USMC Working Dog Handler Job Description (MOS 5812)

A military working dog sits at the feet of his dog handler.
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A Marine Corps Dog Handler is a challenging Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). It is a secondary MOS only available to Military Police (MOS 5811). You must first be selected to attend MP training after attending Marine Combat Training (MCT). 

A military working dog (MWD) handler is a military policeman (MP) who is trained to employ a military working dog to conduct vehicle searches, searches of open areas, buildings, vehicles and other locations for the detection of explosives or illegal drugs. The handler also can search for missing friendly force personnel and enemy combatants, as well as lost or wanted individuals.

Military working dogs and their handlers are vital for the detection of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the field. The dogs are trained for three years before they are ready for duty, and their handlers continue to train them afterward. The presence of a military working dog and handler provides security and confidence to Marines, knowing a dog has swept a potentially hazardous area.

Becoming a Marine Working Dog Handler

Selection for USMC dog handler is a strict process, and the positions are few and highly sought-after. It is a secondary MOS to Military Police (MOS 5811). Those interested in training as a USMC dog handler will face competition for the limited spots, and scores in physical fitness, exams and shooting are taken into account, as well as class performance, background before joining the Marine Corps, and conduct. You will be questioned by a panel of senior instructors to gauge your military knowledge, as well as your ability to answer personal questions. You may even be asked to explain why you should be selected as a dog handler in an essay.

The selection board will also look at your entire record, so you have to be a solid Marine with first-class PFT scores, high rifle qualifications, no Non-Judicial Punishments, as well as recommendations from your instructors. Chances of becoming an MP are not guaranteed out of MCT. The advanced training of dog handler is 100% up to the Marine and their performance from the first day of their Marine Corps career.

Dog handlers in the Marine Corps are selected on completion of military police training school and are not required to begin first as military police first before moving on to dog handler training.


To become a working dog handler, candidates must complete the Military Working Dog Basic Handler Course conducted by the 341st Training Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, TX where you will learn how to be a military working dog handler alongside other service members from the Navy, Air Force, and Army. 

Training also entails working with and building a rapport with a dog before going out on patrols. Handlers are matched with dogs that have similar personalities. Handlers have a month to build this rapport with their partner dog.

Breeds of Working Dogs

Military working dogs are selected from breeds that possess the right temperament, are capable of undergoing long periods of training, and have a strong desire to please their handler. For the military, the breeds most commonly used are the following:
German Shepherds - This breed saves countless lives on the battlefield and are treated like beloved fellow soldiers. 

Belgian Malinois - Used by all forces of the military, the Belgian Malinois can be used for a variety of missions from drug and explosives detection as well as enemy combatant restraining and early warning of incoming insurgents.

Job Details and Requirements

  • Must currently hold MOS 5811.
  • Possess no fear of dogs.
  • To protect against certain infections from dogs, handlers must have a spleen.
  • Must be a volunteer.
  • Complete the Military Working Dog Basic Handler Course, Specialized Search Dog Handler Course or Combat Tracker Dog Handler Course.

Type of MOS: NMOS

Rank Range: SSgt to Pvt

Related Department of Labor Occupation Codes: None

Related Marine Corps Jobs: None