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Career profile Animal Trainer

Also known as Agility Instructor, Dog Obedience Instructor, Dog Trainer, Guide Dog Instructor, Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI), Guide Dog Trainer, Horse Trainer, Racehorse Trainer, Service Dog Trainer, Trainer

Animal Trainer

Also known as Agility Instructor, Dog Obedience Instructor, Dog Trainer

Interests Profile
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
  • Social
Pay Range
$21,550 - $62,040 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Instructing
  • Speaking
  • Learning Strategies
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Education and Training
  • Psychology
Core tasks
  • Cue or signal animals during performances.
  • Talk to or interact with animals to familiarize them to human voices or contact.
  • Train horses or other equines for riding, harness, show, racing, or other work, using knowledge of breed characteristics, training methods, performance standards, and the peculiarities of each animal.
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What does an Animal Trainer do?

Animal Trainers train animals for riding, harness, security, performance, or obedience, or for assisting persons with disabilities.

In addition, Animal Trainers

  • accustom animals to human voice and contact, and condition animals to respond to commands,
  • train animals according to prescribed standards for show or competition,
  • may train animals to carry pack loads or work as part of pack team.

What kind of tasks does an Animal Trainer perform regularly?

Animal Trainers are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Cue or signal animals during performances.
  • Talk to or interact with animals to familiarize them to human voices or contact.
  • Conduct training programs to develop or maintain desired animal behaviors for competition, entertainment, obedience, security, riding, or related purposes.
  • Observe animals' physical conditions to detect illness or unhealthy conditions requiring medical care.
  • Feed or exercise animals or provide other general care, such as cleaning or maintaining holding or performance areas.
  • Evaluate animals to determine their temperaments, abilities, or aptitude for training.
  • Administer prescribed medications to animals.
  • Keep records documenting animal health, diet, or behavior.
  • Evaluate animals for trainability and ability to perform.
  • Advise animal owners regarding the purchase of specific animals.

The above responsibilities are specific to Animal Trainers. More generally, Animal Trainers are involved in several broader types of activities:

Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
Training and Teaching Others
Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Thinking Creatively
Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.

What is an Animal Trainer salary?

The median salary for an Animal Trainer is $31,520, and the average salary is $37,950. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Animal Trainer salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Animal Trainers earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Animal Trainers earn less than $21,550 per year, 25% earn less than $25,160, 75% earn less than $43,370, and 90% earn less than $62,040.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Animal Trainers is expected to change by 28.6%, and there should be roughly 9,900 open positions for Animal Trainers every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$21,550 - $62,040
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Animal Trainers?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Animal Trainer are usually higher in their Realistic interests.

Animal Trainers typically have very strong Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Animal Trainer tend to value Independence, Relationships, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Animal Trainers strongly value Independence. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to work on their own and make decisions.

Second, Animal Trainers moderately value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Lastly, Animal Trainers moderately value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Animal Trainers must consistently demonstrate qualities such as dependability, integrity, and attention to detail.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Animal Trainers, ranked by importance:

Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being honest and ethical.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.

What education and training do Animal Trainers need?

Working as an Animal Trainer usually requires a high school diploma.

Animal Trainers need anywhere from a few months to one year of working with experienced employees. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Animal Trainers

  • 7.5% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 25.2% completed high school or secondary school
  • 23.4% completed some college coursework
  • 8.3% earned a Associate's degree
  • 29.6% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 4.8% earned a Master's degree
  • 1.2% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Animal Trainers

Animal Trainers may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, education and training, or psychology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Animal Trainers might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Administration and Management
Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.
Sales and Marketing
Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.

Important Abilities needed by Animal Trainers

Animal Trainers must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Animal Trainers need abilities such as problem sensitivity, oral expression, and oral comprehension in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Animal Trainers, ranked by their relative importance.

Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Information Ordering
The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
Speech Clarity
The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

Critical Skills needed by Animal Trainers

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Animal Trainers frequently use skills like instructing, speaking, and learning strategies to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Animal Trainers, ranked by their relative importance.

Teaching others how to do something.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Learning Strategies
Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Active Learning
Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.