Do you want to work as a Dog Handler?
READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.
RESEARCH: Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.
PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!
UPDATED: 1 September 2020
What is a Dog Handler?
A dog handler is the person that works with highly trained dogs to protect people and places, detect specific substances, such as explosives, drugs and even find missing persons or medical abnormalities, such as cancer and seizures.
The careers in which you can find dog handlers are called:
- K9 Police Officer
- Search and Rescue Operator
- Explosives or Drug Detecting Officer
- Military Officer
- Customs or Border Patrol Officer
- Security Officer
This career, or group of careers, is separate from the instructors and trainers. If you are looking for the training part of this field, have a look at these careers:
What does a Dog Handler do?
With which groups of animals does a Dog Handler work with?
The Dog Handler career can be found within the following OZT career categories:
- Animal Care
- Law & enforcement
What does a Dog Handler focus on?
Handle and instruct a dog during daily work.
What are the daily tasks of a Dog Handler?
- Patrol premises and protect property
- Search for lost or missing people
- Detect drugs, firearms or explosives
- Control crowds
- Look after your dog in your own home
- Attend training courses with your dog
- Work with under supervision
- Write reports
- Administration and filing
Working conditions of a Dog Handler
Where does a Dog Handler work?
They work mostly outdoors.
Places of Employment –
Depending on the specific kind of position or career, most are employed by government, but they may also be employed by private security companies, medical research facilities or self employed.
What is the average annual salary of a Dog Handler?
They can earn a yearly average of US$50,000 per year. The salary will also differ from country to country, and whether you are employed within the public or private sector.
Can a Dog Handler be promoted?
Some can go into specialized areas, while others may be promoted into management positions that do focus more on office work.
The possible levels:
Junior Officer > Officer (middle level) > Senior Officer > Manager or Supervisor
What kind of difficulties can a Dog Handler face?
As a dog handler you will definitely work within difficult and sometimes dangerous situations. The work might also entail long hours and working over weekends and holidays. They may also have to deal with difficult people.
Future growth and Possibilities
The future growth of the sector looks good with growth at around 12% per year.
Availability of Jobs
Which Skills are required by a Dog Handler?
The skills required for a career as a dog handler can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Good customer service skills
- Good animal handling and care
- Excellent health and physical fitness
- Good driving skills
- Basic computer literacy
Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?
The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.
OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!
What will I need to Study to become a Dog Handler?
The minimum qualifications in some countries is a High School certificate, but a College Diploma or even University Degree would be best to secure a good position, especially if you are looking at working within a privately owned security company.
Studies can include majors in law enforcement.
Short Courses –
Short Courses in general dog handling, first aid, tracking.
The duration of College is between 2 to 4 years, while Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.
Possible Career Preparation Paths
If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.
Why is planning important?
To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.
Possible Combined Career Paths
It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.
Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):
Stepping Stone Career
Being a dog handler can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to enter (sometimes due to things like high tertiary fees, low pass marks in High School etc).
You can begin as a junior officer after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.
Some of the possible paths:
Training and apprenticeship
Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a dog handler will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.
In most cases entry level positions may require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.
Join the Dog Handlers Group in the Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!
Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:
Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations
Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.
As most detection dog handlers also protect things and work in dangerous places, they need to carry a gun. For this reason they will need a license and a Police Certification to be allowed to carry and operate a weapon.
Where can I study further?
All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.
See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards law enforcement and dog training.
Do you have information that you would like to contribute to this course? Please click on the red beetle to access the contribution form.
Join the OZT Community and Career Group
Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a dog handler.
Members of the Platform have special access to:
- Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
- Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
- Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
- Make friends around the world and share knowledge
- Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!
If you have decided on being a dog handler, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.
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