Animal Trainer Career Profile

How do I become an animal trainer?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for the career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools, while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED:

4 January 2024

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What is an animal trainer?

Train animals to become accustomed to humans and carry out tasks when commanded to do so. Training is also given to help rectify behavioral issues.

Animal Trainer

This is a general career Page

This career profile will focus on the overarching and general term for animal trainer. You can follow this general career if you have not decided yet on a kind of animal that you want to work with. The Group within the Community will also deal with the broader term of the career.

If you have decided on a specific animal to work with, here is a more detailed list. Click on the career name to go to it’s profile:

Career Categories

The Animal Trainer falls within several Career Categories. These are the ones where you will find this career:

  • Animal Care
  • Business
  • Law & Enforcement
  • Farming & Livestock Management
  • Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks

Most trained animals?

The animals that are the most trained and produce the most jobs, are dogs.

Chicken training?

Trainers used to practice their new techniques on chickens

What does an Animal Trainer do?

With which Groups of animals does an Animal Trainer work with?

Dogs List Icon OZT
Dogs
Critters List Icon OZT
Critters
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Birds List Icon OZT
Birds

Animal trainers work with a diverse range of animals, and the specific species can vary based on the trainer’s specialization and the industry in which they are employed. Here are some common types of animals that animal trainers may work with:

Domesticated Pets:

Dogs:

Many animal trainers specialize in dog training, including obedience training, behavioral modification, and specialized training for various tasks or roles.

Cats:

Some trainers work with cats to address behavioral issues, train them for specific activities, or engage them in activities like agility training.

Farm Animals:

Horses:

Equine trainers work with horses for riding, competition, and behavior modification.

Cattle, Sheep, and Pigs:

Livestock trainers may focus on handling and training farm animals for various purposes.

Zoo and Wildlife Animals:

Big Cats (Lions, Tigers, Leopards):

Zoo trainers may work with big cats to facilitate medical care, conduct educational demonstrations, or engage in enrichment activities.

Primates (Chimpanzees, Gorillas):

Trainers in zoos or wildlife sanctuaries may work with primates to promote mental stimulation and ensure their well-being.

Birds (Parrots, Raptors):

Avian trainers may work with birds for educational programs, demonstrations, or rehabilitation efforts.

Marine Mammals (Dolphins, Whales, Seals):

Marine mammal trainers often work in aquariums and marine parks, training animals for public displays, research, and conservation efforts.

Exotic Animals:

Reptiles (Snakes, Lizards):

Some trainers specialize in working with reptiles for educational programs or in zoological settings.

Small Mammals (Ferrets, Rabbits):

Trainers may work with small mammals for entertainment purposes or in educational settings.

Service and Assistance Animals:

Guide Dogs:

Trainers work with guide dogs to assist individuals with visual impairments.

Therapy Animals:

Trainers work with animals that provide therapeutic support to individuals in healthcare or educational settings.

Wildlife and Conservation:

Endangered species:

Trainers may be involved in training programs for endangered species in conservation efforts.

Wildlife Rehabilitation:

Individuals may work with wildlife for rehabilitation and release into their natural habitats.

Insects and Invertebrates:

Some trainers work with insects or invertebrates for educational purposes or in research settings.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does an Animal Trainer work?

An animal trainer typically works with animals and, depending on the specific job, may interact with various individuals and groups. Here are some of the key stakeholders an animal trainer might work with:

Animal Owners:

Many animal trainers work with individuals who own pets or specific animals. They may provide training sessions, advice, and guidance to pet owners on how to handle and train their animals.

Zookeepers and Zoo Staff:

Animal trainers in zoos often collaborate with zookeepers and other staff members to ensure the well-being and training of animals in captivity. They may work together to design and implement training programmes.

Veterinarians:

Collaboration with veterinarians is essential for the health and welfare of the animals. Animal trainers may consult with veterinarians to address any medical concerns or to ensure that training methods align with the animals’ physical well-being.

Educational Institutions:

Some animal trainers work in educational settings, such as schools, colleges, or universities. They may collaborate with educators to incorporate animal-related programmes into the curriculum or conduct educational demonstrations.

Entertainment Industry Professionals:

Animal trainers in the entertainment industry work with directors, producers, and other professionals to coordinate the use of trained animals in film, television, and live performances.

Conservation Organisations:

Animal trainers may work with conservation groups on projects related to the training and rehabilitation of endangered or at-risk species.

Government Agencies:

In some cases, animal trainers may collaborate with government agencies responsible for wildlife management, conservation, or animal welfare to address specific issues or initiatives.

Pet Adoption Agencies:

Animal trainers may partner with organisations involved in pet adoption to provide training for animals in shelters, increasing their chances of finding permanent homes.

Public:

Depending on the setting, animal trainers may also interact with the general public. This interaction could involve educating people about animals, conducting public demonstrations, or addressing concerns related to animal behaviour.

Effective communication and collaboration with these stakeholders are crucial for the success of an animal trainer’s work, as they contribute to the overall well-being and behaviour of the animals under their care.

What are the different specialisations or career directions that an Animal Trainer can venture into?

