How to become a dog handler?
There are several options, to start you have to determine if you want to do it in a public service or a private company and here are the differences:
Public services :
Police services – dog unit
Some police forces in Quebec have dog handlers such as the Montreal , Longueuil, Laval, Quebec police service, the provincial police service which is the Sureté du Quebec and recently the RCMP. They are used in suspect tracking, people and evidence searches, drug and explosives detection and other specializations.
Other public organizations – canine unit
Corrections has several K9 teams on duty in federal prisons. There are also several dog teams in detection for the Canada Border Services Agency (customs). Finally, the Quebec wildlife protection service also has some dog handlers.
How to become a dog handler for one of these organizations?
In all cases, you must be an agent in their organization before applying for the specialization of dog handler. We must therefore work for them and wait for a job opening in the canine unit. You have to understand that there are not many dog handlers in Quebec, so there is little opportunity to become one in each of these organizations. The selection criteria vary from one to another, so it is necessary to inquire with the organization which interests us to obtain the necessary information.
The salary of the dog handler is similar to the salary of an agent in the same department with sometimes a bonus linked to the specialization of dog agent and the care of the dog at home. The trainings are given by the organization itself after the selection process.
Private dog unit
For the moment in Quebec there is no real structure around the profession of dog handler, whether for security (protection) or for detection work (drugs, explosives, firearms). No certification, law or requirement is in force and recognized by the government regarding the dog and the canine agent. This means that the profession is for the moment very disorganized and it is difficult to navigate.
There are some specialized security companies which, like ours, offer the service of specialized dog handlers to private security companies like the Corps of Commissionaires, Garda or others. To be able to work for one of them, you must have a security guard permit from the private security office. But we must not be fooled since there is no guarantee that dogs are safe, efficient and competent.
For a job not related to safety, for example the detection of bedbugs, no permit or certification is required. Only good training and good skills. How do you become a dog handler then? You have to find private training and then the most difficult thing: finding a job!
Let’s start with the work since it is the most important. We must not lie to each other, there are few dog handlers in the public services and there are even fewer in the private sector who really work to the point of earning a living. There are about ten people in Quebec who have a “full time” job as a dog handler, whether in security or in detection. The salary varies a lot by field and normally starts around $ 20 an hour and up. The field is growing and job opportunities are expected to come in the coming years.
Private dog handler training
Which leads us to training. There are several training courses for private security dog handlers in Quebec (not to be confused with the profession of dog trainer which is something else). But how can there be so much training for so little work? Good question! We hear a lot of people selling the job and saying that there is a big demand to be filled. Unfortunately for the moment this is not yet the case in Quebec. Many people follow training courses with great promises and end up with training that does not give them 10% of the necessary background to work in the field and also find themselves looking for a job that does not exist since work remains rare.
We must ensure the quality of training and the competence of trainers. Because your work will be extremely important for the safety of the public. For example in explosives detection, will you know how to react if your dog gives an alert? Is your dog going to miss a bomb? In the end, you will be responsible!
How to find a K9 training?
1- Start by finding a recognized company that works in the field.
2- Ask to see the certifications and training of the person giving the training. This person should also have had training with documented evidence, right?
3- Ask to see the facilities and methods that will be used to train you. You also need to know what goals the training allows you to achieve. That is, what assessment / certification will be done?
4- Training should take more than 6 months with your own dog and a minimum of 2 months with a dog already trained by a professional. At the bottom of that, it is certain that you will not have the training and the information sufficient to be operational on the ground.
Above all, remember that the profession of a dog handler is not just a job. It is a passion with variable hours and which will often require you to be on the road!
Do you have questions about the job or the training? Write U.S.