Dog Handler

Careers home

About

A career as a Dog Handler

Dog Handlers work with specially trained dogs, being responsible for their care and control in a variety of settings:

  • Police Dog Handlers use dogs to help track down and apprehend suspects, search for drugs or explosives, or routine work such as patrolling football matches

  • In the Army, dogs are used in protection/guarding of bases or in arms or explosive detection.

  • In the RAF, dogs are used to guard aircraft on military bases and hangars.

  • HM Revenue and Customs and UK Border Agency use dogs to find illegal substances such as drugs and explosives at ports and airports.

  • Search and Rescue Dog Handlers use dogs to help track down a lost person. This might be after an earthquake or on a mountain

  • The Fire Service uses dogs to search buildings for signs of life.

  • Private security companies use dogs to assist in the protection of property

The dogs can also be used in live handling demonstrations at dog shows and in the training of new Dog Handlers. In all circumstances, there needs to be a lot of trust between the dog and its Handler, with the dog obeying every command.

Also known as: Police Dog Handler, Security Dog Handler, Detection Dog Handler, Uniformed Dog Handler

Show more...
Skills/Knowledge

You’ll need:

  • experience of dog handling and animal welfare, and a strong interest in positive training techniques

  • physical skills such as mobility and co-ordination, and a good level of fitness

  • excellent communication skills and enjoy working with people

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

You can gain confidence with dogs and develop your training skills through volunteering with dog rescue charities. You need to pass enhanced background checks and if working in security, you’ll need a SIA license. You might take short courses to learn how to handle dogs, in canine health or first aid.

Salary
Typical salaries
range from
Typical Hours

Around 35-40 hours a week. In all services shifts are worked on a rota that covers 24 hours, seven days a week. In the forces, you can be called out at any time to deal with an emergency, and long hours are typical if involved in an operation.

Day to Day

This will depend on the industry you work in, but tasks could include:

  • patrolling premises and protecting property

  • helping searches for lost or missing people

  • helping to detect drugs, firearms or explosives

  • help to control crowds as part of a larger team

  • attending training courses with your dog

  • maintaining accurate records and work within animal welfare regulations

Working Environment

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers – a uniform and protective clothing (PPE) may be provided. Dog Handlers can be self-employed and hired by different organisations to carry out work for them. Many are lone workers in difficult situations, which can be challenging.

Training Available

Training is an essential part of any job, giving you the skills and knowledge you need to do your job safely and correctly. It also helps to strengthen your current skill set and prepares you for the next stage in your career.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships help you build the experience and skills that employers want to see. No matter what stage you’re at, they’ll help set you up for a bright future. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Dog Handler opportunities and careers paths

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 lead a team of dog handlers. You might also become a trainer, working with organisations to help train dogs and their handlers.

Industries

Dog Handler will usually work in one of the following industries. Click below to find out more about possible career paths.

Animal Care

From cats and dogs to endangered species, taking care of animals is a rewarding and interesting career path.

59% of households in the UK own a pet, according to a recent survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, while in the Republic of Ireland, this increases to an estimated 61%, so if you want to build a career around working with animals then you’re going to be spoilt for choice. Job roles are incredibly varied – if taking care of domestic animals like cats and dogs isn’t for you, why not think about veterinarian work where you help look after wildlife or livestock? Or if you go wild for exotic species, why not explore the dynamic worlds of conservation and zookeeping?

The choices are endless and every role – and route into it – is different. It’s worth spending a little bit of time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the kind of animals you’d like to work with – we’ve put together a few options for you to think about.

  • Over 120,000 people work in Veterinary and Animal Care services occupations in the UK.

  • Between the RSPCA, SSCPA and USPCA charities, over 32,000 animals in the UK were rehomed or released in 2020

  • There are over 1,500 veterinary businesses in the Republic of Ireland, employing almost 4,000 people

  • During 2021, the Dog Trust charity in the Republic of Ireland received 2,155 requests from people wanting to rehome a dog, and increase on the previous year of 82%

Show more... Find out more

Qualifications

Qualifications for a Dog Handler

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

To find out more about qualification levels in the Republic of Ireland, please visit National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland (NFQIE)

To find out more about qualification levels in Scotland please visit Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

Select level
Title Level
Training for a Dog Handler

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

About Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn

Whether you’re just starting out in the workplace, want to upskill or are considering changing direction, Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to build your career. Apprenticeships combine work with on-the-job training, so if you want to earn as you learn, there’s an apprenticeship out there for you – you can even start an apprenticeship if you already have a degree.