Animal trainers have a range of specialisations and career directions they can pursue within the field of animal training and behaviour modification. Here are some different paths that an animal trainer can venture into:

Pet Obedience Trainer:

Focus on training pet dogs and cats in basic obedience skills such as sit, stay, come, leash walking, and house training. Pet obedience trainers work with pet owners to improve communication, build positive relationships, and address behaviour issues.

Service Animal Trainer:

Specialise in training service dogs to assist individuals with disabilities such as mobility limitations, visual or hearing impairments, diabetes, epilepsy, or psychiatric conditions. Service animal trainers teach tasks specific to each individual’s needs, such as retrieving objects, alerting to medical conditions, or providing mobility support.

Therapy Animal Trainer:

Train therapy animals such as dogs, cats, and horses to work in therapeutic settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and rehabilitation centres. Therapy animal trainers focus on socialisation, calm behaviour, and obedience training to prepare animals for interactions with diverse populations in therapeutic environments.

Working Dog Trainer:

Work with working dogs trained for specific tasks such as search and rescue, detection (explosives, narcotics, contraband), police and military work, herding, hunting, or protection. Working dog trainers develop specialised skills and training protocols tailored to the demands of each working dog role.

Animal Show Trainer:

Train animals for entertainment purposes in shows, exhibitions, movies, and commercials. Show trainers work with various species, such as dogs, horses, birds, marine mammals, and exotic animals, teaching them tricks, behaviours, and routines for performances.

Wildlife Conservation Trainer:

Focus on training animals for conservation and research purposes in zoos, wildlife parks, and conservation organisations. Conservation trainers work with endangered species, promote natural behaviours, conduct training for medical procedures, and participate in conservation education programmes.

Animal Behaviour Consultant:

Provide behaviour modification and training consulting services for pet owners, shelters, rescue organisations, and veterinary clinics. Behaviour consultants assess behaviour problems, develop behaviour modification plans, offer training sessions, and provide guidance on managing and preventing behaviour issues.

Animal Training Instructor/Educator:

Teach and educate aspiring animal trainers in training schools, workshops, or educational programmes. Training instructors share expertise in training techniques, behaviour theory, learning principles, animal handling, and ethical considerations in animal training.

Agility Trainer:

Specialise in training dogs for agility competitions and events. Agility trainers teach dogs to navigate obstacle courses, including jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and ramps, while focusing on speed, accuracy, and teamwork between the handler and dog.

Equine Trainer:

Focus on training horses for various disciplines such as dressage, jumping, western riding, trail riding, and therapeutic riding. Equine trainers develop horse handling skills, riding techniques, and training programmes tailored to the horse’s temperament and intended use.

These specialisations offer diverse opportunities for animal trainers to work with different species, populations, and training goals while making a positive impact on animal welfare, human-animal relationships, and performance outcomes.

On what does an Animal Trainer focus?

Animal trainers focus on one of two things, getting an animal to behave properly, or teaching it to do something specific. In some situations they have to do both!

What are the daily tasks of an animal trainer?

The daily tasks of a general animal trainer can vary based on the specific context and setting in which they work. Here are some common tasks that animal trainers might perform on a day-to-day basis:

Training Sessions:

Conducting training sessions with animals to teach them specific behaviours or commands. This could involve basic obedience training, complex tricks, or specific tasks, depending on the type of animal and the goals of the training programme.

Observation and Assessment:

Observing the behaviour of animals helps assess their progress in training and identify areas that may need improvement. This involves keen observation of the animals’ responses to commands and cues.

Development of Training Plans:

Creating and updating training plans that outline the goals, methods, and progress of the training programme. This includes considering the individual needs and characteristics of each animal.

Positive Reinforcement:

Using positive reinforcement techniques to reward and encourage desired behaviours in animals. This may involve treats, praise, or other rewards to reinforce the connection between the behaviour and the positive outcome.

Health Monitoring:

Monitoring the health and well-being of the animals. This includes observing for signs of stress, illness, or other concerns and coordinating with veterinary professionals when necessary.

Communication with Animal Owners or Handlers:

If working with pet owners or handlers, communicate regularly to provide updates on the animal’s progress, discuss training strategies, and address any concerns or questions.

Record Keeping:

Maintaining detailed records of each animal’s training progress, behaviour, and any notable incidents. This information is valuable for tracking development and adjusting training plans accordingly.

Collaboration with Other Professionals:

Collaborating with veterinarians, zookeepers, or other animal care professionals to ensure the overall well-being of the animals and coordinate efforts to address any behavioural or health issues.

Public demonstrations or Education:

If working in a setting that involves public interaction, conduct educational demonstrations or programmes to raise awareness about animal behaviour, training techniques, and responsible pet ownership.

Enrichment Activities:

Implementing enrichment activities to keep animals mentally stimulated and physically active. This helps prevent boredom and promotes a positive Environment for the animals.

Problem-solving:

Addressing and resolving behavioural issues or challenges that may arise during training. This requires a good understanding of animal behaviour and effective problem-solving skills.

The specific tasks can vary widely depending on the type of animals being trained (e.g., dogs, exotic animals, marine mammals) and the goals of the training programme (e.g., obedience, entertainment, conservation). Adaptability, patience, and a deep understanding of animal behaviour are essential qualities for a successful animal trainer.

