Job description

Animal trainers teach behavioural and performance techniques to dogs, horses, dolphins and various other animals. They may improve an animal’s obedience, security and aggression, or they train them to perform certain commands. Animal trainers will monitor the animal’s progress and sometimes work alongside owners to improve behaviour.

Animal trainers work with family pets, show animals or service animals.

Duties

    • Teach animals obedience, security, performance or riding skills
    • Train animals to respond to commands
    • Familiarise animals with human contact
    • Train animals for competitions or movie roles
    • Feed, groom or exercise animals
    • Develop training programme for each animal
    • Work with pet owners to establish techniques
    • Monitor and report animal progress to owners
    • Examine and keep record of animal’s diet, physical condition and behaviour

Skills, qualities and knowledge

Compassion
Patience
Physical stamina
Reliability
Teaching
Instructing
Monitoring
Interpersonal
Customer service
Attention to detail
Problem-solving

Working hours and environment

Average working hours

40hweek

Typical schedule

Full Time

Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally

Animal trainers work in zoos, stables, aquariums, daycare centres, animal shelters, research facilities or movie sets. They also travel to pet owners’ homes.

Animal trainers must be prepared to observe and work with disobedient, aggressive and uncooperative animals, which requires much patience.

A lot of this job is spent on your feet as you engage in training and exercising animals, as well as lifting and running. There is also the risk of injury such as getting scratched, bitten or kicked when dealing with a scared or aggressive animal.

Salary

Bottom 10%

$20k

Median

$29k

Top 10%

$56k

Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.

Qualifications and training

Education level

High School

DVM / VMD degree

Study time

6months

A high school diploma or equivalent is generally required to become an animal trainer. Some roles, however, such as marine mammal trainers, might need a bachelor’s degree in biology or animal science.

Although a lot of the training is taught on-the-job, most employers will still prefer to hire an individual who has had extensive experience with animals. Courses in community colleges or time spent in private training schools are usually a plus when applying for this role.

Dog trainers, meanwhile, can obtain certifications from professional associations and private vocational and state-approved trade schools, while marine mammal trainers are typically certified in scuba diving.

Job outlook

Projected growth
The projected growth rate of employment in the US from 2016 to 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme. The national average growth rate for all professions is 7%.

11%

No of new jobs
The number of jobs projected to become available in the US between 2016 and 2026, based on data collected through the BLS Employment Projections (EP) programme.

6.1k

Automation risk
The probability of computerisation, based on data published in ‘The Future of Employment’, a 2013 working paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne.

10%

Career progression

Animal trainers have the option to train other animal species throughout their career. For instance, dog trainers might want to progress to horse training, after gaining the right experience and practice.

There are also many animal trainers who become recognised animal specialists and are given the opportunity to give seminars and lectures in education centres. Some animal trainers publish books or materials for magazines.

Animal trainers that work in facilities might move on to open their own animal training business.