Jobs with bomb detection canines include handling, training, and breeding, and requirements and duties vary for each position, including specialized training and certification. No matter what the position, it is essential for anyone working in this field to be able to work well with dogs.
Bomb detection canines are used by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in both routine security sweeps and in missions that respond to credible threats. Handlers, trainers and breeders play vital roles in transforming the dogs into valuable law enforcement partners. The level of training and certification required varies depending on the chosen career. Breeders need no education other than personal knowledge and experience with dogs, while handlers must complete law enforcement training.
|Required Education||Police training||Dog training||High school diploma|
|Other Requirements||Certification||Certification||Veterinary medicine|
|Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)||5%* (police)||13%* (animal trainers)||3%* (animal breeders)|
|Median Annual Salary (2018)||$61,380* (police)||$29,290* (animal trainers)||$37,060* (animal breeders)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bomb Detection Dog Handler
Bomb detection dog handlers are employed by local police departments, federal and state agencies and private security firms. Each handler works exclusively with a dog that is trained to locate and alert authorities to the presence of bombs, bomb-making materials and bomb residue. The handler develops a close relationship with the dog to ensure that animals maintain the highest degree of proficiency.
A bomb detection dog handler must have already obtained the necessary training to work in law enforcement. Officers who work in local departments usually are required to complete police academy training or earn associate's degrees at an accredited community college. Bachelor's degrees in some specialty of criminal justice or law enforcement may be required to obtain employment as a federal agent.
Training to become a handler for a bomb-detecting dog is offered by three federal agencies:
- The U.S. Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) conducts a 10-week Explosive Detection Canine Handlers Course at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX (www.tsa.gov).
- The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) runs a 10-week training program at its Federal Protective Services (FPS) Canine Academy in Anniston, AL (www.dhs.gov).
- The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) operates a 5-week course for handlers at the ATF Canine Training Center in Fort Royal, VA (www.atf.gov).
Training teaches aspiring handlers and their dogs to uncover material ranging from ammunition to explosives. Handlers who successfully complete any of these training programs become certified, along with their canine partners. The explosives detection teams must be recertified yearly.
Salary and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for all types of police and detectives, including canine officers, was projected to increase 5% from 2018 to 2028. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for police was $61,380 in 2018.
Bomb Detection Dog Trainer
Bomb detection dog trainers use conditioning methods and performance rewards to teach dogs to identify different types of explosives and respond at all times to human commands. Trainers also teach bomb detection dog handlers to work one-on-one with their dogs, so each canine-human pair develops into a highly effective team.
Dog trainers enjoy working with dogs and possess a keen understanding of canine behavior. Trainers learn through working with more experienced trainers and through enrollment in dog training courses. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) has set standards for certification (www.ccpdt.org). The training specialty of teaching explosive detection dogs and their handlers requires additional knowledge about explosives and law enforcement procedures.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the BLS, animal trainers made a median annual salary of $29,290 as of May 2018. The BLS projected employment of animal trainers would grow 13% during the 2018-2028 decade.
Bomb Detection Dog Breeders
Breeders of bomb detection canines possess a clear understanding of what breeds have the greatest aptitude for the work. By studying individual dogs' parentage and unique physical and behavioral tendencies, they select particular dogs within these breeds for mating. Once pairs are selected and successfully mated, breeders may also be responsible for raising and training puppies.
Bomb detection dog breeders may routinely examine dogs for physical injuries and illnesses. When prospective pairs are identified for breeding, the breeder oversees healthy living arrangements for the parent dogs and puppies and makes sure quality veterinary care is provided.
According to O*Net OnLine, dog breeders have wide-ranging educational backgrounds, from high school diplomas to doctoral degrees (www.onetonline.org). Practical work experience or a career as a veterinary technician provides requisite knowledge of canine physiology and behavior. Aspiring dog breeders may look to community colleges and vocational institutes for these programs.
Salary and Job Outlook
Animal breeders, including dog breeders, earned a median annual salary of $37,060 as of May 2018, according to the BLS. The BLS projected that employment of animal breeders would increase by 3% over the 2018-2028 decade.
Becoming a handler of a dog who detects bombs requires previous training in law enforcement, as well as the completion of training from a federal agency. A dog trainer in this field must also obtain professional certification and understand canine behavior, while a breeder must observe behavior and parentage to ensure the right canines are being used for these services. Median salaries for canine bomb detection jobs ranged from approximately $29,000 to $61,000 in 2018.