With what kind of tools and technology (if any) does an Animal Trainer work?

Animal trainers utilize a variety of tools and technologies to facilitate their training methods and improve communication with animals. These tools can range from basic equipment to advanced technologies. Here are some examples:

Basic Tools:

Clickers:

Clicker training is a common technique used in positive reinforcement training. Animal trainers use clickers to provide precise signals to mark desired behaviors, followed by a reward.

Whistles:

Whistles can be used as auditory cues in training sessions, particularly with animals like dogs or marine mammals.

Targets and Target Sticks:

Targets are objects (such as a stick or ball) that animals are trained to touch with their nose, paw, or another body part. Target sticks extend the reach of the trainer and can be used to guide animals during training.

Leashes and Harnesses:

For animals that require restraint or control during training, leashes and harnesses are essential tools. They provide a means for the trainer to guide and direct the animal’s movements.

Food Rewards:

Treats or food rewards are commonly used in positive reinforcement training to motivate animals and reinforce desired behaviors.

Toys and Play Equipment:

Play equipment, such as balls, ropes, or puzzle toys, can be used to engage animals in training sessions and provide mental stimulation.

Advanced Technology:

Training Clickers with Timers:

Some clickers are equipped with timers, allowing trainers to set specific intervals for reinforcement during training sessions.

Remote Training Collars:

Remote training collars, also known as electronic or e-collars, can be used to deliver remote cues or signals to animals, such as vibrations or mild stimuli, to reinforce behaviors.

Video Recording Equipment:

Video cameras and recording devices are valuable tools for trainers to review training sessions, analyze animal behavior, and assess progress over time.

Interactive Training Apps:

There are mobile apps designed for animal training, offering tools such as training schedules, behavior tracking, and video tutorials.

Biofeedback Devices:

Biofeedback devices can measure physiological indicators like heart rate or body temperature, providing insights into an animal’s emotional state and stress levels during training.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR):

Emerging technologies like VR and AR can be used to simulate training scenarios or create immersive environments for animal training, particularly in complex or hazardous situations.

GPS Tracking Devices:

GPS trackers can be attached to animals, particularly in outdoor or wildlife training contexts, to monitor movement patterns and assess behavior.

Communication Devices:

Devices like headsets or earpieces can facilitate communication between trainers during group training sessions or performances.

These tools and technologies are used to enhance the effectiveness, safety, and efficiency of animal training methods while promoting positive interactions between trainers and animals. However, it’s essential for trainers to prioritize ethical considerations and ensure that technology is used responsibly and in the best interest of the animals.

The working environment of an Animal Trainer

Where do Animal Trainers work?

The working environment of a general animal trainer can vary significantly based on the specific job role, industry, and type of animals they work with. Here’s an overview of the indoor and outdoor working environments that animal trainers might experience:

Indoor Working Environment:

Training Facilities:

Many animal trainers work in dedicated training facilities, such as training schools, pet training centres, or animal behaviour clinics. These environments are designed to provide controlled settings for training sessions.

Indoor Arenas or Studios:

Trainers working with animals for performances, shows, or movies may use indoor arenas or studios. These environments are equipped with props and equipment necessary for specific tasks or tricks.

Classrooms and Educational Institutions:

Animal trainers involved in education may work indoors in classrooms or lecture halls, conducting theoretical sessions and using multimedia presentations to teach students about animal behaviour and training techniques.

Office Spaces:

Administrative tasks, such as developing training plans, record-keeping, and communication with clients or colleagues, often take place in office spaces within training facilities or animal-related organisations.

Veterinary Clinics:

Animal trainers may collaborate with veterinarians and work in veterinary clinics, especially if the training involves addressing specific behavioural issues related to health or medical conditions.

Outdoor Working Environment:

Outdoor Training Yards:

Some training facilities have outdoor areas specifically designed for training sessions. These spaces provide a more natural environment and may be used for activities that require larger spaces.

Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries:

Animal trainers working with exotic or wild animals may spend a significant amount of time outdoors in zoo enclosures, wildlife sanctuaries, or natural habitats. This environment allows for more varied and dynamic training scenarios.

Dog Parks and Public Spaces:

Trainers working with domestic pets, particularly dogs, may conduct training sessions in outdoor spaces like dog parks or public areas. This provides real-world scenarios for training in different environments.

Entertainment Venues:

Trainers in the entertainment industry may work in outdoor settings such as film sets, theme parks, or live performance venues. Outdoor environments are often used for scenes requiring natural lighting or specific outdoor settings.

Conservation Projects:

Animal trainers involved in conservation projects may work outdoors in natural habitats, participating in fieldwork to train and rehabilitate animals as part of conservation efforts.

Hybrid Environments:

Mobile Units:

Some trainers, especially those working with animals in the entertainment industry or participating in outreach programmes, may have mobile units equipped for both indoor and outdoor training.

Client’s Homes:

Pet trainers may conduct sessions in clients’ homes, experiencing a mix of indoor and outdoor environments depending on the training requirements and the nature of the specific tasks.

