Peta Clarke lives and breaths the animals she works with. With close to twenty years experience working as a professional animal trainer in a variety of areas both in Australia and America, she has engulfed herself during that time in the practical and theoretical application of reinforcement training in the training and care of literally thousands of animals.
While Peta’s first love is working with dogs, her experiences in the field of animal training range from elephants to goldfish. As a trainer and presenter of animal shows in zoos on several continents, she has had the
opportunity to work with many exotic animals, but has focused her work in this area on working with free flighted birds and marine mammals. Whether it is a seal or a seagull, Peta has found that every interaction taught her more about being good dog trainer. She believes it was a real turning point in her understanding of the power of reinforcement training. “I thought I was using positive reinforcement well when I would work with dogs, but after I started training birds – animals that can just fly away if they are not interested in you, and later seals – animals that could kill you if they wanted to, I realised that if I wanted to truly be the best trainer I could be – which doesn’t just mean results, but treating animals with respect and empathy, it was time to pull my socks up”.
As well as a career as an exotic animal trainer, Peta also works extensively for Animal House Animal Talent Agency based in Sydney, Australia, training and working animals for the International Film Industry and Australian Theatre Industry. Her credits include “Babe”, “Superman Returns”, “Wolverine”, “The Square” and many other local films and literally hundreds of television commercials.
Some of her favourite memories working animals on set have come from working the
Kleenex Labrador puppies for ad campaigns from around the world. Hard work, she says, but always amazing how quickly an 8 week old puppy can learn when there is no threat or fear.
One of the biggest challenges of her career has been training and working the dogs for the Australian production of Legally Blonde the Musical. “Training and working Chihuahuas and bulldogs for live theatre, performing in eight shows a week in front of two thousand people is a sure way to humble yourself as a trainer” she says.
The job of raising and training the two chihuahua brothers Quinn and Sparrow for the role of Bruiser Woods in the musical is another step away from her comfort zone of her beloved breed, the boxer. She has found two kilogram dogs a little different to work and handle than the thirty plus kilogram dogs she is used to. They are more weary and less trusting naturally – “Much more like training a wild bird than the dogs I am used to”, she says.
While we all have our favourite breeds, she urges other trainers to step outside their comfort zone and push themselves in working other breeds and indeed other animals. Only when you train animals that push you past your boundaries will you really continue to learn and grow as a trainer.
In addition, Peta also runs her own animal training and consultancy business, Animal Training Solutions based out of Sydney, Australia. Peta consults on both pet dog and parrot behaviour and training issues and advising wildlife parks and zoos on improved training practices and show development. Peta Clarke is a Nationally Accredited Trainer, holding her Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and is a sought after lecturer in Australia, teaching Certificate level animal
training and behaviour courses for aspiring animal trainers and an invited lecturer for many dog obedience clubs and related associations. She currently is the Trainer and Assessor responsible for the Certificate II in Animal Studies at Taronga Zoo, teaching up to four classes a week.
Peta has also been invited to speak internationally for both dog training and exotic animal training organisations. She has also served as President, Vice President and held various roles on committee for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia, a not for profit organisation which encourages dog trainers every where in continuing their education about the value and use of positive reinforcement techniques in training.