K-9 Officer Chantelle Renaud poses for a photo with her partner in crime prevention, Gajo.

K-9 Officer Chantelle Renaud poses for a photo with her partner in crime prevention, Gajo.

Photo provided by Chantelle Renaud


Experts advise asking before petting strange dogs

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published October 9, 2019

 K-9 Gajo often sweeps the property of Ford Field for explosives in advance of a game.

K-9 Gajo often sweeps the property of Ford Field for explosives in advance of a game.

Photo provided by Chantelle Renaud

 Katie Glovac, of Einstein Dog Training, said socialization is about looking, not touching.

Katie Glovac, of Einstein Dog Training, said socialization is about looking, not touching.

Photo provided by Katie Glovac

METRO DETROIT — Hey, we get it.

Some temptations in life are too irresistible to pass up: chocolate cake, splashing in puddles, celebrity gossip rags.

But as enticing as it may be to run up to a fluffy pup and shower him with love and pets, that’s probably not such a good idea.

You could be putting your safety at risk and making life tough for the dog too.

Chantelle Renaud, of Detroit, has been a K-9 handler for nearly six years, and getting folks to treat her dog Gajo the way they should — as an officer of the law — can be tough.

“As far as civilians interacting with any working dog, most times it’s very inappropriate to pet them,” she explained. “When you see a K-9 out on the road, please ask their handler if it’s OK to pet.”

Luckily, Renaud and Gajo specialize in searching for explosives, so there isn’t much need to put on a “tough patrol dog” attitude, so they get to be more friendly than some other working dog teams. But other K-9 partners might be trained to be on alert for strangers, and approaching them in action could result in a bite.

“I tell people to please not get offended if an officer says no, you can’t pet their K-9. You’ve got to understand that they have a job to do and sometimes they might not be friendly,” Renaud said.

Asking before touching is a good rule of thumb when meeting any strange pet, according to Katie Glovac, a dog trainer with Einstein Dog Training of Oakland County. You never know what that pet parent might be working on at that moment.

“The main risk of petting a dog without permission would of course be that you could be bitten by the dog. Some dogs are people friendly, but if you encroach on their space, they might feel threatened or afraid,” Glovac said. “But you definitely could be hindering someone’s training success, too. If the owner is developing a new behavior with the dog — maybe it’s a young dog going through a fear stage — approaching without properly asking could cause them to be human aggressive after that and create a trigger that wasn’t there or worsen one that is.”

Renaud said that it can take years to train a working dog to do their job, and that training never ends. Handlers constantly review skills to keep up the pup’s skill set. Every stimulus matters: Is the floor tile or carpet? Are you going up an escalator or stairs? Was that sound gunfire or just city noise? Even when it looks like a dog is just hanging out with their owner, a tutorial might be in session.

“My partner is a single-purpose K-9, which means he’s a sniffing dog and only searches for explosive odor. You can have single-purpose K-9s that would only search for narcotics,” Renaud said. “Gajo is trained to sit, a passive alert, when he finds a ‘bomb,’ and most narcotic dogs are trained to scratch — an active alert. During (police academy training) you learn what it takes to properly train your K-9 for all their job duties so they can do it without hesitation in an emergency. At times, your life could be in their paws.”

The same goes for non-K-9 canines, too.

Glovac explained that while most people tend to think that the term “socialization,” when applied to dogs, involves petting and playing with other pooches, that’s not true. Dogs are trained to be socialized by being out in an environment with other dogs or humans around, learning to follow directions despite distractions on two legs or four.

“I always coach clients, especially in the beginning of their training, to stand their ground and be really blunt or stern with people if you need to. Some people think it’s their right to pet your dog,” she said. “Getting puppies to observe all these different people around them and existing near them and other dogs is a lot better than being approached where you might be towering over this puppy going through a fear stage and cause them to be reactive.”

And while it’s important to respect an owner’s wishes not to pet their dog, every once in a while, you might get a yes. Renaud said she and her partner love to make new friends in their downtime.

“I absolutely love my job. I get to hang out with my best friend all day,” she said.