Careers in Animal Training & Enrichment
The outlook for professionals in animal care and service, including animal trainers, is excellent. Employment in these areas is expected to grow 19 percent over the 2006-16 decade, faster than the average for all occupations (Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009). Salaries vary greatly based on the specific field or employer. For example, independent animal trainers may work for $20-50/hour or more. Animal care workers in a shelter or kennel may earn considerably less.
Who hires animal trainers and behaviorists? They may be self-employed as trainers or behavioral consultants. Behaviorists also work for veterinarians, in zoos and aquaria, the pet industry, animal shelters, stables, kennels and the retail pet trade. Sample positions include:
- Marine mammal trainers
- Dog trainers
- Shelter workers
- Veterinary technicians
- Zoo keepers
Dog day care staff
- Bird trainers
- Stable workers
- Kennel technicians
- Exotic animal trainers
- Laboratory animal technicians
Who needs to understand training and enrichment?
Animal Trainers & Behavioral Consultants
Trainers working with dogs, cats, parrots or other companion animals need to have a detailed knowledge of animal behavior. They also need a deep toolbox of techniques that can be used to modify behaviors. Dealing with problem behaviors often requires changes to the environment or providing new outlets for natural behaviors being performed in inappropriate ways. Groomers, pet sitters and doggie daycare owners also need to be able to manage the behavior of their animals.
Veterinarians and Vet Techs
Veterinarians and technicians deal with behavioral issues daily, whether they work in an office setting, a lab, a zoo, or the field. Many owners may be creating health or behavioral problems simply because they don't understand their animals. A solid foundation in training and enrichment allows veterinary staff to identify and correct many of these problems. Some technicians have developed behavioral specialties, learning to work with owners to structure the home environment in ways that improve behavior and increase their pet's welfare. Behavioral management goes well beyond simple obedience training.
Zookeepers & Wildlife Educators
Managing wildlife in captivity poses some special challenges. Most species do not adapt easily to close human contact and the sights and sounds of a facility. Caretakers need to train animals to actively participate in their own care using the principles of operant conditioning. Enrichment also plays a key role, encouraging animals to forage, preen and rest in species appropriate ways.
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