How to Become an Animal Trainer

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Animal training is an important field that deals with teaching a variety of animals to respond to specific commands. Animal trainers are skilled professionals that train a variety of animals for many different reasons.

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What does an animal trainer do?

Animal trainers train animals for a variety of reasons such as obedience, riding, performance, security, and assisting disabled persons. They employ training methods such as acclimating animals to human voice and contact and training the animal to react to commands. They also use stimuli to communicate when an animal responds correctly to a command. They often use positive reinforcement including food, toys, rubdowns, praise, and play. Some animal trainers use punishment to train animals. Animal trainers provide animals with physical exercise, mental stimulation, and medical care during their training process. They also supervise many other animal care tasks such as preparing food and providing an environment and habitat that is clean and safe.

What kind of training does an animal trainer need?

Animal trainers need at least a high school diploma or GED. Some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor degree in animal science or other related field. Many aspiring animal trainers complete programs at community colleges and vocational and technical schools. Most employers provide on the job training where new employees work with experience animal trainers to learn the procedures, policies, and training techniques of the employer. Many animal trainers gain certification to remain competitive in the field. Animal trainers must stay up to date on advancements in the field and often complete continuing education and attend workshops and seminars throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as an animal trainer?

Employment of animal trainers is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growth in the pet population and the increased training needs will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for animal trainers with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace animal trainers that retire, transfer, or leave the profession for other reasons.

How much do animal trainers make?

As of November 2009, animal trainers with 1 to 4 years experience earn average annual salaries between $12,335 and $49,132. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $20,000 and $30,086 (2).

A career as an animal trainer is an excellent choice for people with a great love for animals. Animal trainers must have experience working with many different animals. Patience, respect, sensitivity, excellent problem solving are desirable characteristics of animal trainers. They also need excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they interact with a variety of other professionals and clients. They must be able to work effectively independently as well as part of a team. Animal trainers must be able to work in unpleasant and sometimes dangerous conditions.

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