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How to become an Army Dog Handler

Army Dog Handler
avg. starting salary

An army dog handler works with specially trained dogs to carry out key military tasks.  As specialist army personnel, a dog handler is tasked with forming a unique bond with the dogs they train and lead. This bond enables the dog handler to instruct the dog in their care to carry out tasks that possibly can’t be accomplished by humans.  You’ll likely start your career working with protection dogs (dogs that are trained to detect the presence of intruders) to patrol army bases to ensure they’re secure. Later, you may have the opportunity to partner with Military Working Dogs (MWD) that can sniff out explosives, detect weapons and other substances.  Key tasks of an army dog handler include: 
  • Training dogs for service in the army
  • Patrolling army bases and sites with protection dogs
  • Working with Military Working Dogs (MWD) to detect explosives and drugs
  • Supporting army personnel with canine services when needed
  • Deploying with army dogs on missions 
  • Transporting army dogs to other bases in the UK and abroad

Firstly, you’ll need to be a member of the British Army to be eligible to work as an army dog handler.  To join the British Army, you must be at least 17 years old and no older than 35. You’ll also need to pass several physical fitness assessments to be considered a suitable applicant for the army. If you pass these initial physical assessments you’ll need to complete 14 weeks of initial military training.  After completing your initial military training,you’ll then undergo ten weeks of training in a Defence Animal Training Regiment. During this time, you have the opportunity to gain your class 3 dog handler qualification.  This specialist training will equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to lead specially trained dogs to perform potentially life saving tasks.  Key skills and attributes for an army dog handler include:
  • Affinity with animals
  • Patience
  • Physical fitness
  • Clear communication
  • Confidence
  • Teamwork
  • Compassion 

"My ambition has always been to join the British Army, and having the opportunity to train and work with specialist dogs makes the job even more rewarding. The dogs are amazing and play a vital role in army life, whether it’s patrolling the base to ensure everyone is safe or sniffing out explosives. As an army dog handler, you form really close bonds with the dogs under your care, but you’ve got to remember that the dogs are there to do a job and aren’t pets. Not getting too attached to the dogs is possibly the hardest part of the job. "

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