At some point in our lives, most of us have had a dog in our family or at least know someone with a dog. These four-legged canines often become part of the family and are seen as so much more than just a pet – it’s probably why dogs are known as ‘man’s best friend’.
Each year, well-groomed and obedient pooches head to Crufts – an international dog show first held in the UK in 1891! The world watches and marvels at the breeds, from big, small, long-haired, and short-haired.
But dogs can be much more than a family pet or Crufts competitor. Working dogs work across different industries or with an individual person. Dogs can be a valuable addition to a team, be indispensable companions to blind people, keep us safe in public places or prevent the smuggling of dangerous substances into our country.
To help a dog fulfil its responsibility/job, it needs a handler. A Dog Handler is responsible for training, working, and caring for the dog. The handler and dog often build an unbreakable bond.
Salary range: up to £30,000 per year
As a Dog Handler, you would be teamed with a specially trained dog and would be responsible for its care and control. The Police, Army, RAF, HM Revenue and Customs, the Fire Service, Search & Rescue organisations, and private security firms all offer job opportunities for Dog Handlers.
If you love dogs and are keen to use your observation skills, this could be just what you are looking for. Each organisation uses dogs in a slightly different way. Let’s look at how dogs are used in some organisations…
In the police force, dogs not only play a part in specialist work such as searching for armed suspects, or drugs and explosives detection, but also in day-to-day routine work such as patrolling at football matches.
Due to their high intelligence and build, German Shepard is the most common breed found in the police force.
In the army, dogs are used in protection/guarding roles or in detection roles – searching for explosives or drugs. In the RAF the dog’s main role is to guard the aircraft.
Customs & Border Control Dogs
HM Revenue and Customs use dogs to find illegal substances such as drugs, tobacco and explosives at ports and airports. With its power scent-detecting nose, English Springer Spaniels make the perfect pooch to sniff out anything suspicious.
The fire service sometimes uses dogs to search burning and collapsed buildings for signs of life and search and rescue organisations use dogs for mountain and cave rescue.
To be a successful Dog Handler, you will need patience and confidence as well as being comfortable working independently with your dog. You also need to be able to judge situations accurately and react instantly to any given situation.
Being a Dog Handler can be a physically challenging job. You will often need to be able to keep up with your dog during training sessions and when you’re in the field. Dog Handlers work in difficult terrains and conditions, so you can’t be afraid to get a little wet, cold, or muddy!
Working hours can be long and varied and will depend on the organisation you work for. This could include weekends, evenings, night shifts, and you could even be ‘on call’ sometimes for emergencies.
In some organisations, you would look after your dog in your own home so your family would need to agree to have a working dog live in the home.
How can I become a Dog Handler?
Each organisation sets its own entry requirements for the role. For example, to become a Police Dog Handler, you will usually need at least three years of experience in the police force before being able to transfer to the dog section.
In the army, you undergo basic soldier training before joining the Military Working Dog Regiment.
However, to work as a Dog Handler privately you could be employed immediately with training arranged by the employer.
There are courses available to help gain experience and increase your knowledge and skills to handle and work with animals:
- Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Animal Care or Animal Management
- T Level in Animal Care and Management
There are also volunteering or part-time work opportunities at kennels, which can help expose you to working with dogs.
Another way to get experience would be a job as a Dog Walker or even a dog grooming salon! The more experience you have working with dogs, the better.