In summary, the working environment of a general animal trainer can be diverse, ranging from indoor facilities and classrooms to outdoor spaces, zoos, and even natural habitats. The specific environment will depend on the type of animals being trained, the goals of the training programme, and the trainer’s area of specialisation. Adaptability is a key quality for animal trainers, as they may need to navigate various settings to meet the needs of their training programmes.

What is the average salary of an Animal Trainer?

Salaries for general animal trainers can vary widely depending on factors such as experience, location, industry, and the type of animals they work with. Additionally, data on animal trainer salaries may not be as readily available as for some other professions.

Here are general estimations for the average yearly salaries of animal trainers in the specified countries and regions.

Country-Specific Estimates:

USA:

The average annual salary for an animal trainer in the United States can range from $30,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on experience, location, and the industry (e.g., pet training, entertainment, zoos).

Canada:

In Canada, the average annual salary for animal trainers varies, but it is generally in the range of $35,000 to $55,000 or more.

UK:

Animal trainers in the United Kingdom may earn an average annual salary ranging from £20,000 to £35,000 or more, depending on factors like experience and location.

India:

Salaries for animal trainers in India can vary widely. In urban areas, an average annual salary might range from INR 3,00,000 to INR 6,00,000 or more.

Australia:

Animal trainers in Australia may earn an average annual salary of AUD 50,000 to AUD 70,000 or more, depending on factors such as experience and location.

New Zealand:

Salaries for animal trainers in New Zealand can vary, but an average annual salary might be in the range of NZD 45,000 to NZD 65,000 or more.

Nigeria:

In Nigeria, salaries for animal trainers can vary, and the average annual income may range from NGN 1,500,000 to NGN 3,000,000 or more, depending on factors such as location and industry.

Kenya:

Animal trainer salaries in Kenya can vary, but an average annual income might range from KES 500,000 to KES 1,000,000 or more.

South Africa:

In South Africa, salaries for animal trainers can range from ZAR 120,000 to ZAR 300,000 or more, depending on factors such as experience and industry.

Region-Specific Estimates:

South America:

Salaries for animal trainers in South America can vary by country and industry. In general, the average annual salary might range from $15,000 to $40,000 or more.

Europe:

In European countries, the average annual salary for animal trainers can vary widely. It might range from €20,000 to €40,000 or more, depending on factors such as location and experience.

Southeast Asia:

Salaries for animal trainers in Southeast Asia can vary by country. In general, the average annual salary might range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more.

Please note that these figures are general estimates and may not reflect the most current salary information. Additionally, salaries can vary based on changes in the job market, economic conditions, and other factors. For the most up-to-date and accurate salary information, it is recommended to consult local salary surveys, government labour statistics, or industry reports.

Can an Animal Trainer be promoted?

The levels of promotion for a general animal trainer can vary depending on the organisation, industry, and specific career path.

It’s important to note that not all animal trainers follow a linear progression through these levels, and career paths can vary based on individual goals, the size and structure of the organization, and the specific demands of the job. Additionally, continuous professional development, certifications, and staying informed about advancements in animal training techniques are important for career growth in this field.

Here are some common levels of promotion that animal trainers may experience in their careers:

Trainee or Assistant Animal Trainer

This is the entry-level position where individuals learn the basics of animal training. Trainees or assistant trainers often work under the supervision of more experienced trainers, gaining hands-on experience and developing their skills.

Animal Trainer

After gaining sufficient experience and demonstrating proficiency in animal training techniques, individuals may be promoted to the position of an animal trainer. At this level, they may take on more responsibility for designing and implementing training programs.

Senior Animal Trainer or Lead Trainer

As trainers gain more experience and expertise, they may be promoted to senior roles where they take on leadership responsibilities. This may involve overseeing a team of trainers, managing training programs, and contributing to the development of training strategies.

Supervisor or Manager

In larger organisations or facilities, experienced animal trainers may move into supervisory or managerial roles. In these positions, they may be responsible for not only training but also managing staff, budgets, and overall operations.

Director of Animal Training or Animal Care

At a higher level, individuals may advance to the position of director, where they oversee the entire animal training or care department. This role often involves strategic planning, collaboration with other departments, and ensuring that training programs align with organizational goals.

Curator or Department Head

In some settings, especially in zoos or aquariums, experienced animal trainers may advance to the role of curator or department head. This position involves broader responsibilities, including animal management, exhibit design, and collaboration with other departments.

Which difficulties does an Animal Trainer face?

Animal trainers face various challenges and difficulties in their profession. These challenges can arise from the nature of working with animals, the diverse environments in which they operate, and the specific goals of their training programmes.

Here are some common difficulties that animal trainers may encounter:

Communication Barriers:

Animals don’t communicate like humans, so understanding and interpreting their behaviour can be challenging. Communicating effectively with animals to convey commands and expectations requires a deep understanding of species-specific behaviours.

Safety Concerns:

Working with animals, especially those with potentially dangerous behaviours, poses inherent safety risks. Animal trainers must be vigilant and follow strict safety protocols to minimise the risk of injuries to both themselves and the animals.

Varied Learning Rates:

Different animals learn at different rates, and factors such as age, Breed, and previous experiences can affect their ability to grasp new commands. Trainers need to be patient and adaptable to accommodate individual learning styles.

