An animal trainer provides obedience training, security training, service animal training, or even works with animals for competitions or the entertainment industry. They may also teach animals to respond to work in a pack team, as well as to carry pack loads. They familiarize an animal to human commands and human contact.
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How to Become an Animal Trainer
According to O*Net Online, most animal trainers have a high school diploma or some college. However, to become an animal trainer, no degree is required. Employers may look more favorable on a candidate with some vocational training or certification or a few years job experience.
You can also become a dog trainer for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). You can visit cbp.gov (link opens in a new tab) to learn about training patrol agents can attain to learn about canine behavior. Next, the CBP offers additional dog training for various purposes such as special response and tracking. With experience, an agent can become trained to become a Canine Instructor.
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Job Description of an Animal Trainer
Animal trainers typically interact with animals to help them become familiar with human voice and contact. They teach them to respond to signals or cues by providing training programs to develop certain animal behaviors. He or she may provide general care of the animals they work with as well, such as exercising and feeding.
Animal trainers oversee the animals’ health and physical condition in order to recommend medical care when necessary. They may give medications to animals and keep recorded documentation of the animals’ behavior, health, or diet. They must also evaluate animals so that they can gain knowledge of the abilities, temperaments, or aptitude of each animal for training.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
Wageningen University and Research offers a free Introduction to Animal Behavior course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.
By taking this course, you’ll learn:
- Key concepts to understand animal behavior.
- The fascinating range and complexity of behavior in animals.
- How scientific hypotheses are developed and tested.
- How animals learn and communicate.
- Animals’ reproductive behavior.
- How animals function socially.
Arizona State University offers a free Dog Behavior: Problems and Solutions course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) as well with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.
- How to use a behavioral approach to a behavioral problem.
- The method of behavioral functional analysis.
- How to assess what is reinforcing for dogs.
- How to critically assess different methods of dog training.
- What temperament tests are and what they are used for.
Animal Trainer Career Video Transcript
People love animals, and animals are even more lovable when they’re well-trained. Professional animal trainers teach animals new behaviors, whether it’s for a search and rescue operation, therapeutic horseback riding, performances, or simply training a puppy not to jump up onto visitors. Birds, monkeys, and most often, dogs, may be trained to assist individuals who are deaf, blind or mobility-impaired.
Trainers use different techniques, but the simplest is rewarding the correct action with food or praise. A love of animals may lead you to this field, but patience and good communication are essential, as is the willingness to handle the unglamorous care and upkeep of animals. The work can be physically strenuous, especially with large animals. Entry into this field may be through vocational training programs or apprenticeships.
The more exotic jobs in venues such as movies or TV, zoos, and research facilities may require a bachelor’s degree and specialized skills such as SCUBA diving. The pay is generally low. Many trainers also find work at kennels, stables, and grooming services to supplement their income.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Career Video Transcript
In this episode, we visit the K-9 training site which is part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. These working dogs are trained to search and find illegal drugs. Meet Bridget, she helps train the dogs for working at airports, vehicle stops, and other U.S. border locations.
Our agency usually starts with Labs, German Shephards, or Belgian Malinois. They usually have a higher drive and they are more motivated to work. We do a 12 weeks training with them. During that 12 weeks, we’ll introduce them to a lot of different environments. We start training on the illegal drug orders and once they get really good at that, we bring in the handlers. We team them up with certain dogs on personalities and where they are going and then for another several weeks they train with that team handler. After that, once their 12 week is over, they’ll go all across the nation into the workforce. My favorite part is when my dog does find illegal drugs. It makes all our practice and hard work that we put into it pay off.
Any tips for training dogs? My number one tip would be to be consistent. For example, when you’re trying to play a sport like baseball, you got to do a lot of practicing to get better. The same thing with your dog. He needs a lot of practice and encouragement to get better. I’d have to say the easiest thing to train a dog with with would be verbal praise and then a rewards system that could go from anywhere from a plastic pipe to a rubber hose. The praise it just stimulates them. Every dog works for it, they want to make their owners happy, so they work hard for that. Learn more about the canine program at cbp.gov (link opens in a new tab).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Animal Trainers.
National Center for O*NET Development. 39-2011.00. O*NET OnLine.
First Video: The animal trainer career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
Second Video: The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Career Video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on Kids.gov which is now USA.gov, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.