The trail is the residual trace of human odors. Scent molecules attach themselves to different materials in their environment. The adhesion on natural soil is different from that on hard surfaces. There is also greater adhesion between pavement joints, along hedges and walls. The particles move and change continuously. This is due to the weather and the time elapsed. For example, wind can make the dog smell a person's scent on the other side of a path than where that person actually walked !!
A trail changes with time. You can compare a fresh trail with seeing a bright color. The older the trail, the more faded the colors become. It is more difficult for the dog to pursue the older trail (faint color) among other fresher scent trails (bright colors).
Mantrail dogs search in a harness to which a long line is attached to permit free movement. These dogs search for the trail on natural surfaces but also in areas with alternating natural and paved soils.
For the handler, it is important to observe their dog and to be able to recognize its behavior. The handler must learn to see if their dog has the scent of the trail and if the dog is pursuing the trail (body language). Recognizing this trail behavior is essential.
It is also important to know what the behavior of the dog looks like when there is absolutely no scent to follow. The dog can exclude that direction.
Sometimes the dog loses the scent of the trail completely. You must also learn to recognize this, so you can give your dog the necessary support at the right time and in the appropriate way. Offering the dog places where odor could be, following a certain plan. We call this management.
The trail behavior looks different for each dog. But there are similarities. If the dog goes forward, pulling on the leash does not mean that he is pursuing the trail. A lot of practice is required to learn to "read" your dog well.
So not getting your dog from point A to point B, but interpretting its behavior during the trail with all its obstacles, is what is most important.
The training of mantrailing dogs for professional service takes on average 3 years.
Well-trained mantrail teams can follow trails on different surfaces such as forest, sand, grass mixed with stones, streets and asphalt. They can also pursue (limited) older tracks. They can also search (limited) in areas where other people have walked.