Special Agent Canine Handlers

Special Agent Canine Handler and his K-9 prepare for training drillsATF special agents have a variety of specialization opportunities they may pursue after several successful years of service. Special agent canine handlers work with highly trained canines to detect shell casings, improvised and homemade explosive devices, explosive materials, and firearms. They often deploy to active crime scenes and work to locate trace amounts of explosives materials used by violent criminals to support their illegal activities. 


Special Agent Canine Handler Grace Reisling and K-9 Charlie Once they are selected for the role, special agent canine handlers attend a 10-week, scientifically based explosives detection canine training at ATF’s Canine Training Center in Front Royal, Virginia. The agent is matched with a canine, and together they go through intensive tests based on real world scenarios where they must locate a variety of hidden explosive materials. Upon completion of the training, ATF’s explosives detection canine teams are certified to identify the five basic explosives groups and have the capability to recognize more than 19,000 explosives compounds. 

Those who successfully complete the training are selected to join ATF’s National Response Teams, International Response Teams or Special Response Teams, where they use their specialized training to support investigations involving fires and arson. 

Special agent canine handlers must follow all certification requirements for each of their job specializations.  


Last Reviewed February 8, 2023