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Job Description of a Dog Handler

Dog handlers require little to no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and other requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Dog handlers are workers knowledgeable in observing dog behavior and effectively training them. Dog handlers can work in different fields, including law enforcement, search-and-rescue teams, and as dog handlers for dog shows.

Essential Information

Dog handlers study animal behavior in order to train, handle and care for dogs. Educational programs generally cover observing dog behavior patterns and determining the best course of action. To effectively teach, these trainers must discipline animals by establishing themselves as the dominant actors. For example, they use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior and other techniques to correct or adjust bad behavior. Dog handlers working in law enforcement or on search-and-rescue teams may be trained by police force officers and dog trainers. Dog show handlers can often find training programs through organizations such as the American Kennel Club.

Required Education Approved training program that varies depending on the occupation
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (all types of animal trainers)
Median Salary (2015)* $26,610 (all types of animal trainers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Career Options

Dog handlers exist in a wide range of fields, working as trainers and as caretakers. Dog handlers may find employment with search and rescue teams, the military, police departments and even the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Police Dog Handler

Police dog handlers use trained police dogs to help apprehend suspects, sniff out illegal substances and find dangerous weaponry. These professionals complete specialized dog handling courses so that they can recognize and interpret canine behavior, sounds and stances. Having received the proper training, the dog and its handler can be dispatched to search for narcotics, uncover explosives and track fugitives.

Search-and-Rescue Dog Handler

Search-and-rescue dog handlers use canines to find missing persons. While some local work may be performed by volunteers and their dogs, most professional search-and-rescue work requires significant training. These professionals are trained to interpret dog reactions, such as barking, that may signify a find.

Dog Show Handler

Many dog owners hire professional dog show handlers to train and handle their animals. Dog show handlers help train dogs to be obedient and then present them at events. During the show, they act as both caretakers and teammates, providing water for the animals and encouraging them throughout the event.

While dog handlers can work in a range of fields, all dog handlers must have knowledge of dog behavior, and how to train and care for dogs. While required education is minimal, there are courses that teach dog behavior and training that may be useful for an aspiring dog handler.

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