What is an Animal Trainer?

An animal trainer specializes in training and working with animals for various purposes. They possess the knowledge, skills, and techniques to train animals to perform specific behaviors or tasks. Animal trainers can work with a wide range of animals, including domesticated pets, exotic animals, marine mammals, and even wildlife.

Animal trainers use positive reinforcement techniques, such as rewards or treats, to train animals to respond to specific cues or commands. They develop training plans and methods tailored to each animal's species, temperament, and abilities. Animal trainers may work in various settings, including zoos, aquariums, circuses, theme parks, wildlife rehabilitation centers, or even in the entertainment industry for film and television productions.

Get online training through our partner:

What does an Animal Trainer do?

An animal trainer working with a dog.

Animal trainers ensure the well-being, safety, and proper behavior of animals. They help train animals for specific tasks or behaviors that can enhance their quality of life, such as obedience, socialization, or enrichment activities. Animal trainers also contribute to conservation efforts by educating the public about the importance of wildlife and their natural behaviors.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of animal trainers can vary depending on their specific area of expertise and the setting in which they work. However, here are some general duties and responsibilities that animal trainers often have:

  • Training and Behavior Modification: Animal trainers are responsible for training animals to perform specific behaviors or tasks. They develop training plans and use positive reinforcement techniques to teach animals desired behaviors, such as obedience commands, agility skills, or performing in shows. They may also be involved in behavior modification programs to address any behavioral issues or challenges exhibited by the animals.
  • Animal Care and Welfare: Animal trainers have a duty to ensure the well-being and welfare of the animals under their care. This includes providing appropriate nutrition, maintaining clean and suitable living environments, and monitoring the animals' health and behavior. They must adhere to ethical guidelines and industry standards for animal care and welfare, ensuring that the animals are treated with kindness, respect, and compassion.
  • Enrichment and Stimulus: Animal trainers are responsible for providing enrichment activities and stimuli to enhance the mental and physical well-being of the animals. This may involve introducing toys, puzzles, or interactive experiences that engage the animals' natural instincts and promote their cognitive and physical development. Animal trainers also design and implement enrichment programs to prevent boredom and encourage natural behaviors.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Animal trainers often work closely with other animal care professionals, such as veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or zookeepers. They collaborate and communicate effectively to ensure the holistic care of the animals. Animal trainers may also interact with the public, providing educational information and promoting positive attitudes towards animal welfare and conservation.
  • Safety and Risk Management: Animal trainers must prioritize safety for themselves, the animals, and the public. They follow proper safety protocols and guidelines when working with potentially dangerous animals. Animal trainers assess risks and take precautions to prevent accidents or injuries during training sessions or public performances. They maintain a thorough understanding of the animals' behavior and signals, ensuring a safe working environment for all involved.
  • Record-Keeping and Documentation: Animal trainers maintain accurate records of training progress, behaviors, and health-related information for the animals under their care. They document training methods, milestones, and any notable observations or changes in behavior. This documentation helps track the animals' progress, enables effective communication with other professionals, and aids in research and educational initiatives.
  • Continuous Learning and Professional Development: Animal trainers stay updated with advancements in animal training techniques, behavior science, and industry best practices. They engage in ongoing education and professional development to enhance their knowledge and skills. This may involve attending workshops, conferences, or pursuing certifications in animal training or behavior.

Types of Animal Trainers
There are various types of animal trainers based on the animals they work with and the specific areas of expertise. Here are some common types of animal trainers:

