The frequent question as to whether rescue dogs have a sock belonging to the missing person held under their nose so they know who to search for can only be answered with a “Yes!” with this kind of search.
Mantrailers always search for a defined person, which is different from debris or area search dogs. They receive a search order based on an object, which only bears the smell of the missing person as far as possible. The search mostly begins where the person was definitely last seen or where they disappeared. Dogs search for people based on their trace.
Everyone constantly sheds tiny flakes of skin. These contain the bacteria of the person’s individual skin microbiota and give off a unique smell. Dogs trained in this search type track people using these microscopic cell structures. They can distinguish them from the trace of other people and follow them through inhabited areas. Weather, ground conditions, wind, age of the trace, level of training and breed, along with many other factors, determine the difficulty of the trail to be followed and thus affect the likelihood of whether the dog can solve the task assigned to it or not.
Training is very comprehensive. In addition to the difficulties that the dog faces when tracking, it must be ensured that the dog keeps only to the indicated trail. Even when distracted, the dog must be able to identify the right person on the basis of odour properties. It needs to show when it has lost the trail, if it suddenly ends (person has got on a means of transport such as bus or car) or if there is no trace whatsoever of the missing person at the scheduled point. Distractions such as passenger traffic, other dogs or wild animals must not prevent it from fulfilling its mission.