Mantrailing – Part 2 – Real Life Experience

“Molecular dogs” to find missing people

In the previous article we talked about molecular dogs and mantrailing as an activity conducted by the pair dog/handler, who are adequately trained to give answers to the families of the missing person.

In fact, mantrailing is not always “finding”, it often provides fundamental “information” or “answers”.

But what is the search about? I want to tell you about a real experience to understand how the pair dog/handler works and how important is the presence of dogs in our lives.

Search with blood input

5:30am, it’s cold and dark outside and the phone rings! An urgent call to go to the meeting point because a boy has been missing… so the search begins.

(My dog Lady, operational backpack, uniform and some rescue tools)

We get ready: uniform, night torches, rescue and emergency backpack, the dog with his harness, the lead rope… we look at each other with an understanding: “Time to go to work!”. Once we arrive, we meet with the rest of the team, other search units and experts of logistics: teamwork is essential!

Information gathering

Through a questionnaire, we collect some essential information to be able to carry out aproper search.
Some details of the missing person’s life can come in handy to understand whether we are on the right track, to know what we can or should change and interpret.

Start point

The last spot where the boy went missing was communicated.
We position ourselves. Here we go!
We have a blood sample (trace of blood). I tell Lady “SNIFF”, then I give her the command “SEARCH”.

(Me and my dog lady on track)

Lady takes the trail, nose to the ground and there she goes… it’s the two of us, a unit, a symbiosis.

I need to grasp her signals, body, head and tail movements, intensity and breathing patterns.

She finally stops, sniffs, gives a “negative” (a signal that tells me that we are off track). We go back to the point where I was sure she was on track and we continue, using working methods and techniques that allow us to understand where the person went.

(Piece of search evidence)

Then Lady stops to sniff alongside the road. I understand that it is not a useful clue and, with a specific technique, we get back on track. Suddenly she turns right towards an abandoned and ruined house. , I realise that she is confident, she quickens the pace, moves the head and continues on unhesitatingly.

She enters the ruined house, sniffs, then raises her head sniffing constantly, now she no longer has her nose on the ground, she catches the smell from the air instead… we are close!


(Area where the boy was found)

She moves to the right and there I see the boy she had already “seen” with her sense of smell. Lady sits down in front of him because that’s how she signals the missing person.

I move away with Lady, while the experts of logistics communicate with the base, informing that the person was found. They delimit the area which now becomes inaccessible, collect useful samples, and photograph the scene.

I walk away with Lady, praising her for the work done; we are proud of ourselves and feel more and more in symbiosis.


It is important to be properly trained to carry out this activity, because the goal is to help save a life.

Dogs have an enormous power, their nose in this case allows us to collaborate and do extraordinary things, they are life and work companions.

But not only that, their sensitivity is helpful for us but also allows us to be of greater help to others!

This article was written by dog trainer Silvia Barbieri, learn more on her on facebook and instagram.


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