Dog Handlers NDST Ltd

Fully trained dog handlers

Dog handlers work with specially trained dogs and are responsible for their care and control. They work mainly for the police, the army and RAF, the revenue and customs service and private security firms.

Typical responsibilities in the police force:

  • tracking missing persons
  • controlling crowds, for example at football matches
  • searching for explosives or illegal drugs
  • chasing armed criminals
  • guarding prisoners.

In the Army and RAF dogs are used in:

  • guarding military bases and aircraft hangers
  • locating land mines and other explosives
  • searching for casualties.

HM Revenue and Customs use dogs at ports, airports and large stations to:

  • detect drugs, tobacco and cigarettes
  • detect food products such as meat and dairy produce that are being brought into the country illegally.

In the security industry dogs are used for:

  • patrolling and guarding property
  • guarding construction sites
  • providing security at events.

Dog handlers also work for other services, such as:

  • the fire service
  • the prison service
  • mountain rescue

Person Specification

The key personal attributes of dog handlers include:

  • experience with dogs
  • patience and self-confidence
  • the ability to work with minimum supervision
  • to be responsible, alert and observant
  • the ability to judge a situation accurately and react instantly.
How to become a dog handlerTo become a dog handler in most public services you would first need to be working in the organisation. For details see the relevant job profiles and the websites listed in Further Information.

You would then need to meet the organisation’s requirements for becoming a dog handler, such as length of experience. For example, police handlers usually need at least three years’ experience in ordinary police work before transferring to the dog section.

Entry requirements for private security companies will vary depending on the company. You would be expected to have experience of working with dogs. The National Society of Security Dog Users (NASDU) recommends that you should first get experience as a security officer before considering becoming a dog handler.

Since March 2006 it has been a legal requirement for security guards (including dog handlers) to have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. To get a licence you must:

  • attend an approved training course
  • have a nationally recognised qualification
  • have an identity check and CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) clearance.
  • See the Security Officer profile and the SIA website (in Further Information) for details.
  • For most jobs you would need a driving licence.

Training and Development

When you become a dog handler your training will vary according to the organisation. For example:

  • attend a 13-week General Purpose Police Dog course at the Dog Training School
  • be tutored for one month with an experienced handler before going on patrol
  • complete a one-year probationary period.
  • attend a two-week basic course with a trained dog at the Defence Animal Centre in Melton Mowbray
  • attend other courses covering tasks such as finding casualties and detecting mines.

In all organisations you would have ongoing training to make sure that you maintain the required standards.

In the security industry you can complete ASET Level 2 National Award for General Purpose Security Dog Handlers. Training is offered by a number of private training organisations. You could also work towards NVQ Level 2 in Providing Security Services.

As a dog handler in any service you can work towards NVQ levels 1 to 3 in Animal Care.