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Home > Dogs > How to Become a Police Dog Trainer: Career, Requirements & More

How to Become a Police Dog Trainer: Career, Requirements & More

Police dog trainer and trainee

If you’re interested in a career working with animals, you have many options. Besides being a veterinarian, dog groomer, or zookeeper, there are many other professions that people often don’t think about. One of them is a police dog trainer.

Being a police dog trainer is exactly what it sounds like. These professionals train police dogs that assist police in solving crimes, detecting bombs and drugs, and protecting the officer that they work with. If this is a career you think you might be interested in, continue reading for everything you need to know about the job itself as well as the requirements and salary.

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What Exactly Do Police Dog Trainers Do?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police dog training isn’t a specific industry in itself. Rather, it falls under the category of animal trainers. The broad job description of an animal trainer is to train animals under one or more of the following categories:

  • Assistance
  • Harness
  • Obedience
  • Performance
  • Security
  • Riding

Police dog training falls under the categories of assistance, obedience, performance, and security. Police dog trainers themselves may work for either a police department or a company that specializes in animal training, some of which may be specific to police dog training.

For animal training in general, animals are trained to respond to human voices and commands. But police dog training is far more in-depth than that. Police dogs have to be trained in obedience, to master and respond to basic commands including come, sit, stay, heel. They have to be able to obey these commands both on and off a leash.

Once the dogs have mastered basic commands, the trainer has to teach them commands that are specific to police work. One of the first aspects of police dog training is teaching the dog how to protect his handler, and eventually, his police officer partner.

Police dog trainers also have to train dogs on how to search within buildings or specific areas for both the detection of people and objects in addition to search-and-rescue operations. More advanced training can even include training the dogs to detect drugs and explosives.

As you can see, there is a lot of work involved with being a police dog trainer. But one of the important things to remember is that you aren’t training these dogs to be ridden or to perform tricks in shows. You are training these dogs to be valued and productive members of society and to serve a much larger purpose of protection and keeping people safe.


What Are the Qualifications/Requirements for Police Dog Trainers?

Dog training
Image Credit By: John Tuesday, unsplash

The exact qualifications and requirements needed to be a police dog trainer will vary on a state-by-state basis. However, in most cases, you will have to go through a training course and obtain so many hours of coursework. In general, these courses usually last between 12 and 16 weeks. They may be offered through colleges, career centers, or independent dog training schools and academies, and they all require payment.

In addition to specialized training, becoming a police dog trainer usually requires a certain amount of experience working with animals. In most cases, the minimum requirement is 3 years, but this doesn’t have to be paid, professional dog training. Some states may accept volunteer hours as experience, so don’t think that you can’t be a police dog trainer if you have no prior paid experience with training animals.

Other requirements for police dog trainers may also depend on whether or not you are working for a police department or a private contractor. Usually, you have to be of a certain age. But when working for a police department, every employee has to undergo a background check and have no criminal record.

Remember that these are just general requirements. If this is a career that you might be interested in, it is important to do your research beforehand. Find out the particular requirements for your state, as well as the general job availability and the types of training courses that are offered in your state.


How Long Does It Take to Become a Police Dog Trainer?

dog training
Image Credit: RoboMichalec, Pixabay

Again, it depends on the state you live in and the requirements of the state, police department, or company. If you have the required minimum experience, you can become a police dog trainer in as little as 3 months or the amount of time it takes you to successfully complete the required training program.

If you don’t have prior experience working with animals, it can take up to 5-6 years to become a police dog trainer. Not only will you have to gain the required experience through volunteering or another career that involves working with animals, but you will also have to successfully complete the required training program.

How Much Do Police Dog Trainers Make?

In 2020, it was estimated that, in general, animal trainers could make anywhere from $21,000 to $62,000, with the median wage being around $31,500. The exact salary that an animal trainer earns just depends on which industry the animal trainer works in.

Police dog trainers actually fall under the industry of Local Government under the specific category of Protective Services. This is one of the top-paying industries for animal trainers, in which the median salary that a police dog trainer can earn is around $48,000 annually. The downside of this is that this is one of the industries with the lowest levels of employment for dog trainers.

It’s also worth noting that the exact salary will vary based on the state you live in and who you work for. You should do your research to compare the salaries offered by specific states and employers before deciding if this career may be right for you. Sometimes, police dog trainers can become private contractors. In this case, they are essentially running their own business in which they can decide how much they want to charge for their services.


How Can You Gain Experience Working With Animals?

Let’s say that you’ve done your research and have decided that you want to be a police dog trainer—but you have no experience working with animals. How can you get experience? There are several ways you can do this, both through paid and volunteer work.

It’s important to remember that each state, training program, or employer may have its own requirements for what they consider to be acceptable experience. However, here are some ideas that can help get you started.

For volunteering, check out animal shelters, zoos and wildlife centers, or national and state parks in your area. Many of the places mentioned offer volunteer programs for those who are interested in working with animals. You can almost always volunteer without any sort of diploma, which means this is perfect for high school and college students who are looking to gain valuable experience.

Working at a veterinary clinic, farm, or even a pet store as a dog groomer can be a great paid opportunity to earn experience working with animals. You can also start out working as an animal obedience trainer or another type of animal trainer that requires less specialized experience.

Finally, choosing an animal-related field for your college education, as well as work studies and internships, can also help you gain the knowledge and experience needed to kickstart your career as a police dog trainer.

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Final Thoughts

If you want a career working with animals while making a difference in your community as well, then consider becoming a police dog trainer. This career does require a certain amount of training and experience to get you started, which varies depending on where you live. But once you’ve gained the education needed, you can make a very nice living in helping to train dogs to serve and protect their community.

Featured Image Credit: dimitrivetsikas1969, Pixabay

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