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Dog Handling career guide

Trained dogs used by officials are the result of a patient dog handler. This could be you.

Safeera Sarjoo
15th March 2016
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What is a dog handler?

If you’ve ever wondered how police dogs are trained then look no further. Dog handlers are behind the discipline these intelligent creatures demonstrate and are responsible for its care and control. If you love dogs and don’t mind working with them everyday then this could be the ideal career for you. Dog handlers should be able to keep and look after a dog at home and you should be comfortable working as a team with your dog to help prevent and detect crime as well as find lost or missing people and protecting property. Although it may seem like a fun filled job where you get to work with your own dog every day, some of the responsibilities expected of dog handlers can be quite intense and dangerous depending on the organisation you’re based in.

Where are dog handlers needed?

Dog handlers are used by the police, army, RAF, search and rescue organisations, HMRC, the fire service and private security.

What are their responsibilities?

Depending on where you’re working with dogs, responsibilities will vary.

With the police, service dogs are used for tracking missing people, controlling crowds, searching for drugs or explosives, chasing armed criminals, guarding prisoners, searching for human remains and searching for stolen property.

The Army and RAF use dogs for guarding military bases and aircraft hangers, locating land mines and other explosives and searching for casualties.

You would never think it, but HMRC use dogs at ports, airports and large railway stations to detect drugs, tobacco and cigarettes as well as a list of food products that people may attempt to bring into the country illegally.

The security sector regularly use dogs to patrol and guard property and construction sites as well as providing security at events.

What are some of the characteristics that suit this role?

A love for dogs is an absolute must. You will be working as part of a bigger team so being a team player is important as well as being a good communicator. In some cases you may have to talk to the public as part of your job and you may have to write reports on incidents that take place.

Other important characteristics that will help you succeed within this particular career:

  • Being physically fit and strong
  • Being patient and self confident
  • Having the ability to work with a dog comfortably and with minimum supervision
  • A stable home life that is animal-friendly. In some cases you dog will live with you at home
  • Being responsible, observant and alert

Entry Requirements and Training

Depending on the organisation you want to work for, they will have individual requirements that you will need to meet. For example, before becoming a police dog handler, you will need three years’ experience of police work.

Generally experience in a similar role is required before proceeding to working with dogs, however when you start working as a dog handler you will receive training from your employer.

The National Search and Rescue Dog Association sets out their own guidelines when it comes to working with dogs. Their requirements vary but they do ask for at least 12 months as a member of a mountain rescue or lowland rescue team. If you’re not a member of a rescue team you could start off by volunteering as a ‘dogsbody’, who acts like a casualty in rescue dog training programmes.

In order to find out specific requirements it is advised that you check with the relevant organisation you wish to work with.


Think your connection with dogs stretches far beyond playing fetch? Explore our dog training courses. 

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