Dog handler

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Police dog handler

Dog handlers work with specially trained dogs to help detect and prevent crime, find lost or missing people and protect property.

Salary Range: £18,000 to £25,000

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You can get into this job through:

  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly
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You may be able to start by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in animal care.

You could then move onto an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
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You can apply to be a dog handler if you’re working in an organisation like the police, British army or Royal Air Force.

Volunteering and experience

You could get voluntary experience with the National Search and Rescue Dog Association before applying to be a dog handler.

Direct application

You can apply to work with a private security firm as a dog handler. You’ll need a Security Industry Authority licence to do this.

You’ll have an advantage when you apply for jobs if you’ve got experience of working with dogs.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a dog handler from the College of Animal Welfare.

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Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • the ability to teach people and animals how to do something
  • physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work on your own
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You’ll need to:

  • pass enhanced background checks
  • have a good level of fitness
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Day-to-day tasks

Depending on the service you work for, you could:

  • patrol premises and protect property
  • search for lost or missing people
  • detect drugs, firearms or explosives
  • look after your dog in your own home
  • attend training courses with your dog

Working environment

You could work in kennels.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding.

You may need to wear a uniform.

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Promotion opportunities will depend on the service or organisation that you work for. In the police and armed forces, you may have to move out of dog handling to get promoted to the higher ranks.

In security, you could go on to be head of canine services, where you direct teams of dog handlers.

You might also become a trainer, working with organisations like search and rescue, to help train dogs and their handlers.