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How To Become A Military Dog Handler


Earn A Position As A Specialist Dog Handler

K-9 Unit | How To Become a Military Working Dog Handler

Once you’ve gained experience working with protection dogs, you are qualified to move into a position working with dogs who sniff out explosives or drugs. You can work with these dogs to train for specific reactions to substances introduced to the canine. After earning a position as a fully-trained dog handler, you may also be deployed for search and rescue missions with your canine companion.

Nership For Youth Success Program

Soldiers interested in jobs working with animals once outside of the military may be eligible for civilian employment by enrolling in the Army PaYS program. The PaYS program is a recruitment option that guarantees a job interview with military friendly employers that are looking for experienced and trained Veterans to join their organization. You can find out more online at the Army PaYS Program site. The following are some of the companies that participate in the program:

  • LAPD
  • New York City Police Dept.
  • Louisville Metro Police
  • Las Vegas Metro Police Department
  • Kansas Highway Patrol

Work Environment For British Army Dog Handlers

Army dog handlers spend much of their time working outdoors, sometimes in extreme weather environments including prolonged exposure to heat, cold and precipitation. Their job also requires extended periods of physical movement when training and caring for their assigned dogs. Army dog handlers work all over the world wherever they are deployed by their military command.

Working with animals such as dogs can include unpredictable and challenging responsibilities. The role of dog handler may require work hours outside of normal duty to care for trained animals or respond to emergencies. This can include nights, weekends, and holidays.

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Qualificationstraining And Duty Stations

Becoming a Military Working Dog Handler takes an individual with patience who is willing to go through advanced training.

Not only does an individual in this position learn how to train their dog, they learn how to provide care for the dog and they learn basic police functions.

To enter into this position, recruits will be required to achieve a 91 on the Skilled Technical ASVAB test.

You also must be able to get a Secret security clearance.

This means you must be a U.S. Citizen as in most instances, you cannot gain security clearance without being a U.S. Citizen.

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After completing all medical, physical and required placement testing/clearances, recruits will attend Basic Military Training for 10 weeks.

Upon successful completion of Basic Military Training, MOS 31K Handlers will attend Advanced Individual Training for 17 weeks.

The AIT will be broken into two phases and cover how to care for, handle, and train a Military Working Dog.

First, during phase 1, MWD Handlers will complete on-the-job instruction covering police methods and proper dog handling techniques.

This 7-week phase will cover topics such as how to arrest and restrain subjects.

Second, MWD Handlers will be taught how to incorporate a Military Working Dog into the tools they learned from phase 1.

This 11-week phase will also consist of training your dog and providing first aid.

Helpful skills as an MOS 31K:

Complete Initial Military Training

A dog handler gives positive reinforcement to his military ...

The next part of becoming a dog handler involves initial military training at either Winchester or Pirbright base. In this general training, recruits undergo basic military exercises for 14 weeks. This initial period serves as an introduction to the military and involves physical practices in drilling procedures, weapons handling and basic fieldcraft. After 14 weeks of generalised drilling and education, recruits are prepared to enter training for their chosen positions.

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Dogs Have Bad Days Too

Say you’ve been training your dog for weeks. He’s performing well, and then one day he just refuses to work for you. He won’t sit. He seems bored, antsy, tired, or just lazy.

Don’t get mad, and don’t continue to correct the dog if it isn’t working. Dogs have their bad days, too. Sometimes they just don’t want to work. If you try to force it, you will become frustrated and angry, which hardly ever leads to good results. Recognize that there might be a medical issue at play. Sick dogs aren’t usually enthusiastic students.

During an evaluation at my last base, a dog wouldn’t stay in the sit. The handler couldn’t get the dog to stay after multiple corrections. The evaluator took a close look and saw that the dog was positioned on an ant hill and had fire ants biting his legs. Continuing to correct the dog in that situation would be ineffective and would harm the rapport between dog and handler.

Recognize that your dog is a living, breathing creature that has feelings and emotions.

What Is A 5811 In The Marine Corps

Training and Advanced Opportunities

MOS 5811 is very demanding in that the military police are confronted with every form of violation and criminal liability, misdemeanor through felony. As a military police officer, you are a Marine who has to at times uphold the laws and rules of the military with fellow Marines.

