How to become a Dog Handler

How to become a Dog Handler

Dog Handlers use their knowledge of dogs to help train them to obey commands and behave properly. They have extensive knowledge of different dog breeds and how they can respond differently to training. There are many specialisations for Dog Handlers, such as working with dogs with behavioural issues, training police dogs and customs dogs, training seeing eye dogs, training companion dogs for people with mental illness and disability, working with dogs in film and television, and more.

If you have a passion for animals, are patient and confident, and want a job that can be extremely rewarding, becoming a Dog Handler could be perfect for you.



About you:


  • Fit and healthy
  • Patient and kind
  • Loves animals
  • Confident and reliable
  • Good communicator
  • Resilient and can make tough decisions
  • Outgoing and energetic
  • Empathetic and sensitive


The job:


  • Teaching dogs to obey specific commands, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Socialising dogs with each other and people
  • Training dogs for specific needs, such as seeing eye dogs and police dogs
  • Identifying problematic behaviour in dogs and finding ways to correct it
  • Advising owners on ways to reinforce training once they take their dog home
  • Training dogs to take part in competitions
  • Working with a variety of different dog breeds, sizes and temperaments


Lifestyle Impact: Medium


  • Part Time opportunities: High – around 41% of Dog Handlers work part-time (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
  • Average hours for full-time workers: 48 hours a week, which is slightly above average (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
  • Dog Handlers’ salary (average) $60,000* per year (source: seek.com.au). *Salaries vary depending on your skills and experience.
  • Future career growth: Strong (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au).
  • You will be on your feet a lot and need to be relatively strong to handle larger dogs. Most importantly, you’ll need to be ok working with animals that might be aggressive or scared and potentially lash out. You might also have to assist owners in making some tough decisions for dogs who cannot be helped.


Dog Handlers are most in demand in these locations:


This is a very small occupation, with around 1,100 people working as Dog Handlers in 2020 (source: labourmarketinsights.gov.au). Demand is spread evenly across Australia, with the highest demand across the Eastern states. Most work in the public administration and safety, and arts and recreation industries.

There are jobs available around Australia and globally. Most of your work will be done hands-on, but can be done either at a specialised clinic or from your home.


How to become a Dog Handler in Australia


You don’t necessarily need a formal qualification to work as a Dog Handler in Australia, but having one can make you more desirable to future employers.


Step 1 – Complete Year 10 at the least, focusing on English, Science and Animal Studies.


Step 2 – See if you can get work experience working with animals, such as at a veterinary clinic or animal shelter.


Step 3 – Complete a relevant VET-level qualification. Some options include:


Step 4 – If you’d like to specialise, start looking into your options. For example, if you’d like to train dogs to become detector dogs, you will most likely have to do some specialist training first.


Step 5 – Consider starting up your own business and employing other workers.


Find out more here –






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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What do Dog Handlers do?


Dog Handlers train dogs for a wide variety of purposes, such as behaviour management, socialisation and toilet training, as well as specialty jobs such as police dogs, seeing eye dogs, and dogs that work in film and television.


Which industries employ Dog Handlers?


Most Dog Handlers work in the public administration and safety, and recreation industries.


What options are there for career progression?


You can start out as a basic Dog Trainer and help owners to teach their dogs standard behaviour, such as how to walk on a lead and how to toilet train their dog. Once you have plenty of experience you may like to specialise – you could work with dogs with extreme behavioural issues, train dogs to detect drugs and explosives, or train companion animals for people with mental illnesses and disabilities.


Do I need to go to university to become a Dog Handler?


No, you don’t need any formal qualifications to work as a Dog Handler. However, doing some study at VET level can help boost your skills and employability.


Where do Dog Handlers work?


Dog Handlers are employed all across Australia. You can do your work from a specialist facility, in local parks, or even from your own home.


What are 3 things I can do right now to help me become a Dog Handler?


If you’re in high school and you’d like to find out if a career as a Dog Handler is right for you, here’s a few things you could do right now:

  1. Try teaching a few new tricks to your family pet. See if you have the patience to stick with it until they learn.
  2. Find work experience working with animals, such as at a vet, zoo, animal shelter, or even on a farm.
  3. Consider taking short courses and workshops to build on your skills and knowledge, or talk to a Dog Handler and find out what the job is like.

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