Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Animal Trainer

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Overview: Animal trainers teach animals in a variety of ways—to make them better pets, train them for entertainment purposes, or develop them into service or work animals. They may choose to work with dogs, horses, marine species, exotic animals, or any animals needing training (such as those being used in a movie). Marine trainers will likely work at a zoo or aquarium, horse trainers may work at farms, stables, or a personal residence, and dog trainers may work out of a vet’s office, doggy day care, animal shelter, or in the home. People pursuing this profession may be employed by an animal organization (such as the zoo or shelter) or be self-employed.

Necessary Training: Trainers working with marine animals are often required to have a degree in an animal related field, such as marine biology, veterinary studies, or animal studies. This kind of four-year-degree can also be helpful in other training fields, but a high school diploma is usually all that’s required, though further certifications and a certain amount of on-the-job experience will be necessary.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: A way with animals, basic first aid, empathy, gaining the trust of others, mentalism

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Affectionate, alert, calm, centered, disciplined, empathetic, enthusiastic, gentle, kind, loyal, nurturing, observant, passionate, patient, persistent, persuasive, playful, resourceful, socially aware, trusting

Sources of Friction: Being injured by an animal, being hired to work with an animal that is difficult to train (due to low intelligence, stubbornness, a neurotic disposition, etc.), the heartbreak of dealing with neglected or abused animals, suspecting an owner of abuse, owners with unrealistic expectations for their animals, one’s work with an animal being undone due to inconsistency or poor practices on the owner’s part, working with an aggressive or dominant animal, realizing that an animal is untrainable and having to break the news to the owner, vouching for an animal and having it attack or injure someone, the untimely death of an animal, an injury or chronic illness that makes one’s job difficult, social difficulties that make it hard to communicate with clients

People They Might Interact With: Animal owners, veterinarians, shelter workers, other employees (if they work at a facility), other trainers

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Esteem and Recognition: This occupation doesn’t pay a whole lot, so the character’s esteem could take a hit if they’re unable to live out their preferred lifestyle, or if other people look down on them for their humble financial status.
  • Love and Belonging: Animal trainers are animal lovers. If they pair up with a love interest who hates animals, this could spell trouble for the relationship.
  • Safety and Security: There are many ways a trainer could be injured or infected on the job, so their safety and security could easily be impacted should things go south while working with an animal.
  • Physiological Needs: It’s rare that trainers are killed, but it does happen, so this is a possibility.

Common Work-Related Settings: Amusement park, backyard, barn, big city street, circus, county fair, farm, living room, pasture, pet store, race track (horses), ranch, small town street, vet clinic, waiting room, zoo

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: Animal trainers are usually nurturing but disciplined types—gentle but firm. Consider throwing some unusual character traits into the mix to set yours apart: quirky, whimsical, disorganized, or antisocial.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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2 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Animal Trainer

  1. Tyrean Ann Martinson says:

    Love this entry! I just met a retired Kennel Master from the army. She definitely fits many of those traits.
    Great work on this book!

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