How to become a dog handler

If you like training and want to work in the field, the profession of dog handler is a job that will seduce you. It strengthens the bond between you and your dog and allows you to play an important role in society by ensuring the safety of the general public. What is this job and how to train, we tell you everything now.

1- What does the job of a dog handler consist of ?

A dog handler, also called dog agent, is a professional of canine behavior who works in pair with a trained dog. He trains his dog in order to assist him in certain tasks such as


The dog handler only works with one dog, which he has raised and trained himself. He is thus able to interpret the different reactions of the animal according to each situation. He can train the dog to bark at a person or an object with traces of drugs or explosives or to stop at an obstacle. He can also train it to track a scent on a cloth to find the owner in the case of a missing person. The dog can also handle and carry objects, sometimes heavy.

A dog handler can be assigned different types of missions, some of which can only be performed in the public sector. They work irregular hours and are required to travel extensively.

2- Where can I work as a dog handler?

2-1 The work of the dog handler in the private sector

A dog handler can work in the private sector, generally as a security guard. His role will be to ensure the surveillance and security of a place. They can be found in places where there is a lot of traffic, such as train stations, or in places where there is very little traffic, such as closed businesses. The dog plays a dissuasive role on the malicious persons like the robbers, which is rather interesting for the department stores or the banks. They can work day or night, depending on the needs of their client. They are employed either by a security agency or by a company that wishes to have its own security team.

2-2 The work of the dog handler in the public sector

Many functions are possible for a dog handler in the public sector. He can join the army, the national gendarmerie, the national police or the fire and rescue services. He will be required to ensure the security of strategic places, to assist in border searches, to search for missing or buried persons, or to apprehend dangerous individuals and many other missions.

3- Skills required to be a dog handler.

To be a dog handler, it is of course essential to have a very strong bond with your dog. The complicity between the master and the animal will be the guarantee of good results, as well during the training as during the work. This also requires patience because training a dog for missions such as drug searches or rescue requires several months of work.

Beyond the training, the nerves of the dog handler are put to the test during his work. He must therefore be adaptable, flexible in character and possess good nervous and physical resistance to be able to cope effectively.

4- How to train as a dog handler?

The type of training and the conditions to work as a dog handler differ according to the sector of activity.

4-1 Working in the private sector

Depending on your level of study, 3 levels of training are possible.

With a 3rd grade diploma or a CAP (vocational training certificate) as a security agent, you can obtain the title of :

canine agent specialized in detection,
security dog agent,
security agent and intervention dog handler,
security dog agent,
dog handler in private security.
You will do internships in different security companies in order to gain sufficient experience.

With a high school diploma, you can take the national avalanche dog handler certificate or the national search and rescue dog handler certificate. The latter offers two specializations: search in rubble or search for lost persons.

With a baccalaureate to baccalaureate + 3 years, you can follow a 4-year training course in order to obtain a diploma of guide dog educator (delivered by the French Federation of guide dog associations).

4-2 Working in the public sector

Each public sector profession has its own recruitment process and entry requirements:

The gendarmerie requires 5 years of experience.
The national police force requires 3 years of experience and the successful completion of the competitive examination for peacekeepers.
The customs require the validation of the competitive examination of customs controller or customs officer.
The Air Force requires a high school diploma.
Once the recruitment process is completed, the dog handler will be trained by his new employer. Please note that only a few places are available each year.

5- Training for dog handlers in the public sector

5-1 In the National Police

The training is provided by the CNFUC (Centre national de formation des unités cynotechniques) and lasts 3 months. There are 2 types of missions: intervention (patrol) and search (tracking or product identification). For the search, each dog has only one master dog (contrary to the intervention) and an olfactory speciality.

5-2 In the Gendarmerie

3 types of training are offered: substitute, dog handler or master dog. They take place at the national dog training center (CniCG).

The training to become a substitute dog handler lasts 5 weeks, enough time to get acquainted with the dog and to establish a bond. The dog handler training and the obtaining of the certificate are the mandatory step before moving on to the dog handler training. It lasts 7 weeks and allows the pair to assimilate the basics of the job. Once the certificate is obtained, the duo can then begin the 7 weeks of training as a dog handler by choosing one of the following specialties:

search for narcotics,
search for explosives,
guard and patrol,
search for human remains,
search in avalanches,
search for weapons and ammunition,
search for fire accelerants.