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What Does A Dog Handler Do

A detection dog handler is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Lead canine partner through the detection process

  • Search passengers’ items and other cargo going through train stations, border crossings and airports

  • Read and interpret canine behavior to determine if the dog is signaling that it found something prohibited

  • Write detailed reports based on the findings of their canine partner, delivering them to the applicable law enforcement agent

  • Provide basic care to their canine partner, such as giving it food and water, letting it out for bathroom breaks and keeping it clean and groomed

  • Go through training updates to ensure the dog is still accurately detecting contraband and giving the correct signals

  • Confront alleged criminals when their canine partner signals that it detected contraband

Related:How To Become a Dog Trainer

Military Working Dog Handler Skills & Competencies

Military working dog handler

Working as a military dog handler requires other skills in addition to training and certification, such as:

  • Affection and compassion: Prospective handlers must exhibit a high degree of affection for their animal. The working dog program’s philosophy is “one dog, one handler” until the dog retires from service. The bond between handler and animal should be strong, since they may rely on each other in a combat situation or other high-stakes situation.
  • Other requirements: Applicants for this job need to pass a medical screen and a background check, obtain a passport, and successfully complete an interview with the kennel master or unit commander in order to qualify for this voluntary assignment.
  • Understanding dogs: Ability to understand conditioning behaviors in training dogs.
  • Patience: Applicants need to have the patience to train their animal and treat them with respect regardless of the situation.

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What Are The Relevant Jobs Available Post

Post-military, you can be a veterinary technician, security guard, civilian dog trainer, or K-9 police, also referred to as a K-9 law enforcement officer. These are all highly-respected jobs that you already have the qualifications for.

Your skills from being a military working dog handler are transferable for these positions. So, you can put your expertise and experience to good use. It will also be less challenging for you to transition back into civilian life.

How Do I Become A Military Dog Trainer

  • Try your military aptitude test.
  • You must complete basic training.
  • Advanced individual training is available.
  • You must complete the certification process.
  • Make an active commitment to duty.
  • Technician in the veterinary field.
  • An armed guard on duty.
  • Cops are trained and supervised by K-9 officers.
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    Military Working Dog Handler Salary

    Total compensation for this position includes food, housing, special pay, medical, and vacation time. If you enlist under certain MOS codes in the Army, you may also be eligible for certain cash bonuses of up to $40,000 if the HR specialist job is considered one of the Army’s Jobs in Demand.

    You may also be able to earn education benefits, such as scholarships to cover the full cost of tuition, a stipend for living expenses, and money for books and fees.

    Day In The Life Of A Marine Military Working Dog Handler

    Military Working Dog Handler: Cpl. Hunter Gullick ...

    While at their home base, in garrison, marine MWD handlers will serve in a near identical capacity as law enforcement officers in the civilian world.

    They will be placed on a shift schedule and patrol as normal police officers until the need arises for them to utilize the working dog.

    Additionally, military working dog handlers may find themselves on gate patrols where they will monitor vehicle traffic and search for drugs or explosives that are attempting to be brought onto the base.

    Keeping marines, their families, and other military members safe is the primary objective of military working dogs and handlers.

    Therefore, it is not uncommon for military dogs to be used for vehicle and property searches where suspected contraband may be hidden.

    Military working dog handlers enjoy a unique lifestyle. They are an elite group that is very small, highly trained, and highly utilized.

    It is not uncommon for dog handlers to be called away for special duty assignments, like VIP route clearance, presidential details, or even special assignments abroad for short periods of time, also known as TDA or temporary duty assignments.

    Two recent reviews from U.S. Army dog handlers display a level of gratification with their career while also a bit of frustration with the long hours and high stress associated with being a dog handler.

    While deployed, military working dog handlers will be extremely busy.

    They will be asked to do patrols with military police units or infantry units.

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    What Does A Military Working Dog Handler Get Paid

    When in the Army you will be paid based on your rank and time of service.

    Entering into the MOS 31K with no prior Military experience generally places individuals at a lower rank.

    Like a lot of other jobs in the Army, there are many factors that play into increasing your rank and subsequently your pay.

    When recruiting there are also opportunities for bonuses based on factors such as high-demand positions and recruiting timelines.

    You can follow the base pay table below to get an idea of the pay for each rank.


    Reviews of this position are positive.

    People enjoy working with the dogs and creating partnerships.

    The positive reviews discuss the position as being productive and allowing skills to develop such as how to handle stressful situations.

    Negative reviews of the position discuss the challenges surrounding switching Military Working Dogs.

    You do not always get to stay with the dog you have gained a connection with, and that can be challenging when you spend more time with that dog than family at times.

    Negative reviews also discuss long deployments and leadership having a large impact on the position.

    A few Military Working Dog Handler reviews can be found below.

    You can also view the video below from the Army.

    The video gives an inside look into what training as a Military Working Dog Handler is like and what the job duties entail.

    Job Details And Requirements

    • Must currently hold MOS 5811.
    • Possess no fear of dogs.
    • To protect against certain infections from dogs, handlers must have a spleen.
    • Must be a volunteer.
    • Complete the Military Working Dog Basic Handler Course, Specialized Search Dog Handler Course or Combat Tracker Dog Handler Course.

    Type of MOS: NMOS

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    What Does A K9 Handler Do

    There are certain skills that many K9 Handlers have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed Communication skills, Empathy and Good judgment.

