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.