Career Development

What Does a Dog Handler Do?

Find out what a dog handler does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a dog handler.

Dog handlers are responsible for the care and training of dogs used by law enforcement, military organizations, search and rescue teams, and other government agencies. They’re often on the front lines when it comes to dealing with dangerous situations or criminal activity.

Dog handlers must be able to handle a wide range of responsibilities in this role. They may need to train their dog to perform specific tasks, such as searching for explosives or tracking down suspects. They may also need to provide medical attention to their canine partner if they get injured during training or on the job.

Dog Handler Job Duties

Dog handlers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Communicating with other members of the team, including the handler and other handlers, in order to coordinate their efforts during search and rescue operations
  • Evaluating the physical condition of the dog and deciding whether it is fit for duty
  • Teaching the dog basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, heel, drop it, etc.
  • Maintaining the dog’s physical health by providing adequate nutrition and exercise
  • Training the dog to be able to work in stressful situations such as in high traffic areas or around large groups of people
  • Handling the dog during searches for missing persons or evidence in criminal cases
  • Determining the best way to communicate with the dog, whether through verbal commands or hand signals
  • Explaining the dog’s behavior to others involved in the search so that they can understand what the dog may have discovered
  • Training the dog to recognize different scents such as specific chemicals used in manufacturing plants that might indicate an environmental hazard

Dog Handler Salary & Outlook

Dog handlers’ salaries vary depending on their level of experience, the size of the dog they are handling, and the type of work they are doing. They may also receive additional compensation in the form of overtime pay or bonuses.

  • Median Annual Salary: $36,000 ($17.31/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $54,500 ($26.2/hour)

The employment of dog handlers is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

Dog handlers will be needed to work with police and military forces, as well as with private security firms, because demand for these services will increase. As the use of dogs in law enforcement increases, more dog handlers will be needed to provide canine units for their departments.

Related: Dog Handler Interview Questions and Answers

Dog Handler Job Requirements

A dog handler typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Most dog handlers have at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some handlers choose to pursue a college degree in animal science or a related field. A college degree is not required to become a dog handler, but it can help you advance your career.

Training & Experience: Dog handlers typically receive on-the-job training. This training may include learning about the organization’s policies and procedures, safety practices and the specific needs of the dogs. Training may also include learning how to handle the dogs and how to interact with them.

Some dog handlers may receive additional training before beginning work with a new organization. This additional training may include learning about the specific needs of the dogs and the organization’s policies and procedures.

Certifications & Licenses: Some companies may require dog handlers to pass a certification test to show their understanding of a dog’s behavior.

Dog Handler Skills

Dog handlers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Dog handlers communicate with their dogs and pet owners. They also communicate with other dog handlers and pet owners about the training and care of the dogs. Effective communication skills can help you explain commands to your dog and answer questions from pet owners.

Empathy and compassion: Dog handlers often need to be compassionate and empathetic to the needs of their canine companions. This can include knowing when a dog needs to rest, when they need to eat or when they need to go outside. Being able to read a dog’s body language can also help handlers understand when a dog is feeling anxious or afraid.

Patience: Dog handlers need patience to help their dogs overcome challenges and develop confidence. For example, a dog may be afraid of loud noises and need time to overcome their fear. A patient dog handler can help their dog overcome their fear by exposing them to loud noises gradually.

Physical fitness: Dog handlers should be physically fit to handle dogs and perform their duties. Dogs can be energetic and require a lot of activity throughout the day. Dog handlers should be able to keep up with their dogs and be able to restrain them if necessary.

Problem-solving: Dog handlers can use problem-solving skills to help their clients and dogs overcome challenges. For example, a dog handler might use their problem-solving skills to help a dog overcome their fear of other dogs. They might do this by finding a dog-friendly location where the dog can socialize with other dogs.

