Dog handlers work with their dogs to help prevent and detect crime or to find lost and missing people. A dog handler and his or her dog train for a specific purpose. Various organisations use working dogs. They include:
- The Police
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
- The Armed Forces
- Fire and Rescue services
- Private security firms
In the police service, dogs are used in several different ways:
General purpose - tracking offenders by following a scent trail left on the ground; searching for people in buildings or open areas; searching for hidden, lost or stolen property; chasing and detaining offenders; and protecting their handlers and others in dangerous situations.
HMRC uses dogs at ports, airports and large stations, for:
Dogs are used in the army and the Royal Air Force (RAF) for operations in the UK and abroad. They can play an important in:
In the fire and rescue services, dogs have three main purposes:
In the prison service, dogs have several purposes:
Private security organisations may use dogs for:
Dog handlers use a series of commands and signals to indicate what they want their dog to do. Both handler and dog will have learnt these skills during training.
Many working dogs live with their handlers. In these cases, handlers are responsible for exercising, feeding and grooming their dog. Handlers also transport their dogs to and from work. In many cases, when dogs are retired from work, they continue to live with their handlers and the handlers' families.
Hours of work vary between organisations. They can be long and variable, often including evenings, nights and weekends. Self-employed handlers tend to work longer hours.
Dog handling involves periods of standing, usually a great deal of walking and sometimes running. Most of the work is outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions.
Dog handlers may start on at least £15,000 a year. More experienced dog handlers and specialist dog handlers, e.g. those with dogs that can detect drugs, may earn around £20,000 a year. Some may earn up to £25,000 a year.
Dog handlers in the police, HMRC, the armed forces, fire and rescue services and prison services are paid according to the salary scales of their employing organisation.
Dog handlers are employed throughout the UK.
Many dog handlers in private security are self-employed and are hired by security companies. The number of private security organisations has grown in recent years and there is considerable demand for dog handlers.
Both The National Association of Security Dog Users (NASDU) and the National Training Inspectorate for Professional Dog Users (NTIPDU) keep registers of dog handlers looking for work, and inform handlers on their registers when vacancies are notified to them. However, most handlers tend to approach local security firms to find work.
Some organisations, such as police services, HMRC, fire and rescue services and prison services, only accept applications for dog handling from people who already work for them.
While the armed forces do not specify any qualifications, many applicants have some GCSE's, often including English and maths. Applicants must pass an entrance test, interviews and physical and medical tests.
To work as a dog handler in private security, academic qualifications are not normally required. However, most types of security guards (including dog handlers) in England are legally required to have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. To get a licence, security guards must:
- Attend an approved training course
- Gain a nationally recognised qualification
- Undergo identity checks and criminal record checks
Private security firms usually recruit people with experience of working with dogs. Self-employed handlers need a dog that has been trained to work with them, and a suitable vehicle to transport the dog. Both NASDU and NTIPDU recommend that people who want to become dog handlers should first gain experience as security officers.
People who have general security officer experience and an SIA licence may train for the EDI Level 2 National Award for general purpose security dog handlers.
Training varies between organisations, but it usually lasts several weeks. It is directed towards encouraging the handler and the dog to work as a partnership. It usually includes handling techniques, grooming, kennel management, health, law relating to dogs and the specific operational use of the dog under training.
In the private security sector, there are a number of training organisations that train dog handlers for the whole range of security work. Handlers may train for the EDI Level 2 National Award for general purpose security dog handlers. Courses last around 50 hours and include:
There are also Awards, Certificates and Diplomas available in work-based animal care at Levels 1 to 3.
Oil Drilling Roustabouts and Roughnecks work as part of a small team on offshore oil or gas drilling rigs or production platforms. Roustabouts do unskilled manual labouring jobs on rigs and platforms, and Roughneck is a promotion from roustabout.
Roustabouts do basic tasks to help keep the rig and platform working efficiently and Roughnecks do practical tasks involved in the drilling operation, under the supervision of the driller.
Dog handlers should:
There are opportunities for promotion in the police, HMRC, the armed forces, fire and rescue services and prison services.
Dog handlers in private security may become supervisors or managers. They may also set up their own security firms.
Some experienced dog handlers go into security dog training.
The National Association of Security Dog Users (NASDU),
Unit 11, Boundary Business Centre, Boundary Way,
Woking GU21 5DH
Tel: 01483 888588
National Training Inspectorate for
Professional Dog Users (NTIPDU),
5b March Way, Battlefields Enterprise Park, Shrewsbury,
Shropshire SY1 3JE
Tel: 01686 640781
Security Industry Authority (SIA),
PO Box 74957, London E14 1UG
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.