Video: Kent State Police form first K-9 unit


Rachael Le Goubin

Coco, the new K-9 unit police dog, poses outside of the Kent State Police Department on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Police Officer Anne Spahr has been training Coco with Kent State since August of this year. Photo by Rachael Le Goubin.

Although she may not be able to make arrests, use a weapon or break up a riot, the newest member of the Kent State University Police Department is an important addition.

Coco, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, is partnered with Officer Anne Spahr and is mainly trained in explosives detection, but also in other areas including tracking, evidence recovery and area searches. Coco is the department’s first canine.

“The safety and security of the university community is always the first and foremost priority of the department,” Spahr said. “A lot of universities have moved toward having bomb dogs. It’s been an initiative that’s been going on for a while.”

Coco came to Kent State from Van Der Haus Gill, a canine training academy in Wapakoneta, Ohio. The dogs there are brought to the academy from Germany where they are bred and prepared specifically for police work.

Because she was not an experienced canine handler, Spahr allowed the academy to choose a dog for her.

“We did want a dog that had a good demeanor and was very social because obviously you don’t want a dog around here that people are going to be afraid of . . . so that’s what we wanted and everything else you can kind of train them to do,” she said.


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Video by Nicole Septaric

She describes Coco as having a high drive for work.

Spahr and Coco spent six weeks training together at Van Der Haus Gill. Coco is what is called “passive alert,” meaning if she finds an explosive, she is trained to sit calmly as opposed to clawing, biting or barking at the object.

“You have to be able to read them and know that’s what they’re alerting to,” Spahr said. “They’re not just sitting down to relax. It’s kind of a different way she has about her when she does it, so you’re training the dog and you’re training the handler. You’re training the handler to read the dog.”

The two finished their training Oct, 25. Although Coco belongs to the department, she lives with Spahr.

“I’ve always been interested in working dogs,” Spahr said. “I’ve always been fascinated by them, by what they can do and what you can teach them to do.”

Spahr does not mind if people pet Coco when they see her on campus, as long as they ask permission before doing so.

Contact Cassie Smith at [email protected].