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Discussion Starter #1
Hello All. I have a couple questions for those of you who have experience as K9 handlers. I'm a 39 yo non-LE civilian with a full time job, degrees in BA Strategic Intel / MS Technology Management and experience in federal intel/security. I've trained with large breeds my whole life but I've never professionally worked as a handler. Lately I've been seriously thinking about trying to become K9 handler because I enjoy training so much. A couple weeks back I was talking to a ex-handler who worked for the county sheriff department and she mentioned that there are opportunities for civilians to work as handlers for LE in security/nose work/search & rescue with sponsorship. Ok so on to the questions:

First I'd like to get some general information about becoming a K9 handler.

1) Are there training courses offered to civilians who want to enter into K9 handling? Something that I could do at night/weekends/etc, keep my day job until I finish training.
2) If anyone knows... How does one go about being sponsored by LE? Is this for legal purposes?
3) Are the opportunities to work as a contractor or is it better to work directly for a LE / Federal agency?
4) What's life like as a K9 handler? Ups/downs?

Thanks all! Have a good one.
 

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I am not a k9 handler but i know they are jobs for k9 border patrol handlers they often found in airports and ports using specialized trained dogs. I think it helps to have some experience but not sure what the requirements you need. Im sure their are plenty of people that can help on here.
 

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I work as a volunteer SAR handler but am on a civilian team. If you work solo with a department make sure you are on their liability insurance and workmen's comp. Work is volunteer basis and there are, undoubtedly, volunteer SAR units in Michigan. Can't answer for the other topics. We are, in fact, sponsored by the LE who we know and train with and are associate members of NAPWDA.

Calls are sporadic and come at the most inconvenient times.
 

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You are in MI...there are a couple people I know of that you could mentor with. Though it would not be 'free'
The best suggestion I would make is hook up with some K9 handlers in your area and ask who and or where they got their dogs trained. I know a few that breed/train to sell to LE depts.
There are also quite a few that participate in clubs that also work with LE K9 handlers often.

One retired MSP head is now doing security with his K9 on the drunk shift at a hospital in a big college city. That would be quite an interesting job...
Another guy I know had a business doing search for schools and such, but the climate in MI doesn't really allow contracted newbies(politics) He was experienced, from California but couldn't get his business off the ground enough to make it a full time endeavor. In Cali, he did very well.
 

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There are always Handler courses offered throughout the year. The can be found on the internet just Google police K9 handler course...
I don't know of any civilian Handler positions but that doesn't mean they don't exist. I've just never heard of them in California.
I have seen that Contractor work can be had at places like DynCorp but usually those positions are overseas.
The ups/down... Hmmm that's easy. With the right dog it's truly a joy. Downs, losing your partner to hostile actions or an accident is truly a down. It happens and it's devastating to most Handlers. Your dog is your partner and you must protect him as he/she protects you.
I've taken the simplistic way around all this but IMHO wear the shield, carry the gun and enjoy all that's available to you in a LEO position, you won't be disappointed!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the info! Currently I'm training with my GSD pup at an academy based out of Taylor, MI that trains K9's for military and LE all over Michigan. Not sure if they offer training for handlers, I was going to ask this week. Anyhow it would be really nice to find a mentor to train with, learn the ropes, begin the journey.
 

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FWIW, a friend of mine wanted to do this and became a reserve officer through training then got a job at a police department. May be an entry route since you are looking at a career change. She was about your age. She left after a few years of doing it though.
 

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FWIW, a friend of mine wanted to do this and became a reserve officer through training then got a job at a police department. May be an entry route since you are looking at a career change. She was about your age. She left after a few years of doing it though.
@jocoyn
Really?! This might be the way to go, I've never heard of a reserve officer program. I thought about going into LE because I enjoy field work, but at 39, even though I'm in great shape I didn't think it was a feasible route. Once I got back into training I realized I truly had a passion for working with dogs so I started looking at both federal and local / state LE based on my background in security. Funny that I've worked with dogs my whole life and never thought to make a job of it until recently.

Would you happen to have a contact that I could talk to about this? No better time to start than now :) Thanks so much!!!
 

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I really don't want to hand off her info, and states vary widely, but google reserve officer in Michigan and you get a lot of hits and you can follow up.

One thing she learned is that a lot of folks want to be a dog handler so it may be a hard way to get there but the contacts you make with the training may help you decide if it is for you. There are also companies that do drug sweeps for companies etc.
 
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