Animal Trainer

"I am an entrepreneur who loves animals. I work primarily with dogs, but have worked with cats, horses, wolves and even the occasional group of cockroaches. While I mostly work as a trainer for individuals who are looking to teach their new puppy a few skills for the house and the dog park, I also do work for TV shows and movies and I have my own YouTube channel demonstrating my success stories."

Salary Range:

$18.09 per hour

The Tip

Make sure you have well-trained animals of your own! Nothing speaks of competence like seeing the results of your work in your own pets.

Priority Knowledge & Skills
Evidence-based Decision Making
  • Select appropriate interventions for animals with no training, or that are poorly trained, based on research and best practices

  • Provide appropriate resources to movie and TV clients who need various animals to work on their sets

 

Advanced Research & Analysis Skills
  • Critically analyze the current literature on animal training techniques

  • Synthesize key themes from multiple sources

 

Knowledge of Human Behaviour
  • Able to relate to a wide range of individuals

  • Support clients to explore motivations, behaviour, emotions, thoughts and patterns and how that relates to their challenges with their pets

  • Guide exploration of difficult topics such as how the owner influences the behaviour of the animal

Sensitivity to how behaviours regarding animal training are shaped by circumstances, privilege, experience & attitudes

Advanced Communication Skills
  • Sensitivity to how communication between an owner and their animal is shaped by their expectations

  • Formulate and defend perspectives on best practices for animal training

 

Inter-personal Skills
  • Work with diverse populations

  • Empathetic and patient with clients

  • Professional and courteous with the TV and movie producers I engage with

  • Professional and thoughtful in response to comments on my YouTube channel

 

Intra-personal Skills
  • Manage stress and work with aggressive and anxious animals

  • Calm when working with clients and animals

  • Self-aware and able to manage personal opinions or biases with regards to different clients

 

Additional Skills
  • Strong organizational skills

  • Intentional curiosity and thoughtful creativity

  • Fundamental business acumen

Building Block Experiences
Education & Learning:
  • Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) with research assistant experience specializing in animal behaviour and a minor in marketing

  • Bachelor of Science (Biology) with a specialization in ecology and evolution of animal behaviour

  • Attend conferences, workshops and training seminars each year to improve skills and enhance knowledge about the latest developments in animal training

 

It’s hard to say where my interest in working with animals started. As a child I had several pets including a horse, a dog, several cats, a hedgehog and a corn snake. My desire to become an animal trainer solidified when I spent a summer in Thailand as an undergraduate student, doing volunteer work at an animal rescue facility. I was in awe of the individuals who worked with the elephants and the primates. I knew I also wanted to work with individuals and wanted to combine my love of psychology with my love of science. I am also an avid follower of technology and decided to create a YouTube channel to provide support for animal owners who can’t afford the cost of private or group training lessons for their pets.

 

Employment Experiences:
  • I worked in a convenience store and as a server before I got a job working at a humane society shelter

  • After my second year of undergrad I spent a summer working for a volunteer organization at an animal shelter in Thailand

  • I worked as a research assistant in a lab that trained cockroaches and studied their memory for aversive places such as a brightly lit room

  • I worked for four years at a local humane society shelter

  • I worked part time with a local animal trainer. After she retired I took over her business and expanded it to include TV and movie work.

 

All of my jobs revolved around working with animals or people. I love both and nothing makes me happier than seeing the joy on a person’s face when they see positive training results with their pets. My work as an extra on TV shows while an undergraduate also gave me a real edge when it came to put together a business plan to provide trained dogs and horses for these productions.

Community Experiences:
  • I volunteered and supervised at our university’s puppy room talking with people, providing some direction for how to handle the puppies and giving information managing anxiety

  • I volunteered with an equestrian facility that used horseback riding to help kids with muscular dystrophy. The training was outstanding.


Some of the best training I ever received in understanding how to work with animals was through these volunteer centres and my work in Thailand. Volunteering for a university student centre was amazing—you really get to establish yourself as an active citizen, or maybe even a leader—and it really makes you feel like you belong on campus. Many of the contacts I made during my time working in the puppy room have now become my clients.

 

Contextual Experiences:
  • I think it was good that I moved away from home to attend university; I wish I had lived in residence, but because I had a cat and a hedgehog, that option wasn’t open to me

  • Working with animals in various venues throughout my university career kept me engaged and helped me see that being an animal trainer is what I wanted to do with my life

 

I think growing up with a menagerie of animals helped me to understand animals and how they interact with people. By getting a degree in psychology I became more understanding of human behaviour. My degree in biology gave me the animal behaviour perspective. By combining majors and minors with my work and volunteer experience I have a unique package of skills that is highly desired by my clients.

Relationships:
  • The woman I worked for at the humane society was an incredible example of compassion and kindness with an element of steel in her personality that was necessary for working with rescue animals. I will always admire her selflessness when it came to help an animal in need.

  • Working with cockroaches was a departure for me but the experience and knowledge I gained working alongside a scientist was invaluable. He is a wealth of knowledge on the evolution of animal behaviour that I still tap into on occasion.

 

The support I received from the individuals I worked with to pursue my dreams was what kept me going through eight a.m. labs in molecular biology. Seeing other people around me with a passion for animals that is similar to my own keeps me inspired to do the best I can for my two, four and six-legged clients.