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Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a military police dog handler. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and physical requirements to find out if this is the career for you.
Military police dog handlers use specially trained dogs to maintain the security of military bases and personnel. Some handlers work with dogs that are trained to find drugs and other contraband. Other handlers take dogs into active war zones to try and find hidden explosive devices. Enlisted soldiers and officers can become military police dog handlers, provided they meet physical requirements and have completed mandatory training programs.
|Required Education||High school diploma or GED required to join the military|
|Other Requirements||Specialized training at military police school|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||15% (for animal trainers)*|
|Average Salary (2013)||$37,540 (for animal trainers in federal, state, and local governments)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Military police dog handlers work with military working dogs, instructing the animals to find various items, including explosive devices, drugs and people. When a dog is searching for an item, the handler must watch the dog for signals that it has found something. For example, some dogs are trained to sit when they find one item or lie down when they find another. Handlers are expected to reward the dog for obedient behavior to reinforce good habits.
Many military police dog handlers work at perimeter checkpoints. They instruct the dogs to search vehicles and any personnel that pass through the checkpoints. Dog handler teams also walk military base perimeters looking for suspicious activities. Handlers may use their dogs to verify the safety of new locations, which can involve the handler guiding the dog on a search to find potential hazards.
Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that those who want to become military police dog handlers must first join the military (www.bls.gov). Enlisting requirements include being at least 18 years old, passing a physical and completing the military aptitude test. Accepted applicants must sign a contract of service before participating in a training program, which lasts 6-13 weeks depending on the military branch.
While it does not report specifically on military dog handlers, the BLS stated that employment growth for animal trainers was projected to be 15% between 2012-2022. The BLS also reports that animal trainers in federal, state, and local governments earned an average salary of $37,540 as of May 2013.
After completing basic training, enlisted soldiers and officers can apply to military police school. There are strict eligibility requirements for enrolling in military police school, including height and weight restrictions, education requirements and clearing a background check. Military police school programs take 19 weeks to complete and cover courses such as military and civil law, policing strategies, reporting procedures and civilian policing. Advanced courses are available for specialized training, such as the training required to become a military police dog handler.
Soldiers, who are unable to take specialized dog handling coursework while in the police school program, may consider volunteering for additional training. Upon acceptance into the dog handler program, soldiers must complete a basic dog handling training program at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. After completing training, handlers must also pass additional certification testing to prove that each handler can guide a military working dog and accurately read its responses. Dog handler teams must be recertified yearly.