    Other Things To Expect

    What It Takes to be A Military Working Dog Handler in the Marine Corps

    Even though you have to nail training to become a dog handler, your training does not cease after you have earned the title. You and your dog must be fit and strong at all times, so training continues daily.

    Your everyday tasks also include basic care for your service companion. This can include but is not limited to feeding, grooming, washing, walking, etc. More so, you may be making vet visits and providing other healthcare services for your dog.

    Be ready to carry out conditioning training, controlled aggression training, and other basic obedience training with your companion. You will also partake in technical training, drills, and missions, particularly those with specialized exercises like sniffing out suspicious items.

    Examples of other advanced, intensive training are around suspect scenarios, tactical deployment, bite and protection exercises, etc. Plus, you will need to be aware of first aid techniques to properly handle your companion.

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    Take The Military Aptitude Test

    The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test determines where a prospective service member might excel in the military. The score determines if a candidate is eligible to enlist in the military, and higher scores on the ASVAB may open up the door to specialized military careers. The position of Army dog handler requires a 91 ASVAB score in the skilled technical portion. Once the ASVAB is complete, the recruiter likely reaches out to schedule a physical fitness test. To be eligible for a dog handler position, you also must be a U.S. citizen and pass security clearance.

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    Attend Advanced Individual Training

    Once a prospective dog handler has completed basic training, the next step is 17 weeks of advanced individual training. This is where the dog handler learns specific skills related to dog handling, working with the animal and other technical skills. These skills can help strengthen the bond between handler and service animal.

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    Education Training & Certification

    Formerly a specialized skill set for soldiers who already had a primary MOS, military working dog handler became its own full-fledged MOS in 2012.

    • Testing: Candidates must first take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery , which is a series of tests that helps the Army understand your strengths and identify which Army job fit your talents. They must score a 91 in Skilled Technical .
    • Training: Handlers are trained for 11 weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The training course covers such topics as care, feeding, and grooming, including doggy first aid, how to maintain obedience and control aggression, searching, scouting and patrolling and learning how to handle conditions when under gunfire.
    • Certification: Also, once paired up, a soldier/dog team must be certified ready for work before they can move forward, and re-certify each year. Certification includes odor recognition, appropriate use of dummy explosives and narcotics to keep the dog sharp, and practice searches of a variety of areas such as vehicles, barracks, luggage, warehouses and various open areas.

    Just to be clear, certification isn’t all on the dog. The regulation suggests that handlers get two strikes a chance to certify with two dogs before failure means you’re booted from the MOS. But most handlers bond relatively easily with their dogs, and work to keep the connection with the animal strong.

    Protecting Those Who Protect Our Nation


    As the largest career field in the Air Force, its the job of Security Forces to protect, defend and fight. They are responsible for missile security, defending air bases around the globe, law enforcement on those bases, combat arms and handling military working dogs. It takes a combination of mental and physical toughness because its up to you to protect your fellow Airmen.


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    Military Working Dog Handler Duties & Responsibilities

    A dog handler in the Army is responsible for the daily care and grooming of their animal, keeping the animal’s kennel clean and the animal fit, by providing daily exercise. Part of the job involves briefing Army leadership on what the dog brings to a given mission, and administrative duties, such as record keeping

    Military working dog teams are always at work, both at home and abroad, supporting combat missions or daily law enforcement. In fact, regulations prohibit loading extra assignments on a K-9 handler that would interfere with his or her primary duties.

    Military working dogs are employed primarily to search either for narcotic drugs or explosives. In fact, canines can only be trained to search for one or the other throughout their careers, to keep their snouts specialized.

    Dogs may also be trained as combat trackers or patrol dogs, and may be required to conduct Secret Service missions, as well as health and welfare inspections. Handlers may work in the following areas or perform these types of duties:

    • Patrol Drug Detector Dog handler
    • Patrol Explosive Detector Dog handler
    • Health and Welfare searches
    • Customs support

    How To Become A Sar K

    There are some jobs that offer people the earn while doing the things that they love to do. Why limit yourself to a boring and stifling nine to five job, when you can go out and earn by doing the things you love to do? In order to find a job that you can genuinely enjoy, you have to find things that interest you if you do so, youll never consider your job work.If you are the kind of person who genuinely enjoys the outdoors, is good with handling dogs, and has a sincere desire to help others, you may want to consider becoming a SAR K-9 handler. An SAR K-9 handler is one in charge of training the dogs for important search and rescue missions you will work as part of a team with your dog. If you are interested in this career, here are some things that you might want to keep in mind.

    After completing the training, there is usually a probationary period that you and your dog will have to complete. The time ranges from a month to a year, depending on your location and the states regulations. You will also have to pass several certification tests in order to considered a legitimate SAR K-9 handler.

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