How to become an Army Dog Handler


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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 

Get qualified

No formal qualifications are needed to join the British Army, but you must be between 17 and 35 years old to join. To qualify as an Army Dog Handler, you must have the desire and the confidence to work with specially trained dogs. 

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