Police dogs, also known as K9s, help policemen to enforce the law, especially when it comes to hunting down criminals and detecting explosives and drugs. It takes several months of training to transform an untrained canine into an intelligent and aggressive police dog. If you are a patient person who loves working with dogs, you could become a competent police dog trainer.
See Also: How to Become a Dog Trainer in the US
1. What Do Police Dog Trainers Do?
Their duties include:
- Participate in the selection of untrained dogs (usually German Shepherds) that have the potential to become effective police dogs
- Training the dogs – This involves teaching them fundamentals of dog obedience, and training them to respond appropriately to commands such as attack, come and sit
- Preparing trained dogs for specific tasks, such as search and rescue
- Teaching police officers how to handle trained dogs with or without a leash
- Assessing the performance of trained police dogs to identify the ones that should be retired from service
Because police dog trainers are often wrongly referred to as police dog handlers, it is essential to note the difference between the two job titles. While police dog trainers primarily work to equip dogs with law enforcement skills, police dog handlers are sworn police officers who partner with or use the trained dogs to enforce the law.
2. Work Environment
Although police dog trainers have fairly regular, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday schedules, sometimes they may be called in outside their standard working hours to prepare dogs for specific police missions.
These trainers work in diverse environments, usually depending on training activities. Today they could be instructing dogs outdoors in open space, and tomorrow in buildings or indoor spaces.
The work is physically challenging, as it involves running, standing and bending for long periods of time.
According to Indeed, police dog trainers earn an annual average salary of $51,000.
4. Entry Requirements
To become a police dog trainer, you must pursue courses offered by established training providers, such as the National K-9 Learning Center in Columbus, Ohio. The Center offers the obedience or behavior course for general dog trainers, and the master trainer course for people who aspire to become police dog trainers.
The master trainer course will equip you with the knowledge you need to teach dogs to:
- Retrieve lost items
- Protect their owners/handlers
- Detect scents
- Perform other police operations
You will also learn about kennel management, dog care and establishing a dog training business.
Other reputable providers of police dog trainer courses include:
- Master Dog Training, Los Angeles, California
- USK9 Unlimited, Kaplan, Louisiana
Upon completion of the course, you can start by volunteering at dog training facilities to gain some hands-on experience and enhance your chances of getting hired as a police dog trainer.
5. Important Qualities
To be a competent police dog trainer, you need;
• Patience – It may take long to teach a dog new tricks
• Strong observation and analytical skills
• Strong instructional skills
• A solid understanding of dog behavior
• Good communication skills
• A love for dogs (and animals in general)
• Physical stamina
• Quick-thinking skills
• Decision-making skills
• Practical skills
• An interest in enhancing law enforcement activities
• Good teamwork skills
6. Career Development
After getting hired as a police dog trainer, you will naturally develop your skills on the job. The more you spend your time with the canines, the easier it will be for you to equip them with new skills.
As you gain more experience, undertake the following career advancement activities:
- Obtain a relevant professional certification from the United States Police Canine Association
- Secure membership in the North American Police Work Dog Association. NAPWDA members have access to training workshops and industry newsletters. Though not specific to police dog trainers, the Association for Professional Dog Trainers also offers a host of relevant professional development resources.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of police dog trainers include:
• Federal law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI
• State and metropolitan police departments
• Private dog training facilities
With vast experience as a police dog trainer, you can move into self-employment and establish your own dog training business.
You may also move into law enforcement and become a police dog handler. Note you will have to meet the requirements of being a police officer, including completing police academy training.
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Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 15 percent (faster than average) job growth for all animal trainers, expect to face some competitions for jobs because police dog training is a small profession.
This should, however, not discourage you. With an interest in law enforcement and strong dog training skills, you will get the job. Good luck!