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Dog handler

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

Salary, a pound sign Salary: up to £25,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements, but you’ll need experience of caring for dogs.

You’ll usually need some training and experience in the organisation you wish to work for, like the police, British Army or Royal Air Force, before moving into dog handling.

To work in private security you'll need a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence and clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

You could gain voluntary experience with the National Search and Rescue Dog Association (NSARDA) before applying for dog handling training.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • the ability to work a dog efficiently and look after its welfare needs
  • self-confidence and the ability to work with minimum supervision
  • patience with inexperienced dogs
  • good observation skills
  • the ability to judge a situation accurately and react instantly

3. What you'll do

You’ll work with your dog for a service like the police, the Army, the RAF, Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs, or private security firms.

You could also work for other services, like the Fire and Rescue Service, HM Prison Service, or for a mountain rescue team.

Depending on where you work, you’ll help prevent and detect crime, find lost or missing people or protect property.

4. Salary

Starter: £16,000 to £18,000

Experienced: up to £25,000

Your income will vary depending on your employer and your experience. 

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

In all services you’ll work shifts on a rota that covers 24 hours, 7 days a week.

In some organisations, like the police service, you’ll look after your dog in your own home. 

The job is physically challenging because you'd need to be able to keep up with your dog during tough training sessions - and you’ll work outside in all weather conditions.

6. Career path and progression

Promotion opportunities will vary depending on the service or organisation that you work for. In the police and armed services 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. 

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Last updated: 13 September 2018