Police dog Mist and handler Constable Elyse Lewis will be hoping another year of experience on the beat chasing criminals in Northland will allow them to go one better this year at the national competition and claim top honours.
The Whangārei based duo, in their first national competition last year, finished second after three days of fierce competition.
The top two finish meant they qualified to represent New Zealand in a transtasman challenge against Australian police dog teams in October last year, where they finished fourth out of six combinations.
From Monday 23 police and services dog teams are competing against each other for national titles.
Police, NZ Customs, Corrections, Aviation Security and NZ Defence Force dogs and handlers, selected from local trials, are taking part in the premier event which is spread across three categories.
Twelve police patrol dogs and handlers from Whangārei to Invercargill will be put through a series of challenging obedience disciplines, heel work, tracking, criminal work and building searches.
Six narcotic detector dog teams – two from police , two from the Department of Corrections and two from NZ Customs face similar tests in their category.
Five explosives detector dog teams – one from police, two from the Aviation Security Service and two from the New Zealand Defence Force compete in the third category.
Inspector Todd Southall, National Co-ordinator for police dogs, said the national championships were a highlight of the year and designed to bring out the best of handlers and their dogs.
"All the tasks and test activities are based on the real-life skills decisions that handlers and their dogs must make when they are responding day and night to a variety of incidents and situations.
"Dog teams do a fantastic job in helping keep our communities safe. They provide a critical frontline response, detection and prevention capability whether it's on the street, at our borders, prisons, airports or in military roles."
Lewis is only the fifth female dog handler in the history of New Zealand Police and one of two currently working in New Zealand.
She spent nine years as a frontline officer in Whangārei before chasing her dream of becoming a dog handler.
The duo became operational in November 2015, working initially in Dunedin as part of the Southern District before transferring back "home" in Whangārei where Lewis became the region's first female dog handler.