We spoke to Sarah at My Anxious Dog UK about her starting her mantrailing journey with her anxious dog Bella, a Cocker Spaniel. Initially she was a dog who adored her training and did well in classes, but after being attacked by a few dogs she developed a fear of dogs. This fear then turned into a fear of being touched by strangers after a few stints in the vets. Sarah’s trainer suggested a yellow ribbon to help owners understand that Bella needed space, she found it really helped her feel calmer on walks. Sarah then decided to develop her own range of harnesses with the wording on such as “Anxious”, “Do Not Touch” and “Keep Away” to help spread awareness of the project, as well as explain to owners visually that the dog does not want another dog or a person in their space. Sarah is passionate about education on the project and wants to use her social media and products to help dogs and owners be aware, but also feel more comfortable on walks.
Sarah wants to raise awareness not only through her products but also using the hashtag #yellowarmy and #dogsinyellow, even building up to an awareness day in March 2022. Her project has helped to raise awareness about anxious dogs, which has then helped those dogs have happier and more relaxing walks. At Mantrailing UK we want to help every dog have fun in life, be that by doing mantrailing or raising awareness of how owners with anxious or reactive dogs can communicate to others that their dogs need space.
The colour yellow is used to raise awareness as it is the official warning colour for caution, as well as being the brightest colour on the spectrum. It is eye catching and our eyes are naturally drawn to it, meaning we are more likely to spot the gear and read the message on it. Dogs can’t read or always interpret what another dog is saying, so for us to be able to spot these messages can avoid upsetting a dog or setting a dog’s training back from an incident.
When we spoke to Sarah about Bella getting into mantrailing we asked what she enjoyed most about it, which was watching Bella use her natural instinct to follow her nose to find someone. Bella isn’t the kind of dog to go up to strangers as she is wary of being touched by them, but with mantrailing she was able to go towards a stranger (The “misper”) and take food off them with the knowledge that the person wouldn’t touch her and she would get a brilliant reward. In only a few sessions she is already getting the game and not worrying about there being a person at the end. Because we can tailor every trail and every session to every dog, it means issues that might be present in other classes aren’t in mantrailing.
All dogs are worked individually and on the lead at all times, so despite being a group session with multiple dogs, it means that Bella isn’t actually exposed to dogs off the lead and can chill in the car between trails. It also means that Sarah can speak to other owners with the same issues, and actually be part of a social dog group. Social aspects of dog training groups are often lost if you have an anxious dog as you can feel isolated or deflated at your dog’s behaviour, or spend the time trying to make progress but ultimately doing more damage than good. Mantrailing groups are not only formed of exciting and enthusiastic dog owners, but also people who want to cheer you on. The groups soon become friends and cheerleaders who cheer you on as your dog succeeds. It becomes a community support which really can boost each owner’s confidence massively.
We want to promote Sarah’s cause at My Anxious Dog UK by educating all of our mantrailers about what the yellow dog project is. It could help their dog or others in the future if they spot a dog in yellow. Adapting mantrailing to allow every dog to trail is at the core of our ethos. Mantrailing not only allows dogs to do something fun individually, it also helps improve behavioural issues by giving the dogs a natural outlet for hunting. It helps anxious dogs build confidence in new places or scenarios, passing things such as people or cars which might normally cause them to panic.
Mantrailing helps on a psychological level as the action of licking the food from the pots releases endorphins in the brain, and helps create the feel good factor while they work. It also creates a predictable reward at the end of the task. No matter the difficulty of a trail, the dog will always get its reward and then a second reward on the intensity trail. These predictable and mentally rewarding aspects of mantrailing allow the dogs to get hooked on the game; their natural instincts are being fulfilled and they feel on top of the world!
Sarah and Bella trail with one of our lovely Mantrailing UK Instructors Niki Irving at WunderMutts in Bracknell.
You kind find out all about Sarah and Bella’s cause on their website – https://www.bellascollars.co.uk/ or find them on social media at @myanxiousdog where you can join thousands of dog owners promoting the #yellowarmy and giving dogs a voice.
You can find your nearest instructor to get started by checking out our map here – www.mantrailinguk.com/find-an-instructor