how to become a animal trainer

Do you have a deep love and respect for animals? Perhaps, you have trained your own pets. You know you enjoy building a relationship and seeing the results of your guidance in the animal’s behaviour. If so, then why not consider becoming an animal trainer. The opportunities for trainers are extremely varied, there really is an opportunity for everyone. If your passion is with horses you could work with them training them for the races. Or if your passion is dogs, you could work with people and their pets to improve behaviour. On the other hand, you may like to use your training skills for greater good in the world. For example, by training police dogs, or assistance dogs for people with disabilities. You may work in zoo’s or animal shows, you could even work in the films if that tickles your fancy. 

Can you see yourself working with animals to improve their behaviour? Would you like to dedicate your life to an interesting and varied career? Are you hoping to escape the fate of a desk-bound job? Then, why not become an animal trainer? Keep reading to discover everything you need to know and how to choose the best course to get you started. A passionate career, here you come! 

Step one: Consider a specialisation

Courses for animal trainers can vary a lot because of the wide range of opportunities open to people in the field. This means before signing up for your course it is worthwhile considering the direction you would like to take eventually. Here are four specialisations to consider. 

Horse Trainer

In this specialisation, you work with horses. As well as training the animals, you need to have an excellent understanding of their dietary, and grooming needs. Horse trainers will often work with racehorses trying to improve their performance. Or you might train them for dressage, stunt, and performance work. In order to work as a horse trainer, you will find qualifications such as a Certificate IV in Racing or a Diploma in Equine Science helpful.

Animal Wranglers for Film Sets

If you would like to direct your career into an exciting field then you can consider working as an animal wrangler for film sets. In this role, you work with the animals and actors. Making sure everyone involved is happy, safe and not taking any undue risks. You need a good understanding of the film industry and happy to travel for your work. You also need to handle the administrative and logistical preparation for filming with the animals in question.

Guard Dog Trainer

As a guard dog trainer, you help people to keep their properties safe using dogs. You work with specialised large breeds such as Doberman, and German Shepherds. You work with them to channel their natural aggression and train them to respond to intruders in a variety of different ways. For example, heeling, raising an alarm, dropping, guarding and man stopping.

Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

In this specialisation, you turn your skills to a worthy cause. You spend your time assessing and training dogs to work as guide or assistance dogs. These animals make a meaningful difference to the people they assist. Who are often struggling with mobility or visual impairment problems. A cadet-ship with the Guide Dogs Association of your state is usually required to work in this field. As well as formal qualifications in animal handling.

Step two: Choose a course

Once you have in mind a specialisation or career path you can choose the best course to fit your interests. Animal trainers work in such a wide range of fields you need to think about your interests early on. For example, there are very different study needs between a trainer who will work with horses and a trainer who will work training police dogs. 

Step three: Look for your first job

After qualifying, you can begin to look for your first job. Experts expect opportunities to remain steady over the coming years. When making applications remember to tailor your resume and cover letter for each application. Don’t forget to mention your qualifications, personal strengths, and any relevant experience you may have.

Step four: Gain experience

After finding your first job, firstly pat yourself on the back. Now, settle into the work and spend time building up your experience and perfecting your skills.  Once you have experience under your belt you can turn your attention to specialising and progressing your career.

What do Animal Trainer’s Do?

As an animal trainer, you work with different animals and training methods to remove unwanted behaviours. Replacing them with wanted behaviours. You may find yourself working with private clients, stables, at zoos, animal shows or even on film sets. The techniques and tasks vary according to your specialisation. In addition to conducting training, you will often care for the physical needs of your proteges. This may mean feeding, giving water, and grooming. When working with certain species of animal you could focus on preparing them for competitions or performanceLastly, as an important aspect of your work you build up trust between you and the animals you work with.


  • Correcting undesirable behaviours in animals
  • Developing skills and good behaviour through repetition
  • Training animals for performance or service
  • Providing for the needs of the animals while working with them

Skills for Success

First and foremost you need to have a knack for interacting with animals, and sensitivity to read their behaviour. Then, you need to respond in a way which will benefit the animal and achieve your training goals. You should have a lot of patience, and willing to repeat training with them over and over again. If you are physically fit and healthy then you will have a good attribute to help you, the work is often physical. As well as your animals, you will interact with people as a part of your work. Therefore, good communication skills will benefit you and lead to success.  Some planning and administration work are usually involved. As you assess your subject and plan the training program you will do with them.

Skills and attributes

  • A calm, patient and firm demeanour
  • Able to plan tasks, routines and training methods
  • Patience when handling high-needs animals
  • Enjoy working with animals and people

What do Animal Trainers make in Australia?

In Australia, animal trainers earn a median wage of $45,947 per year. This varies according to a number of factors and is intended as a reference only, from Payscale 05/’18.

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