Newswise — Michigan State University and Notre Dame were fierce competitors during the 2017 Big Ten-ACC Challenge. But off the court, the two university police departments partnered to conduct a special training with their Vapor Wake K-9s with one goal: to share best practices on keeping campuses safe.

bomb-sniffing dogs and police searching Breslin Center

Hours before and during the MSU vs. Notre Dame game, the two police forces swept MSU’s Breslin Center. Using their advanced sense of smell, the dogs endured training exercises, weaving in and out of crowds of people.

In terms of universities, MSU and Notre Dame are early adopters of Vapor Wake Detection Technology. Vapor Wake detection is a method for training and employing dogs for the detection of body-worn and hand-carried explosives. Developed at Auburn University, Vapor Wake dogs are specially trained to continuously sample the air for an explosive target, then follow it to its source in real time, while the target is in motion.

MSU police officer with bomb-sniffing dog

MSU Police K-9 Cora, a two-and-a-half-year-old yellow Labrador, with her handler Officer Adam Atkinson, who has spent countless hours throughout the last year training Cora to do what she does best: smell.

MSU has one of the largest K-9 units in the state with 10 dogs, but Cora is MSU’s only Vapor Wake dog. The collective K-9 team is a key player in MSU’s commitment to safety. In fact, MSU is one of only five higher education institutions in the nation, and the second entity in Michigan (the other being the State of Michigan), to become accredited in emergency planning.

police with bomb-sniffing dogs outside

Notre Dame acquired its two Vapor Wake dogs, Toxi and Skeet, this fall, and since then, Officer Jarett Gilpin (left) and Officer Anthony Clark (right), and their handlers have been working with Atkinson on training and sharing best practices.

Vapor Wake technology is relatively new. While the dogs are commonly used at Amtrak stations, professional sports stadiums and in other crowded venues, MSU and Notre Dame are among only a handful of universities to employ human’s best friends to keep the public safe.