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Unit Nine: Training & Careers in Animal Care
Lesson Overview

In the 1960's behaviorism and the work of BF Skinner reigned and dominated the field of psychology and understanding of animals.  In simple terms, animals were thought to just be stimulus-response machines, with little or no emotions or intelligence and certainly no consciousness. 


Behaviorists believed that studying lab rats was all that was necessary to understand any behavior because it was all the same.  Because they focused on lab rats, they were not studying animals in their natural environments, as ethologists did.  The belief in behaviorism was that if you rewarded an animal with something they desired, such as food, that animal would become conditioned to repeat the behavior that preceded the treat. 


So, if a dog sits and you give him a treat, the animal learns that sitting results in a treat.  If you punish a dog, the behaviorists believe, you will reduce the likelihood of that behavior.  This is called operant conditioning.  Behaviorism only focuses on what an animal does in response to events in the environment.  Thus they used electric shocks to deter certain behaviors.


Behaviorism is looking at the outside result, the final behavior and not considering other factors, such as animal instinct, temperament, animal emotion, or animal intelligence. 

While behaviorism still offers benefits to understanding training, it falls short when it comes to the humane understanding of the true needs and desires of animals – in short, their inner lives.  Recent research has gone way beyond this mechanistic view.  The work of many researchers on our reading list expands and explores the true potential of animals for profound experiences such as emotions, empathy, compassion, curiosity, inventiveness, creativity, and love. 

The Major Training Perspectives:

Some training methods use negative methods of punishment, coercion, and fear to change animal behavior.  The concept here is that the human must dominate the animal in order to show him who is the boss.   This was very much the style in the 1950s and is still practiced today by some trainers, especially in law enforcement and with military working dogs. 


Although these methods create compliance, in many cases they disrupt the true potential for the human-animal bond which is based on mutual respect, two-way communication, and trust.

Positive Training Methods seek to use only positive reinforcement, meaning an animal is rewarded for good behavior (the dog sits, she gets a treat.)  Bad behavior is redirected (the dog chews on something she is not supposed to, and she is handed a toy she is allowed to chew.) 


Some trainers will use a combination of positive and corrective training.  For example, some may use positive training methods for 90% of situations but will consider a variety of harsher methods for serious behavioral challenges, such as leash corrections or other dominance methods.


Today, there is mounting evidence for the use of at least 90% positive training.  While this may require more patience and perseverance than methods that override an animal’s will, they result in better physical and emotional health for the animal.  Methods that take into consideration the animal’s needs and wishes are based on greater respect for the animal’s spirit.

BF Skinner.jpg

B. F. Skinner

BF Skinner's Operant Conditioning

In the Skinner Box animals were given a treat for pushing a lever -- and in some experiments electric shocks for "wrong" behavior.

MWD bite.jpg
MWD leap bite.jpg


According to the APPA, the American Pet Products Association, revenue for the pet care industry in the U.S. was estimated at 72.56 billion in 2018, an increase of more than 4% over last year's figures. 


The last few years have seen about 2-3 billion dollars a year increase since 1994, so this represents double the growth of recent years.

Analyzing the Pet Care Industry


It's estimated that 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats are owned in the United States. Approximately 37-47% of all households in the United States have a dog, and 30-37% have a cat.   According to the WHO, the World Health Organization, dogs make up ten percent of the world's population.


"As of 2015, 65% of households in the US own at least one pet, and the pet industry is made up of the products and services that keep these pets alive, healthy and happy – food, toys, daycare, training, beds, cages, medical services and a lot more." (The pet care industry analysis website.)


Pets are often considered members of the family, and in many cases, they are well taken care of, even in situations of financial hardship.  "While pets are found in households of all economic levels, high-income households account for about 60% of the total spending."


Large corporations such as Petsmart and Petco are the most well-recognized businesses, and they have 53,000 employees -- which means more people work for them than work for TSA (Transit Security Association at the airports). 


In addition to these large corporations, there are many smaller businesses, franchises, and sole proprietorships.  Everything from dog walkers, pet sitters, dog groomers, trainers, holistic healers, doggie day-care and many other services.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, above average job growth is expected for the industry – 11% growth between 2014 and 2024.  There are very few industries with this level of growth.


According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), revenue in the pet industry on average has been experiencing an annual growth rate since 2002 of  3-5%, and revenue has been growing steadily for well over 20 years.  "There are a number of trends supporting strong growth in the industry and they show no signs of slowing down." (APPA)

Pet food is the largest spending segment, followed by veterinary care. Within each segment, however, there is quite a degree of variability in the type, quality, and price of goods and services.  

