Becoming a War Dog Handler

What if your job was to play with dogs all day? People go to the dog competitions, k9 demonstrations, and also see videos of the incredible capabilities our dogs can be utilized for. They see the dogs leaping over six foot walls, jumping out of helicopters, locating narcotics/explosives, and attacking decoys with a fury. What people don’t see are the long frustrating hours it takes to train the dog to be able to develop those skills, and the hard work it took for the handler to be allowed to handle the dog in the first place. They say “I can do that” and sometimes think that being a handler is as easy as checking a box next to the job they want to do when enlisting for the military. 

Being a dog handler is a huge amount of responsibility. Caring for your dog is not a nine to five job, it is a 24/7 job. You are now responsible for your life as well as theirs. That means you need to feed it, take it out everyday to get exercise, clean their room(kennel) for them, make sure they eat, and many more not so glamorous tasks to keep them efficient and healthy. You need to truly have a love for the animal to be a good handler because you will be with them all day and night.

Each branch has their own requirements and they tend to change but what doesn’t change is the strict filtering process each one goes through to select handlers. Although the selection process may vary a little in the Army, Navy, and Air Force the overall process is similar. You have to have been in the military police field for a certain period of time showing you are a capable and responsible military policeman/woman. Then it has to get approved on multiple levels including the units kennelmaster, the unit command, and  Lackland Air Force Base headquarters which is where the dog handlers course takes place. It requires mental and physical strength so that is taken into consideration as well.

The Marine Corps selection process is very strict as well but they choose their handlers straight out of the military police school. Meaning you don’t have to prove yourself as a military policeman/woman first. This allows you to be a handler much faster but the process is a lot more strict. Overall the Marines are a lot smaller branch than the others so very few military police students are actually allowed to become handlers because there are only a limited number of dog teams.

Chances are you will be competing against others to get a dog handler position so everything is taken into account. Your physical fitness scores, your shooting qualification scores, your test scores, conduct, your performance during class compared to others, and your background prior to the Marines. You are also required to stand in front of a board of senior ranking instructors who ask you military knowledge and personal questions. You may also be asked to write an essay as to why you should be selected.

No matter which branch it takes hard work to get selected but the payoff is worth it. Going through the dog handlers course and then becoming a dog handler has such tremendous advantages. So many that I will not list them here. But there is one major benefit that I will mention. You will be partnered with a soon to be new best friend and develop a bond stronger than you have with any other dog before. The bond is strong because you count on eachother not just for attention but for eachother’s lives.  


7 Responses to “Becoming a War Dog Handler”

  1. DGriego Says:

    Great site! And thanks to all who serve. I am sure it is tough on the humans and the dogs.

  2. it is the best job i have ever had!

  3. I’m curious, do the handlers KEEP the dogs with them 24/7 after training and service??
    Thanks in advance.

  4. Hello,
    My name is Brian and i was just wondering if you could email me with more information on becoming a Marine Dog Handler. I dream about becoming a dog handler almost everyday i have this certain connection with dogs its weird but its like they understand me, and vice-versa. I don’t mean i can talk to them or anything like that lol… but i would really appreciate it if we could discuss this further… My email is thanks and i hope to hear from you soon….

  5. please could you send me some more imformation in coming a dog handler in the british army because it has been my dream since i was eight and im now fourteen thankyou 🙂

  6. I have wanted to be a Marine for as long as i can remember. I am really interested in MOS 5812 Marine Corps Dog Handler. I want to go K-9 so bad. I am currently finishing off a Criminal Justice A.S. Degree and will graduate May 2010. Iam enlisting this December under the DEP. I am in top shape, I love to run. I Bust Ass! I will upset with myself if I dont get a perfect 300 on the PFT. my email is I have never talked to a 5812 before. Any information and Advice will be appreciated! Thanks for the Help, Jared

  7. charlie ogle Says:

    i would like to become a military dog handler

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