MARSHALL, Mich. — Dozens of dogs darted into the Kalamazoo River Thursday afternoon, biting a man in the forearm. He wore a pad around his arm and critiqued the dog’s the bite. He looked at the dog, saying “good”or “nice” affirming their control while simultaneously showing the handler how they can improve in apprehending subjects as a team.
“Building a bond between the handler and the dog is very very important especially when it really comes to the moment when they need the dogs,” said the instructor Patreck Petersen. “Then they must feel confident and supported by their handlers.”
Petersen, who’s an instructor with the Dutch National Police Force, flew over from the Netherlands with his partner Frank Rotscheid to train over 30 police dogs on confidence and obedience. The dogs and their handlers drove in from all over the state to work with the pair at the Marshall Fairgrounds and Sailor’s Landing.
“This morning we started with decoy work, with targeting on the right spots,” said Petersen. “We’re going to do some water deployments and make the dogs feel confident and make them strong.”
The dogs and handlers went through realistic crime-fighting scenarios in a barn, an abandoned building and vehicles. They then went into the water to learn how to apprehend suspects there. Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer Scott Brooks said it’s all about building confidence in the dog to handle any situation that comes his or her’s way, whether on land or water.
“A lot of K9 handling is putting dogs in unusual situations during training, so that real life applications, they’re use to,” said Ofc. Brooks. “It’s not something that’s going to throw them off.”
Officer Brooks said all the training has paid off. He noticed that he and his dog rely on each other more, which is the goal of the three-day session. It’s about building trust that leads to more effective teamwork.
“They’re really great,” said Petersen about the handlers. “They’re also supportive and very enthusiastic about the trainings. So it gives tons of energy."