How to Become a Police Dog Trainer: Career & Requirements

Dec 04, 2019

K9 Police Dog Trainer Job Description

Police departments use dogs to help them track down suspects, find evidence, search areas, and protect officers. It takes a special type of training for a dog to work in the K9 unit. A police officer may handle and take care of a police dog, but the dog's initial training is usually done through an outside source.

A police dog trainer typically works for a private training company that offers its services to personal dog owners in addition to law enforcement. Police dog trainers work with the dogs and their handlers to train the dogs and instruct their handlers on how to properly care for them, continue training, and maintain a positive relationship. Basic training includes teaching dogs how to respond to commands, obedience, and how to become familiar with human contact and voices. Some areas of specialized police dog training include narcotics detection, search and rescue, weapons detection, and patrol.

Several canine training schools offer seminars and courses for police officers to exclusively learn or stay up to date on the best practices of police dog training and handling. These seminars can take place at a school's training center or law enforcement facilities, meaning a dog trainer may have to travel. Additionally, some police dog training schools require that their trainers have previous experience in law enforcement handling dogs. It may be a good idea to start out as a police officer in a canine unit to gain experience working with police dogs.

Police Dog Trainer Requirements

While there are no strict formal education requirements for police dog trainers, there are education and training options available. Canine training certification is also available, and although it is generally not required, it can look good on job applications.

Job Type Police Dog Trainer
Education Canine instructor programs/courses available
Training On-the-job training
License and Certification Optional certification for trainers available
Experience Experience working with animals a plus

Police Dog Training Schools

A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is required to work as a dog trainer. While some employers may offer on-the-job training, there are programs available that teach canine training instruction. Some programs offer specialized police canine trainer instruction and can result in certification upon graduation. Students will learn how to effectively work with police dogs and their handlers and how to solve problems on their own. Programs can last up to 12 weeks. Some schools offer training and certification for law enforcement to become instructors.

Former and current police officers who have worked with the canine unit have the option of becoming police dog trainers. Some training schools even require their instructors to have experience as police canine handlers. Becoming a police officer requires postsecondary education, usually with courses in criminal justice or law enforcement. Candidates will also have to enroll in a police training academy.

Police Dog Trainer Certification

Those seeking certification that is specific to police dog trainers will most likely obtain it by completing a police dog trainer program. Otherwise, general dog training certification is offered through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Candidates can become certified in training knowledge and skills, with knowledge certification requiring a written exam and the skills certification requiring a practical exam.

Certification is also available for police officers working in their department's canine unit. This certification ensures that a team (the handler and their dog) can perform satisfactorily in the field. The United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) offers certification in several areas for handlers and their dogs and is obtained through a practical exam.

Police Dog Trainer Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage in 2018 for animal trainers is $29,290. This is an estimate for animal trainers across several industries, not just dog trainers for police canine units. Additionally, the BLS reports a job outlook of 13% for animal trainers from 2018-2028.

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