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Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an army dog handler. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties, and certification to find out if this is the career for you.
Army dog handlers are either enlisted military personnel or U.S. Department of Defense civilians who are in charge of the basic care and training of military working dogs. Military working dogs are generally used for drug interdiction or bomb-sniffing missions. Specialized training and certification are required to work in this field.
|Other Requirements||Training program and certification|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*||Roughly 0% (for all of the Armed Forces)|
|Median Salary (2014)**||$44,354 annually (for police dog handlers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com
After completing the military working dog program and receiving certification by the 341st Training Squadron at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, army dog handlers are ready to begin their jobs. Daily duties for handlers include the basic care of military working dogs, such as feeding, watering, and grooming. As part of general health maintenance, handlers may exercise dogs regularly to keep them in top physical condition. Handlers may be in charge of cleaning kennels and other assigned kennel duties.
Handlers may also be expected to participate in regular obedience training of their dogs as well as specialized training for the missions to which they are assigned. In addition to regular handler duties, senior handlers might be responsible for supervisory duties, including ensuring that annual certification requirements for handlers are met, seeing that all training is properly handled, and guaranteeing that military working dogs are prepared for their missions before being deployed.
Army dog handlers might patrol areas with their dogs. Dogs can be trained to search and attack on command. Civilian contractors may work with the Transportation Security Administration, using dogs to track drugs and explosives at airports. Combat engineers have employed dogs to detect land mines and other ordinance.
Army dog handlers who are military personnel are usually military police, combat engineers, or members of the Special Forces (otherwise known as the Green Berets). Based on a search of PayScale.com in 2014, the median salary range for police dog handlers was $44,354. It should be noted that, as with all military personnel, salaries for army dog handlers vary according to total years of service and rank.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected job opportunities to remain roughly unchanged in all areas of the military from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). However, the position of army dog handler may be limited by the number of missions that necessitate the use of canines.