Animal Trainer

Animal trainers teach animals to perform and compete in shows, perform tricks and to obey commands. Most animal trainers specialize in training one animal type but some work with several types.  Animal trainers set up programmes that consist of repetition and reward, to teach animals to behave in a particular manner and to do so consistently.

Before training starts the trainer will evaluate the animal’s ability, temperament and aptitude for training to determine which method of training would be appropriate and whether the animal can be trained. They talk to or interact with the animals to familiarise them to human voices or contact, then conduct training programmes in order to develop and maintain desired animal behaviours for competition, entertainment, obedience, security, riding and related areas.  They repeat routines continuously until the animal does what is required. The animal is then rewarded accordingly.

Horses are trained for riding, harness, show, racing or other work, using their knowledge of the breed characteristics, training methods, performance standards and the peculiarities of each animal.  Horses are retrained to break bad habits, such as kicking, bolting or resisting bridling or grooming.  They instruct jockeys in handling specific horses during races.

Dogs are trained in property protection, in the search for drugs or bombs in the army or as police dogs.  Some animal trainers train guide-dogs or dogs used to assist people with other disabilities, and some dogs are able to detect early signs of cancer or to help diabetic patients by detecting abnormal sugar levels.

Animal trainers train and rehearse animals, according to scripts, for motion picture, television, film, stage or circus performances, and cue or signal animals during the performances.

Other tasks are to observe animals' physical condition to detect illness or unhealthy conditions requiring medical care, and administer the prescribed medications where necessary.

Animal trainers are also responsible for grooming, exercising and feeding the animals. They either do this themselves or they ask an assistant or worker to do it.

Personal Requirements

  • at least 16 years old
  • keen interest in and love of animals
  • extremely patient and kind
  • friendly and caring
  • managerial traits
  • physically strong and fit

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

No set level of school required, but it is suggested that you progress as far as you can at school.

What to Study

In-service training is usually offered in the relevant place of interest. These may include circuses, zoos, aquariums, racecourses, stables, or the armed services.


  • circuses
  • zoos and aquariums
  • racecourses and stables
  • armed services
  • self-employment

Further Information

Any of the above potential employers

Getting Started

  • make an appointment to speak to an animal trainer in the field of your choice
  • try to obtain part-time work or holiday work with an organisation that trains animals and learn about the different methods of training

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

A PACE Career Centre Product. © All rights reserved | Developed by Netgen (Pty) Ltd. Disclaimer: Please see disclaimer