What does an animal trainer do?

Animal trainers provide a unique service, working with animals and their owners to develop or correct certain behavioural characteristics of an animal. In certain contexts, such as zoos, they also provide for the general care, feeding and wellbeing of the animals in their charge. Some daily duties as an animal trainer will include teaching obedience to different commands, discouraging unwanted or antisocial behaviour, preparing animals for competition or performance and building trust with the animals you work with.

Tasks:

  • Correcting undesirable behaviours
  • Developing skills through repetition
  • Training an animal for performance or service duties
  • Providing for the nutritional requirements of an animal

What skills do I need to be an animal trainer?

Working as an animal trainer is a multi-faceted job. A trainer needs to be able to effectively interpret the needs, moods and behaviours of an animal, respond to them appropriately and encourage desired outcomes using a range of methods. The job can be a very physical one, requiring patience, strength and an intuitive understanding of animals to succeed.
Skills/attributes
  • Calm, patient and forceful demeanour
  • Ability to plan tasks, routines and modes of training
  • Patience when dealing with high needs animals
  • Enjoys working with both animals and people

Specialisations

With the right training, you can explore a vast number of different career paths as an animal trainer, tailored to suit your strengths, interests, and desired working environment. From highly technical training of service animals such as guide dogs, to helping families have better control of their pets, your options for employment are extremely varied.

Horse Trainer

Horse trainers deal exclusively with horses, possessing expert knowledge of the dietary requirements, training methods and grooming needed to keep a horse happy, healthy and performing t its peak. Trainers most often work in the horse racing industry, working to improve the speed and stamina of the horses in their charge. Other options include dressage training, stunt training or performance training. There are a range of vocational programs available to help you gain a better practical and theoretical knowledge of horse training and care, many trainers will hold qualifications such as a Certificate IV in Racing or a Diploma in Equine Science.

Animal Wranglers for Film Sets

Animal wranglers for film sets need both an acute understanding of the temperament and abilities of the animals they work with and knowledge of the film industry’s health and safety requirements. As the animals will be working with actors in potentially stressful environments, it is important that animal wranglers monitor situations carefully to ensure that the animal and actors are safe and happy. Working within this particular industry involves a great deal of administrative and logistical preparation and the ability to stay flexible with scheduling.

Guard Dog Trainer

Guard dog trainers deal work with dog breeds used for security purposes, such as German Shepherds, Dobermans and other large breeds. Using their skills and knowledge, they channel the natural strength, loyalty and aggression of these dogs into training that allows them to provide protection for individuals, families and property. Depending on what is required, these dogs may be taught several skills, like heeling, raising an alarm, dropping, guarding and man stopping at a private home or commercial premises.

Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

Guide dog mobility instructors help assess and train dogs that could be used for the purpose of aiding those who are visually impaired or blind. Guide dog instructors help turn dogs into invaluable assets for the visually impaired, providing them with companionship and allowing them to navigate their way safely through day-to-day life. A cadetship with the Guide Dogs Association of your state is usually required in addition to formal qualifications in animal handling.

Study pathways for animal trainers

Your personal interests and forecasted career paths will determine the path you will take to employment. Cadetships, diplomas and on-the-job training are all valuable ways of gaining skills in the field of animal training and handling.

Getting Started

For those with a general interest, there are a number of entry level courses that can help point you in the right direction.

Skill Building

Knowing which particular form of training you’d like to be involved with will help you choose the courses that help you reach your goals.

Professional Development

Decide on an educational pathway that will help get you noticed in a professional setting.

Industry Recognition

Having an industry recognised qualification will help you forge a career, demonstrating your skills and commitment to potential employers and clients.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your animal training career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.

Job Prospects and Salaries

The future employment rate is expected to remain steady over the next five to ten years.