Dog Handler Work Environment

Dog handlers work with dogs in a variety of settings, including kennels, animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and obedience training schools. They may also work in law enforcement, assisting police officers in tracking and apprehending criminals, or in the military, training dogs for bomb detection or other security duties. Dog handlers typically work full time, although they may be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. The work can be physically demanding, and dog handlers must be able to handle dogs of all sizes and temperaments. They must also be able to work in all weather conditions, as they may be required to work outdoors in all types of weather.

Dog Handler Trends

Here are three trends influencing how dog handlers work. Dog handlers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

More Focus on Dog Health

As dogs become more popular as pets, there is a growing focus on their health. This means that dog handlers will need to be familiar with the latest trends in dog care, such as the use of natural products and alternative therapies.

Dog handlers can capitalize on this trend by becoming certified in these areas and developing relationships with local businesses that offer these services. In addition, they can create social media accounts where they can share information about these products and services with other pet owners.

More Attention to Wellness

The trend of focusing on wellness is becoming increasingly popular among pet owners. This is due to the fact that people are realizing the importance of taking care of their pets’ physical and mental health.

Dog handlers can take advantage of this trend by becoming experts in canine wellness. They can do this by learning about the latest treatments and therapies, as well as by providing support and guidance to pet owners who are interested in improving their pets’ quality of life.

A Greater Emphasis on Training

As the economy continues to improve, dog training has become an increasingly popular service. This is because many people see the value in having their dog trained, as it can make both the owner and the dog happier and more comfortable in various situations.

Dog handlers can capitalize on this trend by becoming certified trainers themselves. This will allow them to provide a higher-quality service to their clients, and may also open up new opportunities for them in the future.

How to Become a Dog Handler

A dog handler career can be a great way to combine your love of dogs with your desire to help people. As a dog handler, you’ll have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including animal shelters, veterinary clinics, and hospitals. You may also choose to become a certified therapy dog handler, which would allow you to visit nursing homes and other facilities with your canine companion.

No matter which path you choose, it’s important to have a strong understanding of canine behavior and training. This can be achieved through formal education or on-the-job training. Additionally, it’s important to have a good relationship with dogs and be able to handle them safely and effectively.

Advancement Prospects

Dog handlers may advance to positions such as kennel manager, head trainer, or research assistant. With experience, handlers may open their own pet-care business or become independent consultants. Some may also choose to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

Dog Handler Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we love dogs and we know our customers do too. That’s why we’re looking for an experienced dog handler to join our team. As a dog handler, you will be responsible for the care and supervision of the dogs in our facility. This includes feeding, walking, and exercising the dogs, as well as cleaning up after them. You will also be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the dog area and ensuring that all health and safety standards are met. The ideal candidate for this position will have prior experience working with dogs, as well as a genuine love for them.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Maintain a clean and safe kennel environment for the dogs in your care
  • Feed, water, and exercise the dogs regularly, according to their individual needs
  • Monitor the health of the dogs, and report any changes or concerns to the veterinarian or kennel manager
  • Keep accurate records of the dogs’ food, water, and waste intake, as well as their daily activities
  • Administer medications and vaccinations as prescribed by the veterinarian
  • Train the dogs in basic obedience commands, and work with them on behavioral issues as needed
  • Match potential adopters with the right dog, based on personality and lifestyle compatibility
  • Educate adopters on the proper care and training of their new dog
  • Transport the dogs to and from veterinary appointments, grooming appointments, and adoption events
  • Assist with the organization and execution of fundraising events
  • Serve as a positive ambassador for the organization, representing the mission and values to the public
  • Perform other duties as assigned

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Proven experience working with dogs in a professional setting
  • Excellent physical stamina and strength, able to handle large dogs
  • Patience and calm demeanor
  • Able to work long hours, including weekends and holidays
  • Flexible schedule

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Associate’s degree or higher in animal science or related field
  • Professional certification, such as CPDT-KA, ABCDT
  • Bilingual
  • Experience working in a veterinary hospital or clinic
  • Experience with dog training


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