Police dog Caesar is recovering in hospital after being stabbed in the eye socket when tackling a man robbing a home near Whangarei, police say.
The stabbing took place after police were called to reports of a burglary at a Parua Bay home just before 6.30am.
Caesar and his handler Constable Josh Van Der Kwaak were first on the scene and "confronted this man, who tried to run away", Inspector Al Symonds told Newstalk ZB.
"After quite a vicious struggle in which the offender has stabbed the dog twice in the head with a kitchen knife, he was taken from the property."
Symonds said a man living at the Parua Bay home and an off-duty police officer, who had been on their way home, both helped Van Der Kwaak to subdue the offender.
A 30-year-old man already known to police will now face charges of burglary and injuring a police dog, police said.
Twenty-month-old Caesar suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries and was now being treated by a local vet.
He had been stabbed once through the skull, while another strike went into his eye socket, Symonds said.
However, both wounds had now been stitched up and an X-ray showed no major damage.
Caesar will next undergo a CT scan in the next few days, to confirm there is no permanent damage around his eye.
Caesar and Constable Van Der Kwaak graduated from the Dog Training Centre in Trentham on December 6 and had only been working on operations together for the last two weeks.
Symonds said the Van Der Kwaak was "OK at the moment" and he and his family were being supported by police.
Police hope Caesar will make a full recovery from his injuries and be back on the job shortly.
Symonds said the offender was originally spotted by police around 2am when the car he was driving was deemed suspicious.
He then fled from police before escaping on foot.
Caesar and Constable Van Der Kwaak were called to the scene and started tracking the man without success.
After being unable to find him, the dog and handler returned to the scene in an attempt to once again pick up the man's tracks.
It was at that time that reports of a home invasion came through where residents in the nearby Parua Bay home were being threatened by a man with a knife, Symonds said.
That was when the handler and his dog rushed to the scene and tackled the man.
Symonds said police expected to release more details about the dog later today.
"Whilst we don't like our staff, including dogs to be injured, it is what dogs are there for," he said.
"We spend a lot of time training them to do this sort of work, and this dog has done his job. He's taken the hit for his handler and managed to subdue a pretty dangerous man."
Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill extended his "sincere thanks" to the vet, who was "simply outstanding".
"I would also like to acknowledge the victim of the original burglary complaint, who assisted Constable Van Der Kwaak after Caesar was stabbed," he said.