An animal trainer trains animals so they can get accustomed to human voices and gestures and follow commands. You will get the opportunity to interact with a wide range of animals, from those that live on land like dogs and horses to those that live on water like dolphins and other marine mammals. In addition to training them to obey their owners, you can also train animals to provide security, to perform in circuses and other shows and to help those with disabilities.
From terrestrial animals to marine creatures, you will be utilizing positive reinforcement to encourage the behaviors you want the animals to continue. Since you will be responsible for the health and welfare of the animals you train, you will also be tasked to feed them, exercise them and administer medications if necessary while they are under your care. You will also record their performance, the food they eat and their behavior so you can address any health and behavioral issues right away.
When training animals for a show, you need to follow standards set forth by the organizer to prevent disqualification. In teaching dogs to assist those with disabilities, training often involves teaching them how to lead the blind to navigate the busy streets without accident. There are also dogs that are trained to work as members of a team carrying heavy loads. Canines in law enforcement, meanwhile, are taught how to sniff bombs, illegal drugs and weapons both in people and cargo.
No matter what type of animal you train, you won’t succeed in this profession if you don’t genuinely love and care for animals. Respecting them as creatures that also have rights and feelings is the foundation of all your training efforts. You also need to have tons of patience. It can take a long time for some animals to heed what you say or follow you so if you give up immediately, you won’t get very far in this career. You also need to be a keen observer and problem solver so you can understand why an animal is behaving in a certain way and why it’s not following you. Only by understanding the reason behind the animal’s behavior will you be able to employ the best training strategies that will finally produce results. Needless to say, knowledge of animal behavior is crucial in this occupation.
The first reason to become an animal trainer is that you truly love animals. Whether it’s a dog, cat or dolphin, what’s important is the passion you have to interact and understand these creatures at a much deeper level. Nothing is more fulfilling than teaching a dog to lead those with disabilities, and in the process, giving the blind and other disabled individuals the chance to lead a normal life as much as possible. Another reason to become an animal trainer is that job prospects are expected to be good for the profession in the next few years.
Animal Trainer Work Environment
The work environment of animal trainers depends on the type of animals they train. Those who work with dolphins will be working in large pools in amusement parks while those who train dogs can work in a variety of facilities. For example, they can do their jobs inside dog training facilities of law enforcement agencies or they can simply train canines in the client’s own backyard.
Animal trainers experience a high rate of injuries and illnesses because they may be asked to handle highly aggressive dogs. In some parts of the training program, for example, they may have to play the role of the “bad guy” who will be attacked by the dog to protect the latter’s master. Even if trainers are wearing protective clothing, accidents can still occur and they could get bitten. Furthermore, there have been animal trainers working with large marine animals such as whales that have experienced death in their jaws.
In addition to wearing protective clothing, these accidents can be minimized if the trainer has a very comprehensive understanding of the behavior of the animals he is training.
Animal Trainer Salary
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of animal trainers is $31,030. The top-paying industries for this occupation are independent artists, writers and performers ($60,890), followed by performing arts companies ($41,550), local government ($38,120), elementary and secondary schools ($37,390) and individual and family services ($35,900). Animal trainers working in New Mexico, New York, Delaware, California and Oregon are among the highest paid.
Animal Trainer Career Outlook
The prospects of employment for animal care and service workers are quite good. For the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate is expected to rise 15 percent. This rate is much faster than the average for all job types. For animal trainers, there will be opportunities because of employment growth and high turnover rates. Thus, from the 41,600 animal trainers employed in 2012, their number is expected to increase to 47,700 in 2022. That being said, zoos and recreation and amusement firms aren’t expected to hire a lot of trainers inasmuch as they aren’t predicted to have a lot of jobs available like other facilities providing pet care services.
Animal Trainer Degree
Aspiring animal trainers need to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent to get entry-level jobs. However, there are employers that would require a bachelor’s degree, such as what marine mammal trainers have to obtain. A bachelor’s degree in marine biology, biology, animal science or related fields is a requirement for those who wish to train dolphins and other marine creatures.
Certification beefs up one’s credentials because it demonstrates professionalism and knowledge of the job. There are a number of professional associations and other trade schools approved by the state as well as private vocational schools that provide certification for dog trainers. Before marine mammal trainers can do their work, they also need to obtain a SCUBA certification.