Dog handler

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

Average salary (a year)

£16,000 Starter


£25,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

38 to 40 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

How to become a dog handler

You can get into this job by:

  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
  • applying directly


You may be able to start by doing an intermediate or advanced apprenticeship in animal care.

You could then move onto an animal trainer higher apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

More information


You can apply to be a dog handler if you're working in an organisation like the police, British army or Royal Air Force.

Volunteering and experience

You could get voluntary experience with the National Search and Rescue Dog Association before applying to be a dog handler.

Direct application

You can apply to work with a private security firm as a dog handler but you'll need a Security Industry Authority licence.

You may have an advantage when you apply for jobs if you've got experience of working with dogs.

More information

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a dog handler from the College of Animal Welfare.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work on your own
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • knowledge of teaching and the ability to design courses
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

Restrictions and requirements

You'll need to:

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

Depending on the service you work for, you could be:

  • helping prevent and detect crime
  • finding lost or missing people
  • protecting property.
  • looking after your dog in your own home

Working environment

You could work in kennels.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and physically demanding.

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. 

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Animal Care Apprentice

  • Wage : £117.00 Weekly
  • Location: Manchester M32 8RH

Animal Care Apprentice

  • Wage : £146.25 Weekly
  • Location: Exeter EX2 9TA

Courses In England

Uniformed Services - Uniformed Public Services Level 3

  • Provider: DN Colleges Group
  • Start date: 01 September 2020
  • Location: Doncaster

Public Services: Level 2 Diploma Entry to the Uniformed Services

  • Provider: North East Surrey College of Technology
  • Start date: 06 January 2020
  • Location: Epsom

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