K-9 Officer Job Information

Job Duties, Education Requirements and Salary Outlook for Handlers

Funeral For Rapper Proof Held In Detroit
Bill Pugliano / Stringer / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Man's best friend can also be a cop's best friend. Among the variety of careers in criminology, K-9 officers know better than anyone that they have a good thing going. Dog owners know their pets are loving, loyal and protective.

Research has shown that pet owners tend to live longer and are generally happier. Imagine, then, how much fun your work day could be if your closest coworker and partner walked around on four legs and loved belly rubs.

If you ask any K-9 officer about their job, they will no doubt tell you they love it and wouldn't do anything else. Working with police K-9's is fun, rewarding and exciting. K-9 officers love their partners, and their partners love them.

Job Functions and Work Environment of K-9 Officers

K-9 officers are specialized units within a police force. Their primary tasks include drug interdiction and tracking, locating and apprehending fleeing criminals or missing persons. Some K-9's may assist in locating bombs or bomb materials or cadavers.

Most dogs and handlers are trained for multiple purposes so that they can provide maximum benefit and as much return on investment as possible. This means anyone K-9 team may be called upon to search for people, explosives or drugs, and sometimes perhaps all three in the same shift.

Generally, K-9 officers spend their days on patrol, assisting in calls for service and making traffic stops until needed.

Some agencies have tasked their K-9 officers with specific drug interdiction duties. In these agencies, handlers work with their K-9 partner and another officer to conduct traffic stops and locate contraband, including illegal drugs and money.

In the event, a subject flees from a patrol officer, or a person has gone missing, K-9 officers will be called to track them.

Handlers are trained to read their four-legged friends' body language so they can be more effective on the track.

The job of a K-9 officer often includes:

  • Tracking suspects
  • Locating illegal drugs
  • Locating illegal currency
  • Locating explosives
  • Patrolling streets and communities
  • Continuing training and certification
  • Writing reports
  • Testifying in court
  •  

K-9's become part of the family for handlers. Quite often, they live at home with their partner and roam around the house like any other family pet. Police K-9's are incredibly adept at separating work life from home life, but they seem to love both truly.

The K-9 is often just as comfortable on the couch having his ears scratched as he is on a track or a drug sniff.  The officer, of course, has the benefit of going to work with his best friend every day.

Education And Skill Requirements for K-9 Officers

Typically, K-9 officers come from within the ranks of police officers. The good news is that law enforcement is one of the many careers in criminology that may not require a degree. The bad news is that a K-9 officer career is not an entry-level job.

To become a handler, you will have to spend some time as a patrol officer.  Of course, police academy training is the first step in the process.

Officers selected to become handlers will usually have a history of making strong drug cases, proactive patrolling and making felony arrests. They will generally have a good overall reputation of being a hard worker and a good officer.

K-9 handlers undergo extensive training with their partners. Depending on your state, you can expect to receive hundreds of hours of initial training before you, and your dog can be certified.

Additional, teams participate in ongoing,  continuing education and training on an almost weekly basis to remain fresh and maintain their certifications.

Job Growth and Salary Outlook For Police K-9 Officers

Law enforcement, in general, continues to be an in-demand job around the United States, and agencies are devising plans to put more officers on the road despite budget cuts and constraints.

Specialized units like K-9 teams play a vital role in modern law enforcement. Jobs are expected to become available both through the growth of programs and natural attrition.

Though not typically a promotion per se, K-9 handlers quite often receive a salary additive to their pay, sometimes in the thousands of dollars per year, in recognition of the extra time and work they do and the valuable training and certification they receive.

K-9 officers may earn between $35,00 and $50,000 or more depending on the agency they work for and their years of service.

Is a Career as a K-9 Officer Right for You?

Few jobs are as fun or rewarding as that of a K-9 officer. Handlers get requested to assist at all of the "hot calls," they get to work with their best friends, and they spend a great deal of time training and honing their skills.  

They also get the reward of knowing they've helped to find a missing person, apprehend a dangerous suspect or got contraband off of the road and out of the hands of criminals. If you like law enforcement and you love dogs, then working as a K-9 handler is the perfect criminology career for you.

Find Your Next Job

Job Search by