HOBART | Officer Andrew Phillips has only had as his partner, Neko, an 18-month German shepherd, since February.
Yet on Monday, while taking part in a narcotics detection exercise, the rookie female dog easily passed certification and alerted after finding drugs inside one of a dozen vehicles parked at St. Bridget's Church parking lot.
"It's called negative training because there are more vehicles that don't have narcotics than do," master trainer Mike Johnson said.
Johnson, who works for the Bedford, Ind. Police Department, also serves as president of the American Police Canine Association.
Phillips, of the Lawrence County Police Department, was one of 54 canine teams, who came to train and compete at the American Police Canine Association five-day event in Hobart.
Hobart also hosted the event two years ago, said Augustine "Simon" Gresser, Hobart police canine team leader.
The conference, which ends Friday, allows teams from throughout the U.S. and Canada to train and become certified in some 11 areas.
Each day this week different training scenarios will be scheduled.
They include aggression control, area and article search, obedience, narcotics/explosive search, tracking, and building search.
In addition to scenarios played out in Hobart, other areas will include the Deep River Waterpark in Merrillville and the Port of Indiana in Portage.
Jeff Eldridge, a canine coordinator with Crown Point police, said he's been attending the national conferences since the one in Bedford, Ind., held in 2009.
He admits he's hooked.
"It's the ability to take your dog to another level and it's also the camaraderie. The conferences are a lot of fun for both the handler and the dog," Eldridge said.