Have you ever considered a career as an animal trainer? Have you considered it, but didn't know what the job entails?
Animal trainers use a variety of techniques to train animals for obedience, security, performing, riding, military or police work, or in assisting the blind or other people with disabilities.
Animal trainers accomplish this by familiarizing the animal with the human voice and contact and conditioning the animal to respond to commands. The three most commonly trained animals are dogs, horses, and marine mammals, including dolphins.
Trainers teach animals how to get along with humans. Some teach pets to obey commands and avoid problem behaviors, such as barking or biting. Other trainers teach animals to perform tricks. And some teach animals to help their owners, as when a horse is trained to carry a rider or a service dog learns to use its eyes or ears for persons with disabilities.
Most training relies on conditioning: rewarding an animal when it performs a desired behavior. The trainer chooses a reward, a stimulus that the trainer gives an animal the moment it does something right. For example, the trainer might give a fish to a dolphin when it jumps, a biscuit to a dog when it sits, or an apple to a horse when it halts on command.
The process of training happens in small steps, often requiring months or years of work. Animals can be difficult to control, much less train. Some are stubborn, aggressive, submissive, or fearful. Each has its own attitudes and instinctual behaviors. Successful training requires patience and persistence.
Trainers use a variety of methods to help them train animals. One technique, known as a bridge, is a stimulus that a trainer uses to communicate the precise moment an animal does something correctly. When the animal responds correctly, the trainer gives positive reinforcement in a variety of ways: food, play, a pat on the head, or simply speaking the word “good.”
Training pets and other animals is a rigorous process that takes place in small
steps and involves months and even years of repetition. During the conditioning
process, trainers provide animals with mental stimulation, physical exercise,
and husbandry care. A relatively new form of training teaches animals to
cooperate with workers giving medical care. In addition to their hands-on
work with the animals, trainers often oversee other aspects of animals’ care,
such as preparing their diet and providing a safe and clean environment and
Animal training can also be used as a tool for easing the relocation of animals from one habitat to another. Many trainers work in the performing arm of the industry, helping animals compete in shows, or perform stunts in movies or at circuses or marine parks. Trainers in shows work to highlight the talent and ability of an animal, such as a killer whale or dolphin, through interactive programs to educate and entertain the public.
On a typical day an animal trainer will:
In most cases, animal trainers need to have at least a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) equivalent. Depending on the situation, they must also have a college degree and additional skills or experience. Marine mammal trainers, for example, generally need a bachelor's degree in biology, marine biology, animal science, psychology, or a related field.
Other requirements for animal trainers: Person's wishing to work in this challenging and rewarding career field must be patient and sensitive to the animal's needs. They should have experience with problem-solving and animal obedience. While they aren't required to have certification, several organizations offer training programs and certification for those who want to enter this field.
The job outlook is promising for workers entering this field: according to the latest forcasts by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for animal trainers will only increase in the coming years, especially among pet owners, as more and more owners utilize their services. Trainers of marine mammals can expect to see slower, but still steady growth in their empolyment opportunities.
If this sounds like a fulfilling and rewarding career path to follow, you might want to check out the Association Of Pet Dog Trainers website for more information on how you can find entry into this growing industry.
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