About the Author
ABOUT KYLE KITTLESON
Hi there! My name is Kyle Kittleson. I run and operate this website. I was a marine mammal trainer for more than five years. I worked with penguins, seals, sea lions, dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales and killer whales! It was a dream come true.
It is a difficult and often confusing road on becoming a marine mammal trainer. I have created this website and my eBook, “Wear a Wetsuit at Work: How You can Become a Marine Mammal Trainer,” in order to help those aspiring to enter the field.
My book took me five years to compile and write. Entering the marine mammal training field doesn’t have to be a mystery. If you know what you need to do, then all there is left to do, is do it!
Where did you work?
What animals did you work with?
Humboldt penguins, harbor seals, hawaiian monk seals, california sea lions, atlantic and pacific bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, false killer whales, killer whales, and a variety of parrots. I also owned and operated my dog training company for three years before selling. I now do some consulting for this awesome dog training company in Los Angeles!
How did you become a trainer?
Honestly, I worked really hard. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. I didn’t have the necessary experience to become a trainer, so I had to get creative with how I got my foot in the door. I talk a lot about how I did that in my book and this website.
You must have excellent swimming skills. I can’t emphasize this enough. The swim test is a very challenging hurdle in becoming a trainer, and unfortunately, most people fail. I was a competitive swimmer for 9 years and also practiced free-diving for a few years.
You should also be SCUBA and CPR certified. Read more about how to become a trainer by clicking here!
How old were you when you decided to become a trainer?
I always knew that working with marine mammals is what I wanted to do, however, it wasn’t until during college that I decided to work on making my dream a reality.
What is the coolest part about being a trainer?
The relationship you develop with each animal! Marine mammals are so smart and find the interactions with trainers very reinforcing. Building relationships with each individual animal is an unexplainable experience. I mean, walking into “work” and looking into the eyes of a killer whale is overwhelming. Knowing that they know you is a feeling I can’t describe!
And doing this is pretty cool too…
What is the hardest part about being a trainer?
The long hours, the work schedule and the pay! I remember days I would work 30 hours straight. For five years I never had a Christmas with my human family. I had to have second jobs or start businesses in order to supplement my income. However, it is all worth it. Caring for these animals and enhancing their lives is worth any sacrifice.
What is the best piece of advice you have for aspiring marine mammal trainers?
I would tell them to get as much information as possible and then act. Seeking out resources like the website you are currently reading, my book, and IMATA is the best way to set yourself up for success! There are very few jobs available and plenty of people wiling to fill the positions. You have to be willing to do more than everyone else.
The sacrifice is well worth it.