Behavioural Challenges:

Animals may exhibit undesirable behaviours, such as aggression, fear, or anxiety. Addressing and modifying these behaviours can be time-consuming and require specialised training techniques.

Physical Demands:

Working with animals, particularly larger or more energetic ones, can be physically demanding. Trainers may need to handle animals of considerable size, requiring strength, agility, and endurance.

Emotional Attachment:

Developing strong bonds with animals is a rewarding aspect of the job, but it can also lead to emotional challenges. Trainers may experience attachment and emotional stress, especially in situations involving illness or the loss of an animal.

Public Perception and Pressure:

In certain roles, such as those in the entertainment industry or zoos, trainers may face public scrutiny and expectations. Balancing the desire for engaging performances with ethical considerations and animal welfare can be challenging.

Environmental Factors:

Training environments can vary widely, from controlled indoor spaces to outdoor settings. Adapting to different environments and dealing with factors like weather conditions can be challenging.

Limited Resources:

Some trainers, especially those working in smaller organisations or non-profits, may face limitations in terms of financial resources, facilities, and access to specialised equipment. This can impact the scope and quality of training programmes.

Legal and Ethical Considerations:

Animal trainers must navigate complex legal and ethical considerations related to the treatment and use of animals. Staying informed about regulations and ensuring compliance with ethical standards is crucial.

Continuous Professional Development:

The field of animal training is dynamic, with ongoing research and advancements. Trainers need to invest in continuous learning to stay updated on the latest training techniques, behavioural science, and animal welfare standards.

Despite these challenges, many animal trainers find their work highly rewarding, as they contribute to the well-being of animals and often play a role in conservation, education, or entertainment efforts. Effectively addressing these difficulties requires a combination of expertise, patience, empathy, and a commitment to the welfare of the animals in their care.

What are the future growth and possibilities within the Animal Trainer field?

The field of animal training continues to evolve, presenting several future growth opportunities and possibilities. Some trends and areas of development within the animal trainer field include:

Technological Advancements:

The integration of technology, such as virtual reality and interactive apps, into animal training programmes can enhance engagement and provide new avenues for training and enrichment.

Positive Reinforcement Techniques:

The emphasis on positive reinforcement techniques continues to grow, promoting ethical and effective methods of training that prioritise the well-being of animals. This trend is likely to persist, with trainers focusing on reward-based approaches.

Behavioural Science Research:

Ongoing research in behavioural science contributes to a deeper understanding of animal cognition and behaviour. Animal trainers can leverage this knowledge to refine training methodologies and develop more effective strategies.

Conservation and Wildlife Rehabilitation:

Animal trainers play a crucial role in conservation efforts and wildlife rehabilitation. As the importance of preserving Biodiversity and protecting endangered species becomes increasingly recognised, there will likely be a growth in opportunities for trainers in these areas.

Education and Public Outreach:

Animal trainers are often involved in educational programmes and public outreach initiatives. The demand for educational content about animal behaviour, training techniques, and responsible pet ownership creates opportunities for trainers to engage with diverse audiences.

Specialised Training Programmes:

The development of specialised training programmes for specific species or purposes, such as service animals, therapy animals, or wildlife conservation, offers trainers opportunities to specialise and become experts in niche areas.

Human-Animal Interaction Programmes:

The recognition of the therapeutic benefits of human-animal interactions has led to the growth of programmes involving trained animals in healthcare, rehabilitation, and mental health settings. Animal trainers can contribute to these programmes, expanding the field’s impact on human well-being.

Animal-Assisted Interventions:

Animal-assisted interventions, including activities involving therapy animals, are gaining popularity. Trainers with expertise in preparing animals for these interventions may find increased demand for their services.

Ethical and Welfare Standards:

There is a growing emphasis on ethical standards and animal welfare in the field of animal training. Trainers who prioritise humane treatment and welfare considerations are likely to be in demand as public awareness of these issues increases.

Global Collaboration and Research:

The interconnectedness of the world allows for increased collaboration and information exchange among animal trainers globally. This collaboration facilitates the sharing of best practises, research findings, and innovations in training methodologies.

Regulatory Changes:

Regulatory changes related to the treatment of animals may impact the industry. Trainers who stay informed about and comply with evolving regulations will be well-positioned for success.

Career Diversification:

Animal trainers may explore diverse career paths, including roles in academia, research, consulting, and content creation. The ability to diversify skill sets can open up new opportunities within and beyond traditional training settings.

Overall, the future growth and possibilities within the animal trainer field are influenced by advancements in science, changes in societal attitudes toward animals, and the ongoing need for skilled professionals who can contribute to animal welfare, conservation, and human-animal interactions. Continuous learning, adaptability, and a commitment to ethical practices will be key factors for success in this dynamic field.

Availability of Jobs

Goood

Which Skills does an Animal Trainer require?

The skills required for a career as an animal trainer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills and personality traits, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills and Personality Traits

Animal trainers work with a wide range of animals, from domestic pets to exotic species, to teach them specific behaviours or skills. Here are some specific personality traits commonly found in successful animal trainers:

Patience:

Animal training requires patience, as animals may learn at different rates and may not always respond immediately to training cues. Trainers must be patient and persistent, providing consistent guidance and reinforcement.