5-3 In customs

The training takes place at the E.N.B.D. (National School of Customs Brigades) in two parts during one year. Training exercises and search techniques will be at the heart of the training.

5-4 In the army

For the protection of sensitive installations or combat support, regardless of the army to which they belong, the future dog handler will have to undergo an initial four-week infantry specialist training. At the end of this training, he will do an internship in the regional dog support platoon of the Land region and will do a 5 weeks dog training module. A dog handler’s certificate will then be issued. After spending 6 months as a dog handler, the candidate will be eligible for a 6-week course to become a dog handler.

For the search for victims in rubble, the candidate will have to integrate the dog team of the following organizations

the Brigade des Sapeurs Pompiers de Paris,
the Bataillon des Marins Pompiers de Marseille,
the Intervention and Instruction Unit of the Civil Security
He will then have to obtain the Brevet de recherches en décombres et de personnes égarées (certificate of search in rubble and lost persons) and possess a dog that is at least 24 months old at the beginning of his training.

6- Training of the dog handler in the private sector

To work in security, the candidate must follow a 9-month training course to obtain the practical certificate of security dog handler. He can also specialize by passing a CAP (vocational training certificate) as a prevention and security agent for 24 months, alternating between the two if he wishes.

7- The duties of the dog handler

A dog handler has an important responsibility towards the other people around him and towards his dog, his teammate.

7-1 Towards his dog

The dog handler must provide for the needs of his dog by giving him the hygiene care he needs. If the animal has health problems, it is the owner’s duty to have it examined by a veterinarian and to do his best to treat it. He must also provide him with sufficient food and a suitable home with a spacious living area, a comfortable place to sleep and toys.

Of course, in order to guarantee the best possible balance for the dog, the dog owner must be close to his companion. He should spend time with his dog, even outside of his working hours, taking him for walks and playing with him.

7-2 Towards society

The dog owner is responsible for his dog’s actions and must therefore control it at all times to avoid any risk of accident, especially when it is in public. Thus, he must remain vigilant and work continuously to ensure the good training of his dog.

8- Choose your dog

The dog with which you will work is the key element of your job as a dog handler. This is why it is important to choose your future teammate carefully. On the other hand, you will not always have the choice of your companion. If you work in customs, the dog will be provided by the administration and will not be yours. On the other hand, you will have to take care of it even when you are not on duty.

The prohibited dogs are the dogs of 1st category, not registered in the LOF like the staffordshire terrier or the tosa. For 2nd category dogs, they must pass an aptitude test and have all their papers in order.

8-1 Which breed to choose?

As not all these breeds have the same natural aptitudes or facilities, you will need to find out which breeds interest you, in order to choose a dog that is suited to the missions you wish to carry out.

The most common dog among dog handlers, whether in the private sector or in the army or police force, is without a doubt the German Shepherd. Of medium size, it is robust and easy to handle. It can be trained for all types of missions on all types of terrain and has a very dissuasive presence for malicious people.

The Malinois Shepherd is also very popular in the field but is best suited to a master dog who has already done some training, because of its somewhat nervous character. It is very reactive and attentive and makes an excellent guard dog.

The dog’s character and yours are also very important elements to take into account. You must adopt a dog that suits you, with whom you will be comfortable during your years of missions. Curious, lively or calm, it’s up to you to choose which breed works best with your state of mind.

8-2 At what age should I get my dog?

It is advisable to adopt your dog while he is still a puppy, so that you can start training him from scratch. Your bond will be deeper and stronger. Your knowledge of each other will be a real asset for your pair. However, you should know that your dog can only be trained from 18 months of age, the age at which he is deemed fit. This gives you time to train him.

An older dog will be more difficult to manage and train. He will certainly have acquired habits that will not be compatible with your job and will require much more time and work to change them.

You can also turn to an adult dog already trained, but which will be more expensive and will not be used to your methods.

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