How To Become A Dog Handler

Dog Handler

The Job

Dog handlers work with trained dogs and are responsible for controlling and caring for the dog. Most dog handling roles are in the uniformed services, such as the police and armed forces, where you could work with your dog in a variety of roles, including crime prevention, finding missing people and protecting property. Some dog handlers work with dogs that have been specially trained to sniff out drugs or explosives. Dog handlers in the uniformed services are expected to have experience in that service prior to working with dogs.

Annual Salary

Dog Handler Salary

Minimum Education Level

Level: Level - Entry

Minimum Qualifications

No formal qualifications are necessary to be a dog handler. However, you will need to meet the entry requirements of the organisation you are working for and have gained enough experience to be considered for a dog handling role. Police dog handlers are expected to have been a police officer for two to three years before applying to train with the dog section. In the army you will need to pass basic training before transferring to the military’s Working Dog Section. If you want to work for the National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA) you will need at least a year’s experience of mountain or lowland rescue before you can join a dog unit.

Recommended Qualifications

Each organisation has its own training programme for dog handlers. Police officers will work with an experienced handler for about three months before taking further specialist training, such as drug detection or search and rescue. The armed forces have a three-week basic course followed by specialist training for things like finding explosives or searching for casualties. If you are working in the security industry you could take a Level 2 Certificate in Providing Security Services, which has an option for working with guard dogs.

Average Working Hours Per Week = 30-40


Common Working Pattern

Common Working Pattern

Time Taken To Qualify

2 weeks to 1 year

What Next/Career Development

Opportunities to advance your career will depend on the organization you work for. Within the police, for instance, you could become a training instructor or specialise as a puppy trainer. With enough experience you could specialize as a canine behavior consultant or a puppy behavior assessor. Further information on roles within dog training can be found on the website for the Pet Education, Training and Behaviour Council.

Facts And Figures

Police dogs are allocated to their trainers and remain with that handler for their entire working life.

German Shepherds remain a popular service dog with the police and army in the UK. English Springer Spaniels are often used to search for explosives.

A dog’s sense of smell is at least 10,000 times more acute than that of a human.*

*(Source: PBA