Dog handler

Animals, land and environment

Career outlook for dog handler

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You and a dog would work as a team, to prevent and detect crime, find lost or missing people or protect property, depending on where you work.

You’d work with a specially trained dog, care for it and be responsible for controlling it. You would need to be confident and patient with the dog.

Dog handlers mainly work for the police, the Army, the RAF, the UK Border Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and private security firms.

In the police service you would work with your dog to:

  • Track missing people
  • Control crowds, for example at football matches
  • Search for explosives or illegal drugs
  • Chase armed criminals
  • Guard prisoners
  • Search for stolen property
  • Search for human remains
  • Support armed officers

In the Army and RAF you’d work to:

  • Guard military bases and aircraft hangers
  • Locate land mines and other explosives
  • Search for casualties

Customs officers use dogs at ports, airports and large railway stations to detect:

  • Drugs, tobacco and cigarettes
  • Food products being brought into the country illegally

In the security industry, you and your dog would:

  • Patrol and guard property
  • Guard construction sites
  • Search for explosives or illegal drugs
  • Provide security at events

You could also work for other services, such as the Fire and Rescue Service and HM Prison Service, or for a mountain rescue team.

Working conditions


In all services you would work shifts on a rota that covers 24 hours, seven days a week. In some organisations, such as the police force, you would look after your dog in your own home.


The job is physically challenging as you would need to keep up with your dog during tough training sessions, and would work outside in all weather conditions.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Positive attitude
  • Reliable
  • Attention to detail
  • Cooperating
  • Social conscience
  • Empathising

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


Although you do not need formal qualifications to train as a dog handler you usually need to be employed within the police, armed forces, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as a Revenue and Customs Officer or within the security industry.

See police and armed forces profiles for the entry requirements.

Entry to HMRC as an assistant officer requires qualifications at SCQF levels 4-6. Entry to graduate training usually requires an honours degree (SCQF level 10). Within HMRC you could apply to train as an Anti-smuggling Dog Handler.

The security dog handler route would usually require qualifications at SCQF level 4/5, relevant experience and must hold your Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. 

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths

Helpful to have

Qualifications that demonstrate experience with animals and knowledge of security such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Animal Care (SVQ level 2/3) or Skills for Work Uniformed and Emergency Services (SCQF level 4).