People often think only dogs can learn tricks. (Well, young dogs can learn tricks - the old ones don't want to bother.) Yet did you know that cats are highly trainable too? In fact, some people have successfully toilet-trained their cats! Yes, you read this right. Some cats use the toilet instead of the litter box. While they cannot flush, this sure beats scooping litter.
Animal trainers prepare animals to perform a variety of tasks. For example, they may teach dogs to guard property, search for drugs, or lead blind people. They may train horses for show, racing, or working. In addition, trainers may teach animals to provide entertainment. They may train dolphins to find and retrieve objects. They may teach other animals to sit, stand, beg, or perform other tricks on cue. Trainers usually specialize in one type of animal and one type of training program. They may also organize animal shows.
Regardless of the type of animal they train or the purpose of the training, animal trainers do many of the same tasks. First they must find animals to teach. Trainers may breed their own animals, but they often buy animals or adopt them from animal shelters. Before choosing animals, trainers evaluate them to determine whether they are trainable. Some trainers do not need to choose animals because they are hired to teach specific animals.
Trainers begin by getting animals used to human voice and contact. Most training involves getting the animals to respond to hand, voice, and physical commands. Trainers may teach animals by approximation. This means they reward the animals for behaviors that are similar to what the trainer wants the animal to do. The animals will make these behaviors more often because they were rewarded. By being more demanding in what animals must do to get rewards, trainers are able to shape their behavior. Training is a slow process and trainers must be patient.