Apprenticeships for a career as an Dog Handler

All about Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn – no matter where you are in your career, an apprenticeship can set you up for a bright future.

Let’s get started!

Want to take on an apprentice? Employers start here.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a unique blend of work experience and study to help build the skills and knowledge you need for your career. Apprentices are employees – they have a contract, are paid and get the same benefits as everyone else. But the difference between an apprenticeship and a normal job is that apprentices are regularly released from work for training. Sometimes that’s a day a week, sometimes it’s for a longer block – it all depends on the job and the apprenticeship.

Apprentices work for all kinds of people at all kinds of stages in their lives. Most apprentices fall into one of three categories:

  • someone who is just starting their career
  • someone who already has a job and wants to move forward in their company
  • someone who already has a job and wants to retrain to make a career change.

Previously restricted to school leavers and young people, apprenticeships are now a dynamic way of retraining people of all ages - there’s no upper age limit. The minimum age to become an apprentice is 16 and candidates can’t be in full-time education.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships offer a unique combination of paid work and study. They’re an exciting option for anyone who wants to gain experience, upskill or change career while working.

They offer a chance to work, learn and earn:

  • workplace experience and skills development
  • a nationally recognised qualification
  • employee benefits and a wage
  • no student loans or tuition fees
  • contact with industry professionals.

Vacancies

Interested in becoming an apprentice? Search for current opportunities and apply here.

Find your apprenticeship

You can also check vacancies on employer websites or get in touch with your local careers service.

Apprenticeship Stories

What’s it like to work, earn and learn? Find out what apprentice life is really like.

Explore apprenticeship stories

Alternatives to Apprenticeships

Useful Information

Useful Links

National Search and Rescue Dog Association
Find out more

National Association of Specialist Dog Users
Find out more

Funding Options

Thinking about your finances is important when you're looking at courses and training - different types of funding support is available depending on what type of course you're interested in and where you are located. We recommend you contact the training provider for more information on course costs and financing, but here are some links to connect you to support available:

Skills Hub Scotland

Skills Hub Scotland is an online skill sharing marketplace creating new opportunities to learn and share skills. Wherever you are located - if you have a skill to share, or a skill to learn, Skills Hub Scotland can help.

Initially founded as a response to the Scottish Government’s CivTech 5 programme in 2020 and aiming to offer a platform for those in rural or remote locations, Skills Hub Scotland has been developed into an important sectoral resource. If you have a skill to share with others or are a training provider, list your workshop or course (all skills from all sectors are welcome). If you are a learner, use Skills Hub Scotland to search for and book a course!

STEM

STEM is an approach to learning and development that incorporates the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Learning in STEM connects to Education for Sustainable Development/Learning for Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals – this helps learners to understand that STEM plays a vital role in finding solutions to real world issues or challenges such as protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change. There are multiple pathways into a land-based STEM career including apprenticeships, further and higher education. This means that a career in STEM is open to everyone!

STEM Learning is the largest provider of STEM education and careers support in the UK. Their STEM Ambassadors programme sees volunteers representing a vast range of STEM-related jobs work with young people to bring STEM subjects alive through real life experiences. They help to open the doors to a world of opportunities and possibilities which come from pursuing STEM subjects and careers. To become a STEM Ambassador, you can register via the STEM Learning website: https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors/join-stem-ambassador-programme

Lantra have worked in collaboration with STEM Ambassadors in Scotland to create two specific UK-wide Ambassadors schemes - Forestry and Aquaculture. Through these schemes, we want to make sure that those working in forestry and aquaculture have the support materials they need to take part in STEM activities. To find out more and register for the schemes, please follow the links below:

Smart Futures helps young people in Ireland discover the STEM subjects and careers that might be right for them. Co-ordinated and managed by Science Foundation Ireland, their programme allows young people to connect with people that are working in STEM, the organisations they’re working in and what their interests and skills are.

Not sure what you want to do?

Why not take a look at the Industries Explorer as an introduction to the different areas you could work in.

If we can support you with any specific information, please click the button below to get in touch.