Empathy:

Understanding and empathising with the needs, emotions, and behaviours of animals is essential for effective training. Empathetic trainers can build trust and rapport with animals, creating a positive training environment.

Communication Skills:

Clear and effective communication is vital for conveying training cues and instructions to animals. Trainers must also be able to communicate with animal owners or handlers to provide guidance and support.

Positive Reinforcement:

Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats, praise, or play, is a cornerstone of animal training. Trainers must understand how to reward desired behaviours effectively to motivate animals to learn and perform.

Adaptability:

Animal trainers must be adaptable and able to modify their training techniques to suit the individual needs, abilities, and personalities of each animal. Flexibility is key to achieving success in training sessions.

Observation Skills:

Trainers must be observant and able to read the body language and behaviour of animals to assess their responses to training stimuli accurately. This allows trainers to adjust their approach as needed and address any issues or concerns that arise.

Problem-Solving Skills:

Animals may present challenges or obstacles during training sessions, requiring trainers to think creatively and develop solutions to overcome them. Trainers must be able to analyse situations and adjust their strategies accordingly to achieve training goals.

Confidence:

Confidence is essential for animal trainers to convey authority and leadership during training sessions. A confident demeanour helps to reassure animals and establish trust, making them more receptive to learning.

Passion for Animals:

Successful animal trainers have a genuine love and passion for working with animals. Their enthusiasm for animals motivates them to dedicate time and effort to training, ultimately enhancing the welfare and well-being of the animals under their care.

Physical Fitness:

Some forms of animal training, such as working with large or energetic animals, may require trainers to have good physical fitness and agility to handle and interact with animals safely.

Successful animal trainers possess a combination of patience, empathy, communication skills, positive reinforcement techniques, adaptability, observation skills, problem-solving skills, confidence, passion for animals, and physical fitness, enabling them to effectively train a wide variety of animals and achieve desired behavioural outcomes.

Life Skills
45%

Career Skills

  • ​Good animal handling and care techniques
  • Basic instructing techniques
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Basic computer literacy
Career Skills
55%

Which Subjects must I have at School to help me become an Animal Trainer?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study after School?

Minimum educational requirement

The minimum educational qualification to become a general animal trainer is typically a high school diploma or equivalent. While formal education beyond high school is not always required, having a higher level of education can enhance your knowledge and competitiveness in the field.

Study Focus

Major Subjects to Focus on in Studies:

While there isn’t a specific degree required to become an animal trainer, choosing relevant majors or subjects in higher education can be advantageous. Consider pursuing a degree in one of the following fields:

Animal Science or Biology:

Provides a strong foundation in biological principles, anatomy, physiology, and zoology, which are essential for understanding animal behaviour.

Psychology:

Offers insights into learning theories, behaviour modification, and cognition, which are valuable for designing effective training programmes.

Ethology or Animal Behaviour:

It focuses specifically on the study of animal behaviour, providing in-depth knowledge about species-specific behaviours and the science of animal training.

Veterinary Science or Pre-Veterinary Studies:

It is helpful if you plan to work with animals in healthcare or rehabilitation, providing a basic understanding of veterinary concepts.

Advanced Type Studies:

To further specialise or advance your career, consider pursuing advanced studies such as:

Master’s Degree in Animal Behaviour or Ethology:

Offers a more in-depth understanding of animal behaviour, research methods, and advanced training techniques.

Certification Programmes in Animal Training:

Some organisations offer certification programmes specifically for animal trainers. These programmes may include practical training components and assessments.

Advanced Courses in Specific Training Methods:

Depending on your area of interest (e.g., marine mammal training, dog training), consider advanced courses that focus on specific species or training methods.

Short Courses:

Short courses can provide practical and specialised knowledge. Consider taking short courses in areas such as:

Positive Reinforcement Training Techniques:

Focuses on reward-based training methods, a commonly used approach in animal training.

Animal Handling and Safety:

Covers safe and effective techniques for handling animals, emphasising the well-being of both trainers and animals.

Behaviour Modification and Problem-Solving:

Addresses strategies for modifying undesirable behaviours and solving training challenges.

Introduction to Clicker Training:

Clicker training is a popular positive reinforcement technique; a short course can provide hands-on experience.

Business and Marketing for Animal Trainers:

It is useful for those interested in starting their own training business, covering essential business and marketing principles.

Study Duration

The duration of most diplomas are between 1 and 3 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Attend career guidance sessions at school or community events to gain insights into various animal-related careers, including animal training.

2. Research all of the Possible Careers:

Conduct thorough research on careers related to animal training, such as becoming a pet trainer, zookeeper, marine mammal trainer, or wildlife rehabilitator.

3. Explore Educational Paths:

Explore educational paths by researching colleges, universities, or vocational training programmes that offer courses in animal science, biology, psychology, or related fields.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Choose high school subjects that align with the chosen educational path. Focus on biology, psychology, and other science-related subjects. Consider taking elective courses related to animals if they are available.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Ensure successful completion of high school with a diploma or equivalent qualification, meeting the educational requirements for further studies.

