Animal trainers have a wide variety of roles from teaching an animal to do a cute trick on a TV commercial, to training police horses and dogs. Animal trainers usually have patient but firm personalities, who are able to train and mould the behaviour of a wide range of different animals. You can find animal trainers in lots of different industries such as entertainment, zoos and enclosures, disability services, security, defence or other behavioural types of jobs. You can also follow your passions for a particular breed of animal such as horses or dogs. Because there are different jobs available for trainers, the required qualifications will vary from job-to-job. Generally, you will need some kind of experience working with animals.
Animal trainers work with owners, keepers and veterinarians to help correct and mould the behaviours of animals through behaviour programs and positive reinforcement. Animal trainers work very intimately with their animals, sometimes also assisting with their health and wellbeing as well as dietary requirements. As an animal trainer, you will do a range of activities such as developing and implementing behavioural programs, working in competitors and discouraging bad behaviour.
Animal trainers need to be receptive and anticipate an animal’s needs. You should have a patient and caring nature so you can work with your animals to teach them new behaviours and obediently respond to signals on command. You may find yourself working outdoors at times and the role will usually be physically demanding, so you should have a reasonable level of fitness.
If you are passionate about your career, you can specialise in a particular field such as training police dogs or working with horses. Usually, this will require some form of education or experience in that particular field, which will require some education but in the end will open up your career opportunities.
As the title suggests, a horse trainer specialised in horses and provides their expertise and in-depth knowledge to help owners teach their horses certain behaviours and ensure the animals are kept in the best conditions, including diet. Most horse trainers work in the racing or dressage industry. As a trainer in racing, you will assist the animal reach its peak speed and stamina to become a top competitor. In dressage, you will help riders perform tricks on their horses as well as ensure the horse is groomed to perfection. Other jobs a horse trainer can specialise in are stunt horses or other performance areas. Because you require to understand horses inside out, most trainers will require at least a Certificate IV or equivalent in something horse related, such as equine science.
Animal wranglers who work on film sets are able to quickly pick up on an animal’s mood as well as provide their knowledge on animals, including legal requirements for animal wellbeing. On a film set, animals usually repeat a scene several times in order to get the shot right. With lights and a multitude of people around, this can be somewhat stressful on the animal so it is up to you to decide when it is time for the animal to take a break to ensure they are always feeling comfortable and happy with the other actors. Working in the film industry can often be long days so you will need to be available at all times all the while ensuring the set is to the industry health and safety standards for your animals.
Working with guard dogs will mean you will work with a defence or security company, training your animals to use their intelligence and strength in some form of protection, be that people, other animals or property. Security dogs are usually larger breeds so you will need confidence around big dogs with the ability to teach them to be completely obedient to their handlers. You can also branch into other security types of jobs such as at international and domestic airports.
If you would like to help those with a disability, it can be very rewarding to train guide dogs that will help people with an impairment, such as with their eyesight or a type mental disorder. Guide dogs become a vital part of a person’s life and are heavily relied upon, so it is a great responsibility to turn dogs into such a valuable asset, that will greatly improve someone’s life. As a guide dog trainer, you will teach dogs to guide their owners through streets, shopping centres and to remain focussed and well behaved at all times, completely ignoring irrelevant distractions.
There are many different pathways to start your career as an animal trainer. You can access formal education, traineeships or learn on-the-job.
Getting ready to kick-start your career as an animal trainer, there are several entry-level courses you can complete.
If you want to start to branch out into a particular field, you can start your specialisation with some further education.
Some additional professional skills can help you stand out from other job seekers.
An industry certification will show your commitment to the industry as well as provide you with networking opportunities.
To show off your skills and education, you need a well put-together resume and covering letter. Have a look at some of our examples to give you some ideas.
As an animal trainer, employment opportunities are predicted to remain constant for the next 5 to 10 years.