Do You Want to Be an Animal Trainer?

Job Description

Man with Dog
ML Harris/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Whoever doubts that animals have minds of their own has never had a pet. Whether you've tried to housebreak a stubborn puppy or teach a parakeet to talk, you know it isn't easy. There are professional animal trainers who know how to use the proper techniques to get animals to behave the way they want them to.

An animal trainer knows how to teach dogs, horses, or even marine animals to display certain behaviors or keep them from exhibiting others.

 Animal trainers help animals become accustomed to human contact and teach them to respond to commands. They may work with show animals, service animals, or family pets.

Quick Facts

  • Animal trainers earned a median annual salary of $27,690 in 2016.
  • This occupation employed About 37,000 people in 2014.
  • They work for kennels, zoos, aquariums, animal shelters, and animal rescue organizations.
  • About one-quarter of animal trainers were self-employed.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in this field will grow faster, in general, than the average for all occupations through 2024. More specifically, dog trainer will see a lot of job openings in the future, but horse and marine mammal trainers will face intense competition.
  • One of the greatest risks associated with this occupation comes from working with aggressive or frightened animals who may bite, kick, or scratch, causing injuries.

    A Day in an Animal Trainer's Life

    These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for animal trainer positions found on Indeed.com. As you can see, the tasks vary significantly depending on the type of animal with which one works.

    • Doggy Daycare Center: "Keep dogs safe and help them learn manners"
    • Pet Supply Chain Store: "Coach, encourage, and motivate dogs and pet parents"
    • Aquarium: " Execute daily care and behavioral conditioning of pinnipeds"
    • Animal Shelter: "Educate our volunteers, adopters, and community on dog behavior and training"
    • Humane Society: "Work with other staff on post-adoption challenges with training class students"
    • Animal Entertainment Production Company: "Assist with animal care and back stage responsibilities"

    Educational Requirements

    In most cases, animal trainers need a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED). Sometimes a bachelor's degree is required. For example, a marine mammal trainer must have a bachelor's degree in biology, marine biology, animal science, or a related field.

    According to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), most dog trainers are self-educated They go on to say that certification is available from many training courses that are "happy to charge you a fee" for a certificate. The organization advises those who want to attend a training school to "do your homework." They provide a short list of what to look for in a program (So You Want to Be a Dog Trainer).

    What Soft Skills Will Help You Succeed in This Career?

    In addition to their knowledge about animal behavior and how to modify it, animal trainers need certain soft skills, or character traits, to do this job.

    They are:

    • Interpersonal Skills: While your job will involve training animals, you will have to work with their owners. Your ability to get along with human beings will help you tremendously. You must have patience and compassion.
    • Instructing: Not only must you be able to teach your animal clients, but you must also be able to provide instruction to the people who care for them.
    • Problem SolvingThe ability to detect problems as well as come up with solutions to them is needed.
    • Physical Stamina: Bending, lifting, and kneeling are a regular part of the job for animal trainers. You need the stamina to do all three.
    • ListeningYour ability to understand the needs of your human clients is imperative.
    • Monitoring: You need keen observational skills when working with animals since they cannot verbally let you know how they are doing.

      What Will Employers Expect From You?

      These requirements are from actual job announcements found on Indeed.com:

      • "Strong ability to inspire and motivate self and others"
      • "Positive can-do attitude"
      • "Strong team skills"
      • "Able to set goals, prioritize and provide feedback to others in order to complete multiple tasks on or before deadline"
      • "Exception organizational and time management skills"

      Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

      Occupations With Related Activities and Tasks

       DescriptionAnnual Salary (2016)Educational Requirements
      GroomerMaintains the appearances of animals$21,990On-the-job training or attendance at state-licensed training programs
      Fitness TrainerTeaches and motivates people in fitness activities$38,160Minimum of a high school diploma but many employers require an associate or bachelor's degree
      Recreation WorkerDesigns and leads groups in leisure activities$23,870Bachelor's degree
      FarmworkerCares for live animals by tending to tasks such as feeding, watering and examining them$24,520On-the-job training

      Sources:
      Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited June 26, 2017).
      Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited June 26, 2017).

      Find Your Next Job

      Job Search by