6. Learn about Animals that Will Work With:

Gain knowledge about different species of animals, their behaviours, and specific training requirements. This can be achieved through reading books, attending workshops, or participating in online courses.

7. Align Post-School Path:

Consider options for post-school paths, whether entering the workforce directly, pursuing further studies at a university or vocational school, or exploring entrepreneurship by starting a business.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.:

Seek opportunities for hands-on experience by volunteering at animal shelters, wildlife sanctuaries, or pet training facilities. Explore internships or mentorship programmes with experienced animal trainers.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Engage in extracurricular activities related to animals, such as participating in 4-H clubs, joining animal welfare organisations, or volunteering at local animal events.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Join professional associations related to animal training, such as the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) or the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA), to connect with professionals in the field.

11. Gain specialised Skills:

Acquire specialised skills by attending workshops or short courses in positive reinforcement training, animal behaviour modification, and other relevant topics.

12. Network with Professionals:

Network with professionals in the field by attending industry conferences, workshops, or local events. Connect with animal trainers, veterinarians, and others who can provide guidance and mentorship.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business:

Depending on the chosen path, enter the job market with entry-level positions, pursue tertiary studies at a college or university, or consider launching a small animal training business.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Stay updated on industry trends and advancements by subscribing to relevant publications, attending continuing education courses, and participating in workshops or conferences.

By following these steps, a high school student interested in becoming a general animal trainer can build a solid foundation of knowledge, gain practical experience, and make informed decisions about their educational and career paths.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternative(s):

Stepping Stone Career

A stepping-stone career refers to a job or position that serves as a transitional or intermediate step towards a long-term career goal. Individuals may take on a stepping-stone job as it requires minimum education or finances to enter, or to gain relevant experience and develop skills, or to make professional connections that will ultimately help them progress towards their desired career path.

These interim positions may not be the ultimate or dream job, but they provide valuable learning opportunities and contribute to the individual’s overall career development. Stepping-stone careers are often seen as a strategic approach to building a successful and fulfilling professional trajectory, allowing individuals to gradually move closer to their desired roles or industries.

A career as a general animal trainer can provide individuals with a diverse set of skills and experiences that may open doors to various related and complementary career paths.

Here are some potential career options that individuals with a background in animal training might explore in the future:

Training and apprenticeship

On-the-job training and apprenticeship requirements for a person entering a general animal trainer career can vary based on the specific industry, employer, and type of animals being trained. Here are general considerations and potential requirements:

On-the-Job Training:

Observation and Shadowing:

New animal trainers often start by observing experienced trainers in action. This provides an opportunity to learn practical techniques and gain insights into handling different animals.

Hands-On Training:

Trainees gradually engage in hands-on training under the supervision of experienced mentors. This may involve working with a variety of animals to develop practical skills.

Progressive Responsibility:

As trainees gain confidence and demonstrate competence, they may be given progressively more responsibility in designing and conducting training sessions.

Client Interaction:

For trainers involved in pet training, on-the-job training may include interacting with clients to understand their needs, providing training advice, and addressing concerns.

Behavioural Problem-Solving:

Trainees may be involved in addressing behavioural issues in animals, requiring problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt training strategies.

Record-Keeping:

Learning to maintain accurate records of training sessions, progress, and any notable incidents is often part of on-the-job training.

Apprenticeship Requirements:

Formal Apprenticeship Programmes:

Some animal training organisations or institutions offer formal apprenticeship programmes. These programmes may have a structured curriculum and a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training.

Duration of Apprenticeship:

The duration of an apprenticeship can vary. It may last several months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the training involved and the industry.

Supervised Practical Training:

Apprenticeships typically involve supervised, practical training with experienced trainers. This allows apprentices to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Skill Development:

Apprenticeships focus on skill development, covering areas such as positive reinforcement techniques, animal behaviour observation, and effective communication with animals.

Certification or Endorsement:

The completion of an apprenticeship may lead to a certification or endorsement from the training organisation, indicating that the apprentice has met certain standards of competence.

Theory and Classroom Instruction:

In addition to practical training, apprenticeships may include theoretical components, covering topics like animal psychology, learning theory, and training methodologies.

Assessment and Evaluation:

Apprentices may undergo assessments and evaluations to ensure they meet predetermined standards of proficiency. This could involve practical demonstrations and written examinations.

Professional Ethics and Conduct:

Apprenticeship programmes often include training on professional ethics, emphasising humane treatment of animals, client communication, and adherence to industry standards.

Networking Opportunities:

Apprenticeships provide networking opportunities, allowing individuals to connect with established professionals in the field and build valuable relationships.

Continued Education Opportunities:

Some apprenticeship programmes offer continued education opportunities, encouraging lifelong learning and staying updated on industry advancements.

It’s important for aspiring animal trainers to seek out reputable apprenticeship programmes or on-the-job training opportunities provided by experienced trainers, training facilities, or animal-related organisations. Building a strong foundation of practical skills, combined with theoretical knowledge, is crucial for success in the field of animal training.

