Yogi: UAF Police Department’s new K-9 unit

Published: Aug. 31, 2023 at 8:55 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This summer, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Police Department added a furry new recruit to their ranks.

His name is Yogi, and this K-9 unit is trained to sniff out potential explosive devices, a unique trait in the community. According to his handler Officer Jill Copeland, “When I started doing my research on explosive dogs in Alaska, there are none besides military in Interior Alaska.”

Yogi is 16 months old. “He is still a puppy, basically,” said Copeland.

Since birth, he has been socialized and trained to cope with loud noises. “He’s been around people his whole life. He gets trained on environmental factors, so they take him to all kinds of events and games, fireworks,” Copeland explained.

At around one year old, Yogi began learning to identify odors associated with explosive devices.

In June, the department picked him up from a training company in North Carolina.“ Copeland added, “Of the dogs we looked at, he just blew all of them out of the water, honestly, he is just above and beyond.”

For qualifications, the department was looking for a friendly dog with high drive. “High drive is, he’ll do anything for his toy basically,” she said.

According to Copeland, he has not disappointed. “Even for his age, like he’s pretty young to be, say, released, per say, to a department or to a handler, but he is doing fantastic.”

Yogi has already worked events on campus, including the Midnight Sun Run. His services have even been lent out to other law enforcement agencies around the community. “This is not just a resource for the campus and the university but for everyone. I mean, even the villages around here, other cities, it’s a really good resource for them to have,” said Copeland.

Meanwhile, residents are advised that if they see Yogi around, they should make sure to ask first before petting him. “The majority of the time I’m not going to care because it’s still very important for him to be social too. If he’s working and I feel like he can’t, then I’ll just politely be like, “No, not right now, but maybe later. If you see us, ask me again,’” Copeland explained.

Yogi hasn’t found any explosives yet. However, he continues to train and successfully find practice items.