  • Dog Trainer: Dog trainers specialize in training domesticated dogs for various purposes, including obedience, agility, search and rescue, therapy work, or specific tasks like guide dog training or police dog training.
  • Guide Dog Trainer: Guide dog trainers specialize in training dogs to serve as assistance dogs for individuals with visual impairments. They train the dogs to navigate environments, respond to commands, and provide support and independence to their handlers.
  • Marine Mammal Trainer: Marine mammal trainers work with animals such as dolphins, whales, sea lions, or seals. They train these animals to perform behaviors and tricks for educational presentations, research studies, or entertainment shows.
  • Horse Trainer: Horse trainers work with horses to train them for riding disciplines, such as dressage, show jumping, or western riding. They focus on developing the horse's obedience, athleticism, and performance skills.
  • Racehorse Trainer: These trainers are responsible for conditioning and preparing horses to compete in horse racing events. They work with horse owners to create training plans and schedules that will help the horses achieve optimal performance in races.
  • Animal Behaviorist: Although not strictly trainers, animal behaviorists specialize in understanding animal behavior and addressing behavioral issues. They work with pet owners, shelters, or zoos to provide behavior assessments, develop behavior modification plans, and offer guidance on training techniques.
  • Circus Animal Trainer: Circus animal trainers work with a variety of animals, including elephants, tigers, lions, horses, or bears. They train these animals to perform specific tricks and behaviors for circus performances or entertainment shows.
  • Animal Trainer for Film and Television: Animal trainers for film or television work with animals in the entertainment industry, training them to perform specific actions or behaviors for film, television, commercials, or live performances.
  • Bird Trainer: Bird trainers specialize in training various species of birds, including parrots, birds of prey, or show birds. They train these birds for flight demonstrations, theatrical performances, or to showcase natural behaviors in educational settings.
  • Wildlife Trainer: Wildlife trainers work with a wide range of wild animals, including big cats, birds of prey, primates, or reptiles. They train these animals for educational displays, wildlife conservation programs, or for the purposes of rehabilitation and release.
  • Zoo or Exotic Animal Trainer: Zoo or exotic animal trainers work with a diverse range of exotic animals housed in zoological parks, wildlife reserves, or sanctuaries. They focus on training these animals for husbandry behaviors, veterinary procedures, public demonstrations, or interactive experiences.

Are you suited to be an animal trainer?

Animal trainers have distinct personalities. They tend to be realistic individuals, which means they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty. They like tasks that are tactile, physical, athletic, or mechanical. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if animal trainer is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of an Animal Trainer like?

The workplace of an animal trainer can vary depending on their specific area of expertise and the nature of their work. Here are some common work environments for animal trainers:

Zoos and Wildlife Parks: Many animal trainers work in zoos and wildlife parks, where they train and care for a diverse range of animal species. They have access to animal enclosures, habitats, and specialized training areas within the zoo grounds. These facilities often include training arenas, pools, or designated spaces for interactive displays or educational presentations. Animal trainers in zoos may also be involved in animal enrichment programs and participate in conservation initiatives.

Aquariums and Marine Parks: Animal trainers specializing in marine mammals, such as dolphins, seals, or whales, often work in aquariums or marine parks. They typically have access to large pools or tanks where they conduct training sessions and perform shows or educational demonstrations. These facilities may also include backstage areas for trainers to prepare and store equipment, as well as areas for veterinary care and husbandry practices.

Training Centers: Some animal trainers work in specialized training centers dedicated to specific types of animals or training programs. These centers can be independent facilities or part of larger organizations. They provide controlled environments with equipment and facilities tailored to the training needs of the animals. Training centers may have indoor and outdoor training areas, classrooms for educational purposes, and living spaces for the animals during their training periods.

Film and Entertainment Industry: Animal trainers involved in the film and entertainment industry often work on movie sets, television productions, or live performances. Their workplace can vary depending on the specific project and may involve studio sets, outdoor locations, or temporary setups for events. Animal trainers in this field may also travel to different locations as per the requirements of the production.

Private Facilities or Farms: Some animal trainers work in private facilities or farms where they train animals for various purposes, such as working dogs, show horses, or exotic animal displays. These facilities can range from small-scale training centers to larger properties with dedicated training areas, stables, or enclosures. Private trainers may also provide training services directly to pet owners or individuals with specific training needs.

It's worth noting that the workplace of an animal trainer often involves a combination of indoor and outdoor settings, depending on the requirements of the animals and the training activities. Animal trainers may spend significant time outdoors, engaging in physical activities and interacting directly with animals. They may also have office or administrative spaces where they plan training programs, maintain records, and communicate with colleagues and clients.

Animal Trainers are also known as:
Animal Obedience Trainer