Head trainer and owner of Nose to trail Rachel Rodgers teaches pet trailing.
“Pet trailing is basically a giant game of hide-and-seek for dogs and their owners. I’ve yet to find a dog who doesn’t like it, and I use it to help dogs with behaviour issues. It’s inherently rewarding because the more they sniff, the more of the scent they find, so they reinforce themselves as they go along. When they find the ‘missing’ dog, I reward with a really high-value food — hot dogs or chicken breast.
“You can work up to finding genuinely missing dogs or people, but for me it’s a fun activity for me and my dog, Rico. Another person and their dog are the ‘runner’; they pretend to be missing. They hide somewhere, for example in the town centre. My dog will sniff something that smells of the dog — his bedding or some of his fur (what we call a scent article) — then he follows their trail, and leads me to the ‘missing’ dog.
“You can start pet trailing at home; it’s basically the beginning of scent work. To begin with, take a smelly treat and put it somewhere visible, so it’s not hidden. Then make it harder and harder, around the lounge, behind the curtain, on the sofa, and let the dog sniff it out.
“My partner will go and hide behind the curtains or behind a door, and I’ll say: ‘Go find your daddy!’ The dog sniffs him out and my partner plays with Rico when he finds him, so they have a great time.
“Some dogs sniff the scent off the ground, some of them air scent. Spaniels tend to put their noses properly to the ground, like in a cartoon, whereas my dog just looks like he’s walking.”