Animal Trainer Jobs
Beyond enjoying working with animals, the basis of animal training jobs is built upon an understanding of animals, both physically and mentally. Animal trainers enjoy very hands-on careers.
They can work in industries such as TV (training dogs, cat, etc. to react on cue) to performance venues (with animals at the circus or in amusement parks), for showing purposes, in agility and/or hunting, & even service and police/fire work.
Often, local animal shelters will offer dog training or behavior seminars, workshops or conferences, which feature excellent hands-on experience in this field. Topics can run the gamut, including specific breed background, choosing a puppy, the stages of dog development, house and crate training, command training, competition obedience training, canine health, handling and training aggressive dogs, handling and training shy or timid dogs, sport training, scent tracking, anatomy, service training, bomb and narcotics detection, search and rescue, and trick or cue training.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is another good resource for information; they also have an annual conference.
The ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center offers all types of animal training, including feline inappropriate elimination and urine spraying, and police canine training.
Dog training is probably the most recognized aspect of animal training careers. If you decide to pursue a dog training career, the first place to check is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), which provides ongoing training education, newsletters and discussion lists with other trainers, as well as outreach to both veterinary medicine and consumers regarding the importance of dog training.
National certification is obtained through the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers and requires passing an exam, at least 300 hours of experience in dog training within the last five years; a high school diploma or equivalent; and one reference each from a veterinarian, a client and a professional colleague. The exam covers dog behavior and training techniques in the areas of learning theory, instruction skills, husbandry, ethology and equipment.
Animal training jobs take time and practice, and often trainers consider themselves to be continually learning, although most study for at least three to five years before they consider themselves to even be novice trainers. Animal trainers must be effective, patient teachers and willing to work with both animals and humans to achieve the desired results. Animal trainers must also be able to communicate effectively and clearly, both to the animals they are training and the humans who are often accompanying those animals.
For anyone considering a career in animal training, volunteer work in local shelters and with other animal trainers will expose you to a variety of breeds and temperaments, all of which will help amass your knowledge base in this field.
A typical day for an animal trainer might entail communicating verbally and physically with animals, conditioning animals to respond to commands (remember Pavlov?) and offering positive reinforcement, and sometimes even caring for and feeding the animals, as well as keeping them properly exercised and mentally stimulated. In some cases, animal trainers also give talks to the public and media.
Although many dog trainers are self employed, some work for other trainers, veterinarians, shelters or groomers. Some jobs, such as trainers at habitat parks like SeaWorld, also require SCUBA, CPR and basic first aid skills, as well as physical strength and athletic ability.
Over 10,000 people work as animal trainers, and their median hourly wage is approximately $13.00, this according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.