

DSC09819 | Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing
Maria Daley runs For Paws Dog Training.

“The human hiding will leave behind a scent article. We give them a few minutes to lay the trail and hide. The dog has a sniff of the scent article, follows the trail, finds the person and gets their reward.

“It’s a bit different to tracking – as in trailing the dog can air or ground scent, (or do a mixture of both), and in tracking, if the person laying the track did a 90-degree turn, the dog would be expected to follow that exact trail. In trailing, the dog doesn’t have to follow the precise trail, just as long as they find the human hiding.”

DSC09637 | Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing
For Paws Dog Training

Maria started For Paws Dog Training six years ago when she was made redundant, starting off predominantly dog walking, and specialising in dogs with nervous or aggressive issues: “Gradually I added to the equipment I needed for teaching and continued developing my skills. I was all set to expand the teaching side when Covid-19 hit us, and like many others, overnight, I lost my entire business.”

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Razzle, a border collie, with owner Sharron Taylor.

The past year has been incredibly tough for her: “We’ve had no financial help from the government, a complete lack of understanding as to how us dog trainers worked and were not deemed as a necessary service during lockdowns. Hopefully now though, I’ve come out the other side and For Paws will continue to develop and get to work with more dogs.”

Maria usually runs sessions every two weeks on land in Standish: “We also do extra sessions – urban trailing and trails at night – and work on trials that are 24 hours old.

DSC09773 | Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing
Dylan, with owner Wendy Blake, gets a reward for finding Steve Pollard who had been ‘hiding’.

“Roughly every six weeks, I’ll run a day’s trail session where the dog and handler teams set off by themselves on a pre-laid trail. Sometimes this can be at least 30 minutes long. For Paws hasn’t lost anyone yet!”

Some participants have more than one dog so class sizes are limited to the number of dogs. “Usually, it’s no more than six dogs in a group. All dogs are worked one at a time, so any nervous dogs or others that might not be comfy with other dogs or humans around, are still able to work without having to worry about other stressful factors,” added Maria.

DSC09895 | Sniffing out the benefits of dog trailing
Florence sniffs out the scent.

Are some dog breeds naturally better at trailing than others? “You’ll always get some dogs that, somewhere in their lines, have been bred to sniff, some that use their eyes, some that do a bit of both. It’s about understanding that individual dog and then tailoring each exercise so it works for the dog,” she explained.

“It’s not as hard as it sounds – you just need to take time and effort to get to know the dog you are working with.

“For Paws had a Doberman join us that had never sniffed on walks, never really used his nose, always used his eyes. By tailoring his trails to work for him, he is now absolutely cracking at using his nose and loves his trailing.”

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Florence, a standard poodle, is ready for the off.

What benefits does trailing bring to the dogs? “It’s great for virtually any dog, brilliant for their mental wellbeing and of course, it lets them use their sniffy nose,” said Maria.

“It’s also great for giving dogs a bit of general confidence, as it gives them a job to do, a purpose and often this carries over into everyday life.” 

For more information visit: Home (forpaws.me.uk)

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