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How to Become a Pet Trainer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a pet trainer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in animal training. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a Pet Trainer?
  • 0:37 Career Requirements
  • 1:29 Step 1: Gain Experience
  • 2:29 Step 2: Obtain…
  • 3:12 Step 3: Find a Job
  • 3:28 Success Tips

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Pet Trainer?

Pet trainers teach domestic animals to co-exist harmoniously with people. Their job might involve training young animals or correcting unacceptable behaviors in older ones. They might also train pets to assist humans in certain activities. While a love of animals is essential in this career, pet trainers should also enjoy working with people because they'll need to teach them to use the skills they've taught their pets. They must also watch out for bites, scratches, and other injuries from nervous or fussy animals.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or a GED; associate's or a bachelor's degree sometimes required
Degree Field Animal care and training
Experience Training and caring for animals
Key Skills Stamina, patience, compassion, detail-oriented, and excellent customer service skills
Salary (2015) $33,600 per year (median salary)

The educational requirements to becoming a pet trainer are a high school diploma or a GED. A bachelor's degree or associate's degree may be required for positions such as marine mammal trainers and zookeepers. Dog and horse trainers are typically expected to have formal training by completing courses at training schools or community colleges. Most employers expect animal trainers to have experience training and caring for animals. Pet trainers should possess certain key skills, such as stamina, patience, and compassion, and they should be detail-oriented and have excellent customer service skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2015, animal trainers earned a median salary of $33,600 per year.

Step 1: Gain Experience Working with Animals

Pet trainers, also known as animal trainers, teach dogs, horses, and other animals how to adjust to their environment and interact with humans and other animals. Students interested in becoming pet trainers should have experience with animals before they begin any type of formal training.

In addition to working with their own pets, students can gain experience working with a variety of animals through volunteer work. Volunteer work is often available at animal shelters. In rural areas, students may also be able to find work on farms. Other volunteer options may include aquariums, zoos, and veterinary clinics.

Volunteer work can help future animal trainers develop greater ease in working with animals in many different environments. Furthermore, once they determine what kinds of animals they want to work with, they can search for volunteer opportunities working specifically with those animals.

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Step 2: Obtain Relevant Education

Most of the skills needed for this occupation are taught through on-the-job training, internships, and volunteer work, so a college degree may not be needed to work as a pet trainer. However, there are educational programs and courses that may be helpful. Obtaining an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in equine science or equine business management may prepare students for a career in horse training. These courses cover such topics as equine ethics, equine legal issues, and equine husbandry. If students want to train dogs, there are private schools offering courses that can teach them about dog obedience training.

Step 3: Find a Job

Animal trainers can find jobs in various settings, such as zoos, pet grooming and animal care businesses, animal shelters, and aquariums. These places will offer trainers the appropriate working environment for their skill sets.

Success Tips

Get certified. Voluntary pet trainer certification is offered by a few professional organizations to individuals who wish to showcase their training skills and enhance their professional reputation. For example, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) offers a dog trainer designation to individuals who have achieved certain levels of education and experience and who have passed its examination. The American Riding Instructors Association (ARIA) offers three levels of certification to horse riding instructors who pass the necessary exams.

Join a professional organization. For prospective pet trainers, joining a professional organization is a good way to develop new skills and meet people who do the same type of work. Organizations such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) offer seminars and other opportunities to obtain tips and information about dog training. These groups also sponsor events where trainers can meet other industry professionals.

Pet trainers must have a high school diploma and, in some cases, an associate's or bachelor's degree, and must complete training courses in order to work with animals. In order to successfully train animals, pet trainers must have experience working with animals, as well as patience, compassion, customer service skills, and a love of animals.

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