K9 officers Brody and Alex

K9 Officers Alex and Brody report for duty

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Officer Woodyard and K9 Officer Alex

Officer Woodyard and K9 Officer Alex

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Officer Harlow and K9 Brody

Officer Harlow and K9 Officer Brody

Photo courtesy of: University Communications and Marketing

Featured Stories

K9 officers contribute to campus community

Ohio University’s police officers patrol campus by cruiser, bike, or on foot, but two officers patrol on four paws. K9 officers Brody and Alex work diligently alongside their human handlers, Officers Mike Harlow and Tim Woodyard, to help provide security at campus events like football games and other sporting events, concerts, and other public occasions.

Alex and Brody are the only two explosive-detection dogs in Southeastern Ohio and they are available if the need for bomb detection dogs arises throughout the region. If agencies outside the University seek assistance of the K9 officers for explosive detection at planned public events, they must submit an event description and request assistance in advance. K9 supervisor Lieutenant Eric Hoskinson handles such requests and OUPD staff determine availability and assign one or both K9 officers accordingly.

The K9 officers and their handlers recently traveled to Canton, Ohio to work the Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony events. They have also worked at the Red, White & BOOM event in Columbus. Hoskinson explains that though “there is no limit to where we will send our dogs,” campus needs do come first.

According to Woodyard, the dogs help OUPD ensure a higher level of security. “They have enabled us to ensure we provide the safest campus possible for our community,” said Woodyard. He noted that before the dogs joined the force at OUPD, the department had to request explosive detection canine teams from outside agencies.

The K9 officers work the same shifts as their handlers, which means their typical workweek is 40 hours, but they may work more with overtime. When they are not on duty, K9 Alex and K9 Brody live with their handlers’ families and get to relax and play like any other family pet.

OUPD received funding for its first bomb detection dog, Alex, in 2014. Officer Woodyard, an 18-year veteran of the department, serves as the Alex’s handler. Alex is a Labrador retriever mix from a rescue facility in central Ohio. Woodyard and Alex began their official duties in fall 2014. One of the most popular breeds of dogs in the United States, Labrador retrievers often serve as working dogs as therapy dogs, or service companions, in addition to providing screening and detection service for law enforcement agencies.

Officer Brody, a Belgian Malinois from the Netherlands, joined OUPD a few months later after completing his 10-week training. He works alongside his handler, Officer Mike Harlow, who has been an officer at OUPD for three years. The Belgian Malinois breed is often used as a working dog for the purposes of explosive or narcotic detection, arson investigation, tracking, and search and rescue.

The dogs are good friends, but have very different personalities, according to Woodyard. “Alex is laid back, whereas Brody is high-energy,” said Woodyard.

“K9 Brody is an extremely energetic dog with a high drive to please me and do a good job at work,” said Officer Harlow. “When I start getting ready for work, he immediately runs to the front door at home and waits to head to the cruiser. He is a playful dog and loves to chase his ball, play tug, and sleep with my children.”

Both the K9 officers and their human handlers completed intensive training programs in Columbus. Officers Harlow and Woodyard became K9 handlers after an extensive selection process including the submission of a letter of interest and other documentation, home visits, a physical fitness test, and an interview.

According to Lieutenant Hoskinson, the K9 officers contribute to OUPD efforts to maintain safety at campus and community events. Not only do the dogs serve as a deterrent to potential threats, but they are also ambassadors for the police department. He enjoys seeing people’s faces light up when they encounter the dogs at campus events like Coffee with a Cop.

“These dogs are some of the best ambassadors that our department could possibly want,” Hoskinson said, explaining that the dogs are approachable and provide officers the opportunity connect with people as dog owners. “The uniform sometimes seems to melt away,” added Hoskinson.

According to Harlow, the dogs often serve as a nice reminder of home for students who are away from their family pets and may be missing their own dogs.

Officers Woodyard and Harlow ask that if you see one of the K9 officers on campus, be sure to ask the handler first before approaching and petting the dog. If they are engaged in an active search or training, the dogs will need to complete their task before receiving attention from their human admirers.

“As with any service dog, you should always ask if you can pet them before approaching,” said Woodyard. “The dogs may be working and need to keep their focus, or they may have just worked a large and stressful event and need down time.” Woodyard notes that the dogs have an important job. “If you do see the K9 teams and it is obvious they are working, don’t distract them by whistling or calling them,” he added.

“K9 Alex and K9 Brody are both very friendly and approachable,” said Harlow. “They really enjoy having people interact with them and give them attention.”

Hoskinson said Officers Harlow and Woodyard deserve all the credit for the success of the OUPD K9 program. “Our dogs are recognized throughout the state as top-notch dogs,” Hoskinson said. “They are second to none and their handlers are the reason for that. Each one of these canines is a direct reflection of their handler.”

A federal grant and Ohio Homeland Security provided the funding for the OHIO K9 officers, at a cost of nearly $13,000 each. K9 officers have a shorter career than their human counterparts and typically retire after eight to 10 years of service, depending on their health and ability to perform their duties. According to Harlow, signs that the dogs may need to retire include health issues and any indication that the K9 officer is no longer able to conduct searches effectively.