Average level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

The licensing, certification, or registration requirements for becoming a general animal trainer can vary depending on the specific area of animal training and the country or region. In many cases, there may not be a universal licencing requirement for animal trainers, but certifications or registrations from reputable organisations can enhance credibility and demonstrate a commitment to professional standards. Here are some considerations:

Certifications from Professional Organizations:

  • Many animal trainers choose to obtain certifications from recognised professional organisations in the field. These certifications often involve passing exams, demonstrating practical skills, and adhering to ethical standards. Examples of organisations offering certifications include:
    • International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
    • Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
    • International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA)
    • Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)

Degree or Diploma in Animal Science or Related Field:

  • While not a license, having a relevant degree or diploma in animal science, biology, psychology, or a related field can contribute to a trainer’s credibility and may be required by some employers.

Business Licences:

  • If an animal trainer operates their own business, they may need to obtain a business licence or register their business with local authorities. This ensures compliance with local regulations.

Permits for Specific Activities:

  • In some cases, trainers working with certain types of animals or engaging in specific activities (e.g., wildlife rehabilitation, exotic animal training) may need permits or licences from relevant government agencies.

Compliance with Local Animal Welfare Laws:

  • Animal trainers should be knowledgeable about and comply with local animal welfare laws and regulations. This may include adherence to standards set by animal control, agricultural departments, or other regulatory bodies.

Insurance Coverage:

  • While not a licence, having liability insurance is important for animal trainers, especially those working with the public. Insurance coverage can protect trainers in the event of accidents or injuries.

Continuing Education Requirements:

  • Some certifications may have ongoing education requirements for renewal. Trainers may need to participate in workshops, seminars, or other professional development activities to maintain their certification.

Documentation of Experience:

  • Certain certifications or registrations may require documentation of hands-on experience in animal training. This can be in the form of a portfolio, letters of recommendation, or verification from employers.

Membership in Professional Associations:

  • Joining professional associations related to animal training, even if not mandatory, can provide access to resources, networking opportunities, and a sense of community within the industry.

It’s important for individuals aspiring to become animal trainers to research and understand the specific requirements in their region and the area of animal training they wish to pursue. Additionally, staying informed about any changes in regulations or industry standards is crucial for maintaining compliance and professionalism in the field.

Professional Associations

There are several regional and international professional associations and societies that cater to the interests and needs of animal trainers. These organisations often provide resources, networking opportunities, certifications, and educational programmes to support professionals in the field. Here are some notable associations and societies for general animal trainers:

International Associations:

International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP):

  • Website: IACP
  • Focus: Professional organisation for individuals involved in training, behaviour, and well-being of dogs.

International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA):

  • Website: IMATA
  • Focus: Dedicated to advancing the humane care and handling of marine animals through training, public display, research, and conservation

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT):

  • Website: APDT
  • Focus: Provides education, resources, and a community for dog trainers and behaviour consultants.

Regional Associations (United States):

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT):

  • Website: CCPDT
  • Focus: Offers certification for professional dog trainers and behaviour consultants.

International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators (IAATE):

  • Website: IAATE
  • Focus: Dedicated to advancing the field of avian training and education.

Regional Associations (United Kingdom):

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT UK):

  • Website: APDT UK
  • Focus: Promotes kind and effective training methods for dogs.

The Canine Behaviour & Training Society (TCBTS):

  • Website: TCBTS
  • Focus: Provides education and support for professionals in the canine behaviour and training fields.

Regional Associations (Australia):

Delta Institute (Delta Society Australia):

  • Website: Delta Institute
  • Focus: Promotes positive reinforcement-based training methods and offers education for dog trainers and behaviour consultants.

Australian Association of Professional Dog Trainers (AAPDT):

  • Website: AAPDT
  • Focus: Supports and educates professional dog trainers in Australia.

Note:

Check the specific focus and eligibility criteria of each association to find the most relevant organisation for your area of interest.

Some associations may have international memberships, allowing individuals from various regions to join.

Consider exploring associations related to specific animal species or training methods based on your niche interests.

Joining professional associations provides opportunities for networking, continuing education, and staying updated on industry trends. Additionally, some associations offer certification programmes that can enhance your credibility as a general animal trainer.

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care and training.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:

CAREER PATH PLAN

Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

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Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

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STUDY GUIDE

Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

OR

Join the OZT online community for special access to more tools!

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an animal trainer. We have Groups for each career, but because there are different kinds of animals or species you can work with in animal training, we have a Group for each career. Check on the list again at the top of this page, if you already know which you want to work with. If you don’t, and just want to talk to other in the meantime about training animals, then please join this general Group.

Members of the Group and Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Trainer, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu.

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Animal Behaviour

Animal Training Academy

International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP):

  • Website: International Association of Canine Professionals
  • Description: The IACP is an organisation dedicated to the education and support of professional dog trainers. The website provides resources, training opportunities, and a directory of certified canine professionals.

Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT):

  • Website: Association of Professional Dog Trainers
  • Description: APDT is an organisation focused on promoting ethical, science-based training methods for dogs. The website offers educational resources, training events, and a directory of certified dog trainers.

International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA):

  • Website: International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association
  • Description: IMATA is an organisation for professionals involved in the care and training of marine animals. The website provides resources, conferences, and information for those interested in a career as a marine animal trainer.

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