Dog Handler Career Advice
If you are wondering how to become a dog handler, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of working with animals or agriculture, as well as job prospects in the UK.
The Job Description
Dog handlers work with specially trained dogs and are responsible for their care and control. They work mainly for the police, the army and RAF, the revenue and customs service and private security firms.
Typical responsibilities in the police force:
tracking missing persons
controlling crowds, for example at football matches
searching for explosives or illegal drugs
chasing armed criminals
In the Army and RAF dogs are used in:
guarding military bases and aircraft hangers
locating land mines and other explosives
searching for casualties.
HM Revenue and Customs use dogs at ports, airports and large stations to:
detect drugs, tobacco and cigarettes
detect food products such as meat and dairy produce that are being brought into the country illegally.
In the security industry dogs are used for:
patrolling and guarding property
guarding construction sites
providing security at events.
Dog handlers also work for other services, such as the fire service, the prison service and mountain rescue.
The key personal attributes of dog handlers include:
experience with dogs
patience and self-confidence
the ability to work with minimum supervision
to be responsible, alert and observant
the ability to judge a situation accurately and react instantly.
How to become a dog handler
To become a dog handler in most public services you would first need to be working in the organisation. For details see the relevant job profiles and the websites listed in Further Information.
You would then need to meet the organisation's requirements for becoming a dog handler, such as length of experience. For example, police handlers usually need at least three years' experience in ordinary police work before transferring to the dog section.
Entry requirements for private security companies will vary depending on the company. You would be expected to have experience of working with dogs. The National Society of Security Dog Users (NASDU) recommends that you should first get experience as a security officer before considering becoming a dog handler.
Since March 2006 it has been a legal requirement for security guards (including dog handlers) to have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. To get a licence you must:
attend an approved training course
have a nationally recognised qualification
have an identity check and CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.
See the Security Officer profile and the SIA website (in Further Information) for details.
For most jobs you would need a driving licence.
Training and Development
When you become a dog handler your training will vary according to the organisation. For example:
In the police force you would:
attend a 13-week General Purpose Police Dog course at the Dog Training
be tutored for one month with an experienced handler before going on patrol
complete a one-year probationary period.
In the Army and RAF you would:
attend a two-week basic course with a trained dog at the Defence Animal
Centre in Melton Mowbray
attend other courses covering tasks such as finding casualties and detecting mines.
In all organisations you would have ongoing training to make sure that you maintain the required standards.
In the security industry you can complete ASET Level 2 National Award for General Purpose Security Dog Handlers. Training is offered by a number of private training organisations. You could also work towards NVQ Level 2 in Providing Security Services.
As a dog handler in any service you can work towards NVQ levels 1 to 3 in Animal Care.
The Pay (a rough guide)
Starting salaries can be from around £15,500 a year
Experienced handlers can earn up to £25,000 or more.
Information and advice about entering the Army and RAF is available from the websites in Further Information and from local Armed Forces Careers Offices. For fire service recruitment enquiries, contact the personnel or recruitment departments of local fire services. You can find addresses in local telephone directories.
You would gain promotion in the same way as for any other role in the organisation. For example, you would need to pass exams to become a sergeant in the police, or a warrant officer in the army and RAF. You would not usually be a dog handler above the rank of sergeant in the army or corporal in the army and RAF, so you would need to give up dog handling if you wanted to progress further.
National Association of Security Dog Users (NASDU)