Careers in dog handling

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You’ve just got off work, its 3am and you’ve spent the last 4 hours helping search 2 building sites where there has been a history of break-ins and tool and plant theft. It’s the middle of winter, raining heavily and you are wet, cold, hungry and tired. You want nothing more than to go home, have a shower, something to eat and hit the sack!

However, your dog is also wet, cold, tired and hungry. Before you can look after yourself you must make sure that they are ok. At the end of a shift that’s run over by a few hours because you had to deal with a live incident that kicked off 5 minutes before you would have been relieved, the last thing you want is having to do extra.

The big difference between working with dogs and just about any other career path is that you are entrusted with the care and protection of an animal that demands attention and that will have very specific needs in order to keep them healthy and in good condition.

Dogs suffer from bad conditions and poor care.

The above is a long winded way of making the point that to be a successful dog handler you must be able and willing to look after your dog!

Dogs are demanding, so you will need patience. You need to be confident and able to work on your own with the dog.

Situations that dog handlers are called to deal with can escalate rapidly so you need to be able to think on your feet and respond quickly and appropriately. In some situations, this might mean retreating from a situation and calling for backup from colleagues or the police. You must be able to use your best judgement to keep both yourself and your dog safe!

To be confident as a dog handler you’d be expected to ideally have experience of caring for dogs and ‘be a dog person’. It can be a very demanding job so you would also be expected to be physically fit and resilient.

Dogs are demanding and need proper care and attention. As well as legislation directly relating to the profession (more inside) there are also animal welfare regulations that you need to be aware of.

You will need to be well educated on a range of topics, for example how do criminals counter the treat posed to them by dogs? In the military I learned a few highly effective techniques for neutralising a search dog which I’m not going to share here.

If you are hurt at work, you would probably be taken to the local A&E – where would you take your dog if they were hurt at 3am when all the local veterinarian surgeries are closed? You should have a list of local animal emergency care facilities and know how to get there. Like humans, speedy treatment for any injuries can make a big difference to recovery.

So, are you a dog person? Can you make the extra effort? Do you appreciate the commitment that is required to properly look after a dog? It is significant and should not be underestimated!