Revenue by Segment for 2016 (estimated)

Food:                                          $24.01 billion

Supplies/OTC Medicine:           $14.98 billion


Veterinary Care:                       $15.92 billion


Live animal purchases             $2.11 billion


Pet services:                               $5.73 billion

    grooming & boarding



                                                     Source: APPA


Trends:  Humanization

"Many types of pets have long been considered part of the family, but in recent years that has started to translate to actually treating pets more like people – a trend called “humanization.” Pet owners are seeking out higher quality foods, more high-end accessories, and more expensive medical treatments. Largely gone are the days of “outside dogs” that just “see to themselves.”

Trends: Premiumization

"Premiumization is the creation of higher-end or specialty products and services to cater to these elevated requirements for our pets. Organic and natural treats and foods, high-tech medical therapies and medicines, holistic treatments, luxury services, and even spas – nothing is too good! Businesses that cater to these niche products and services are booming!"

Health Benefits of Pet Companionship

Another driving force is a greater appreciation – based on scientific research – of the bond between people and their pets. According to the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative Foundation (HABRI), “People are happier and healthier in the presence of animals.  Scientifically-documented benefits… include decreased blood pressure, reduced anxiety, and enhanced feelings of well-being.”  Some studies estimate that owning a dog adds ten years to the human life-span, and leads to a healthier quality of life.

Though the results are preliminary, a HABRI study has indicated a potential $11.7 billion savings a year to the US healthcare system that can be tied to pet ownership."


"Current US demographic trends also favor continued industry strength based on two groups: baby boomers and millennials.  Baby boomers are launching their real kids into the wild and replacing them with pets - and they are pampering them. In almost all spending categories, spending declines once a person reaches 55 years of age – but pet spending is peaking between the ages of 55 and 64!


Millennials – people born between 1985-2010 – are probably the first generation to grow up thinking of pets more like humans than animals. They are finding their independence and have disposable income – and they are buying pets and spoiling them. "It's great for the industry – these folks will be loyal customers for decades." (Pet Care Franchise analysis).




"Pet industry revenue has shown growth even during times of economic trouble, including the recent Great Recession, so it only makes sense that our current relative economic strength bodes well for continued industry strength."


Career Paths in the Pet Care Industry


"Veterinary technology is among the top five fastest-growing occupations nationwide, with employment in the field expected to grow 41% in the next nine years." The University of Hawaii. 

Some rapidly growing employment opportunities are:

Vet Tech & Vet Assistance

Animal Assisted Therapy

Service Animal Training

Companion Dog Training

Medical Alert Dog Training

Law Enforcement Canine Training

Human-Animal Communication

Animal Hygiene & Nutrition

Cancer Detection Training

Grief and Bereavement Counseling

Dog Walking

Pet Grooming

Doggie Day Care Workers

Animal Hospice

Animal Massage

Alternative & Complementary Modalities


"Veterinary technology is among the top five fastest-growing occupations nationwide, with employment in the field expected to grow 41% in the next nine years.  The nationwide shortage of skilled veterinary office personnel has been widely discussed in academic and trade journals and has received attention in the national media." (US News and World Report).


According to the American Veterinary Association,  there is a tremendous shortage of vet techs to assist veterinarians. 


U.S. Veterinarians in Private Practice      64,489

U.S. Veterinarians                                     102,744

     (corporate, Government, Law Enforcement, etc)     


Animal Assisted Activity



Senior Facility


Work Place



The Need for Trainers for Service Dogs and Therapy Animals.

The Need for Training for Emotional Support, Companion Animals, Animal Assisted Therapy, Medical Alert Dogs…Autism Assistance dogs are incalculable.


In many cases, there is a five-year waiting list for trained service dogs.

Average Waiting List:  1,600

Average Wait for a Service Dog:  FIVE YEARS

Average Cost: $15,000 – 35,000

Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan, US Army Retired with his service dog, Tuesday.

New Trends:

Mobil Veterinarians

are increasing and

need Vet Techs

Mobil veterinarians can often perform full service

and even basic surgery.

Pet Hospice &

Vet Assisted Home Euthanisia


The International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care

Has experienced a 200 % growth

in the last five years.


The Human-Animal Connection BLOG Lectures for Unit Nine:

Brief History of Animal Training and Methodology

Pavlov and Classical Conditioning

Positive Training Methods and Rationale

The Trust Technique

Overview of Careers in Animal Services

Grief Counseling and Pet Bereavement Counseling

Veterinarian-Assisted Home Euthanasia

Building Your Own Animal Care Practice

If you are enrolled in this class here are your 


1. Read this Unit Overview

2. Read Two (or more) Unit Blog Posts

3. Answer the JOURNAL Questions Assignment

4. Take the Quiz (if you are doing for credit)

5. Then Proceed to the next unit:


Thank you for visiting the

Human-Animal Connection website

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