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Understanding the Different Types of Dolphin Trainers

You want to be a dolphin trainer, but do you know which kind of dolphin trainer you want to be? Do you know all your options? This article well help you understand all the different types of dolphin trainers and help you decide which one may be best for you.

While there are a number of different types of trainers, there are some responsibilities that they all share. For one, anyone who is in the role of caring for an animal must put that animal’s health, safety, and well-being, first. This means working in conjunction with a veterinary staff to ensure optimal health as well as maintaining a clean and hygienic living environment. A trainer must also prepare the diets for their animals and ensure that the fish they are eating are of the highest quality. Trainers must be able to observe their animals and notice any odd or questionable behavior. Noticing this behavior allows the veterinary and trainer staff to be proactive in their care. Finally, dolphin trainers are constantly coming up with new and fun ways to interact and stimulate their animals. This means making new toys, setting up games, and even giving massages to the dolphins, is all part of a days work.

1. Show Trainer

This type of trainer is arguably the most popular and to the general American public, the only one that exists. These are the trainers you see in the dolphin shows across the country. They are the ones riding on top of dolphins while waving to the audience and they have solidified their place in our culture as “the dolphin trainer.” When someone says, “I want to be a dolphin trainer,” this is usually what he or she means. They want to be the ones performing in shows and waving to the crowds.

While all animal trainers must care for their animals, show trainers have another objective of training behaviors specifically for the show. These behaviors are usually very high energy (flips and high jumps) and are used to make a lasting impression on the audience.

Show trainers must possess the love of performance. Any type of dolphin show, whether it be someone speaking on a microphone or telling a fantasy story through music and acrobats, has to include trainers with “star quality.” They need to be able to draw the audience in and make decisions in a split second. The show will not always go according to plan and a good dolphin trainer will know exactly what to do to keep everyone safe without the audience even realizing the hick-up. For these reasons, a dolphin trainer who performs in shows should have an additional background in the arts, such as; dance, public speaking, and acting. This makes a show trainer a multi-talented individual – not only do you have to know how to work with these incredible animals, but you have to do it while putting on a show for potentially thousands of people.

2. Care Trainer

Not all dolphins perform in shows and just like people, not all dolphins should perform in shows. At most facilities, there are dolphins that do not participate in shows but instead live enriching lives in a separate environment. This environment may allow guests to interact with the dolphins and the chance for a face-to-face meeting. These animals also need care and attention and that is where the role of a Care Trainer comes in. A trainer who cares for the animals outside of a show or interaction setting are known as care trainers. Depending on the facility they may have different titles.

Being a Care Trainer means you act primarily behind the scenes and your interaction with the public is less than that of a show trainer. You do not focus tremendously on show behaviors and instead focus solely on creating a stimulating and safe environment for the dolphins. Usually, Care Trainers prefer to be behind the scenes and do not find the public shows very rewarding. It is not uncommon, however, for a care trainer to interact with guests and answer guest questions. It is important that a care trainer be able to properly interact with the public.

3. Interaction Trainer

Some facilities and parks allow guests to get in the water and swim with dolphins. This experience for most, is a once in a lifetime opportunity (hopefully for you it will be just another day at the office). A trainer who facilitates this interaction between guests and dolphins is called an Interaction Trainer. Again, the title may vary depending on the facility.

These trainers engage both the animals and the public on a very intimate level. They are not only responsible for the safety of the dolphins but the safety of the guests. This means Interaction Trainers need to be on high alert – spotting problems before they happen. Unruly guests, although they may mean well, can cause a big disturbance during a dolphin interaction. These trainers have to manage the guests and interact with their dolphin(s) in a way that is safe for everyone.

Interaction Trainers must not mind this high level of public interaction and must be very creative with how they run their interactions to avoid a bored dolphin. These dolphins, like all animals, need mental and physical stimulation, and repeating the same exact interaction over and over could become boring if the trainer does not change it up a bit.

It’s worth noting that while all dolphin trainers inevitably spend a lot of time outside, Interaction Trainers usually spend the most. Knowing this, Interaction Trainers must be conscience of their sun exposure and be okay with the additional UV rays.

4. Research Trainer

Dolphins are fascinating animals from which we can learn a lot. Learning how they communicate, hunt, and breed allows us to better care for these animals and protect them in the wild. The job of a Research Trainer is to conduct research on the dolphins in their care in order to generate useful findings. First and foremost, like with all trainers, the dolphin’s safety, care and well-being are most important. A good Research Trainer can make participating in these studies fun for the dolphins. Dolphin’s are naturally curious creatures who love to play games and solve puzzles. A dolphin trainer in this field can utilize this curiosity and make participating in these studies worthwhile. An example of a study may be tracking how fast dolphins swim or how they locate hidden objects in their environment by using echolocation. There is a lot of training that takes place with these dolphins as some of the studies are complex in nature. That’s great for the dolphins though – the more training, the more fun!

5. Navy Trainer           

There are a small number of dolphin trainers who work with the United State Navy Marine Mammal Program. These trainers are in charge of caring for their animals and training them for missions. This role can be somewhat related to the role of a Research Trainer as much of the training can be complex. Much of the navy operations are classified, so the only way to truly know what goes on day to day is to work there.

There are two bases in which the Navy Trainers operate. The first one is in San Diego, California and the second one is in St. Marys, Georgia at Kingsbay. We know some of training involves search and rescue missions from dolphins and sea lions. They also train their animals to alert them if an enemy is approaching and find missing pieces to aircraft and watercraft on the ocean floor.

Working for the Navy, trainers are able to travel quite a bit with their animals for training purposes. They do however, have to keep quiet about a lot of their training, and cannot reveal all of the training that occurs at these bases. For someone who is adventurous and loves dolphins, becoming a Navy Dolphin trainer may be a great choice.

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