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Who's a Good Handler? Important Skills and Personality Profiles of Wildlife Detection Dog Handlers

By La Toya J. Jamieson, Greg S. Baxter, Peter J. Murray

Category Journal Articles

Wildlife detection dog teams are employed internationally for environmental surveys, and their success often depends on the dog handler. Minimal research is available on the skills that dog handlers believe are important, and no research has been published on the personality profiles of wildlife detection dog handlers. This may reveal the skills that people should acquire to be successful at, or suitable for, this work. An online questionnaire was distributed to Australian and New Zealand wildlife detection dog handlers. This questionnaire provided a list of skills to be rated based on importance, and a personality assessment measured their five main personality domains (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness). A total of 35 questionnaires were collected, which represented over half of the estimated Australian wildlife detection dog handler population. The handlers had on average 7.2 years of dog handling experience, and 54% were female. More than half (57%) of the handlers stated that they were very emotionally attached to their dogs; however, 9% stated they were either not attached or mildly attached to their working dogs. The skill that was rated highest for importance was ‘ability to read dog body language’, and the lowest was ‘skilled in report writing’. On average, the handlers scored high in the Agreeableness domain, low in the Neuroticism domain, and average in the Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness domains. However, all of the personality scores had large ranges. Therefore, a dog handler’s personality may not be as influential on their success as their training or their dog–handler bond. Further research would be beneficial regarding the direct impact that the dog–handler bond and the handler’s knowledge have on working team outcomes.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Animals
Volume 8
Issue 12
Pages 14
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani8120222
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Canine scent detection
  3. Dogs
  4. Mammals
  5. open access
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Wild animals
  1. open access