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Dolphin Research Center Training Institute

Professional Animal Trainer Program

The DRC Training Institute offers a Professional Animal Trainer (PAT) Program to individuals currently in the animal training profession and those with a minimum of one year of training and/or handling experience, within the last 5 years, with marine mammals or terrestrial animals.  While the program’s focus is marine mammals, the courses offered can be applied for trainers who work with both marine and terrestrial animals.


Students who complete the PAT program will have expanded their knowledge and skills to successfully assess animal behavior, adeptly provide appropriate husbandry care, and apply positive training techniques for the well-being and enrichment of the animals in their care.  Students will also gain skills that further their abilities in applying critical thinking and creative techniques to build stronger relationships. Students will be trained to function as an experienced member of a team caring for and actively training animals in a professional care setting.

Program Description

This is a hybrid learning program that lasts 12-14 weeks and consists of both online and onsite learning. Students will choose 6 courses from the 11 offered in order to receive a certificate of completion. Once the online courses are complete, students have the option to come onsite to DRC for hands-on work with dolphins and trainers.

  • Course Listing:

    • PD001 Furthering Relationships and Enrichment

    • PD002 Basic Behavior Modification and Training (pre-req for PD003, PD004 and PD008)

    • PD003 Advanced Behavior Modification and Training

    • PD004 Training Interactive Programs

    • PD005 Marine Mammal Research

    • PD006 Nutrition for Marine Mammals

    • PD007 Maternity Care for Marine Mammals

    • PD008 Husbandry Care and Training

    • PD009 Public Speaking and Controversy of Animals in Professional Care

    • PD010 Facilitating Positive Social Groups to Increase Welfare

    • PD011 Building Relationships and Training with California Sea Lions


This program will be offered twice a year and will accommodate up to 20 students each time. (See course dates below.) 

2018 Program Dates

January 8 - March 31, 2018 - up to 12 weeks for online work. Onsite week of 4/15 and 4/22 depending on class size.

July 9 - September 29, 2018 - up to 12 weeks for online work. Onsite week of 11/5 and 11/12 (if needed, depending on class size)

Enrollment and Admissions Information

The application period will be open two months prior to the start of the first class and close two weeks prior. Once the application period ends, the DRCTI registration and enrollment coordinator will review the applications to ensure all prerequisites are met. Qualified applications will then be forwarded to the selection committee for final review and selection. As many as 20 qualified students will be chosen each time the program is offered. Enrollment is on a first come, first served basis, dependent upon meeting the qualifications. If there are more than 20 qualified applicants for any given program dates, enrollment may be deferred for up to one year.

Group classes booked through a marine mammal facility or zoo will be scheduled separately. If a facility has 10 or more trainers taking the course, we will offer a group discount.

***If you are a team member of a facility that would like to schedule a group class please contact drcti@dolphins.org prior to completing any paperwork.***

  • Tuition

    • Option 1: Online and Onsite: $1850 per student if choosing to come onsite for hands-on work with dolphins at DRC for 5 days, receiving feedback from instructors. Tuition covers all admissions, lab fees, and lodging. Travel and food costs are the student’s responsibility.

    • Option 2: Online Only: $1250 per student if completing the program entirely online. Must be able to video sessions with their animals, with permission from their facility, and have the ability to upload the video to the instructor.

Application Periods:

November 8th - December 24, 2017, for the January program.

May 9th - June 25, 2018, for the July program.

The application, all required documents, and the non-refundable $25 application fee must be postmarked between these dates.

Please see links to the certificate program documents below for more information regarding costs, course descriptions and the application and enrollment processes. You can also email DRCTI@dolphins.org.

Click here to meet the DRCTI Professional Animal Trainer course instructors. 

DRC Training Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) #M072566 and licensed by the State of Florida Commission for Independent Education (CIE) #4766. 

The DRCTI Professional Animal Trainer Program (PAT) does not fall under the purview of ACCSC accreditation or CIE licensing.

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Our Mission - Through education, research and rescue, Dolphin Research Center promotes peaceful coexistence, cooperation and communication between marine mammals, humans and the environment we share with the well being of DRC's animals taking precedence.
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