How To Become a Dog Handler in the Army in 5 Steps

One of the many positions that you can go far in the military is a military working dog handler. This is a tough profession that requires both patience and diligence.

It is not easy to be a military dog trainer, but it is not impossible either. As with any other position in the military, you will need to invest time and effort. Use this article to learn how to become a military working dog handler. We will take you through all the necessary steps, including:

Before we jump into the steps that you must take to become a military dog trainer, here are a few things you should know.

How to become a dog handler in the Army
  1. Take the military aptitude test.
  2. Complete basic training. …
  3. Attend advanced individual training. …
  4. Complete certification. …
  5. Participate in active duty. …
  6. Veterinary technician.
  7. Security guard.
  8. K-9 law enforcement officer.

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

What do military dog handlers do?

A military dog handler is a member of the military with specific responsibilities related to the care and training of their MWD. Here are some duties a military dog handler can expect on the job:

What is a dog handler?

A dog handler for the Army is a military professional who handles the care and training of their military working dog (MWD). Service dogs have uses in several applications, but each dog has training for only one purpose in order to keep them specialized. Handlers may work with their dogs in the following areas:

The U.S. deploys K-9 units across all branches of the military to serve various roles depending on the environment the dog is working in. A dog handler works closely with their companion, sharing training exercises, completing specific training for dogs and taking part in missions. A dog handler can be a great career for someone who enjoys working with animals.

How to become a dog handler in the Army

Becoming a dog handler in the Army requires a few crucial steps. Heres a typical career pathway for a military dog handler:

1. Take the military aptitude test

2. Complete basic training

Once you receive your acceptance into the Army, you attend ten weeks of basic training, or “boot camp”. This 10-week training session reinforces personal discipline and physical fitness and teaches the recruit how to work with the other members of their platoon. Rifle training and basic survival skills are part of the boot camp training. Soldiers also learn specific guidelines for reacting to biological, radioactive and nuclear threats.

3. 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.

4. Complete certification

A handler and dog team must complete certification testing before they can proceed with duties and recertify every year. Certification may include a variety of tests appropriate to the dogs specialty.

5. Participate in active duty

Once a dog handler has completed basic and advanced training, they can begin active duty as an Army dog handler. From there, a dog handler can advance into higher ranks, but they are still responsible for the care and training of the service animal as they advance. Some dog handlers spend their entire military career with their companions.

Dog handler skills

A typical dog handler learns valuable skills on the job. Performing the duties of this position can require these hard skills and other soft skills, including:

Post-military careers for Army dog handlers

After the military, there are civilian positions an Army dog handler might be qualified for. Here are some post-military careers a dog handler can pursue:

Primary duties: Veterinary technicians care for animals and assist in veterinary procedures. They interact with pet owners and assist veterinarians with their work. Gaining experience by handling animals in the military is helpful and can make it easier to transition to this job.

Primary duties: Security guards are responsible for securing private or public property, scanning for threats and sometimes handling canines to aid in these duties. A military background can give you an advantage when applying.

Primary duties: A K-9 police officer enforces municipal, state and federal laws and manages criminal investigation and patrolling. As a canine handler, they are in charge of the care, training and deployment of the canine officer.

Primary duties: Dog trainers are responsible for the training and handling of canines. They may train them for duties that include threat detection, drug detection, explosives detection, service animal training and more.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.


Can you enlist as a dog handler?

Step 1: Join the military

To enlist, you have to be at least 18 years old. Also, note that you must be a US citizen and pass the security clearance in order to be a dog handler in the army. You will need to pass the aptitude and physical fitness test to demonstrate military competency.

How long does it take to become a k9 handler in the Army?

Job training for Military Working Dog handlers requires 18 weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) on how to care for, handle and train a Military Working Dog (MWD). The training is in two phases. The first seven-week phase covers on-the-job instruction and teaches police methods and techniques for dog handling.

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