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SeaWorld Instructors and the 341st Training Squadron collaborate for cross-training experience

  • Published
  • By Jonathan Cotto
  • 37th Training Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – In a collaborative initiative, SeaWorld Instructors recently visited the 341st Training Squadron to gain insight into how military working dog trainers apply positive reinforcement training to their four-legged students. This exchange of expertise aims to foster a cross-disciplinary learning experience, allowing professionals from different fields to share valuable insights.  

During their time with the training squadron, SeaWorld instructors watched firsthand the training regimen employed by MWD trainers. The focus on positive reinforcement used with military working dogs provided similarities to the methods applied in the marine mammal training industry.  

Elizabeth Pitcher, an animal trainer, has been at SeaWorld for 11-years and has formed part of the SeaWorld and the training squadron’s partnership for the last three years. She says it’s important to keep the relationship between the two groups going and adds, both organizations use similar training principles despite industry differences.  

“We all really benefit from this,” Pitcher said.  “We really are in the same business of training and having a partnership with animals, different animals and for a different purpose, but the core of the relationship we have with our animals is still very much the same.”  

Conversely, the collaboration didn’t end there. In a reciprocal gesture, staff from the aquatic theme park facilitated a visit for a group of military working dog students assigned to the 341 TRS. The visit offered the servicemembers an opportunity to witness the dedication and precision required in the training of marine mammals.  

For SeaWorld instructors, the exposure to MWD training practices offered a fresh perspective on positive reinforcement strategies. The parallels between working with military working dogs and marine mammals allowed for an exchange of ideas, enhancing the understanding of training methodologies in different contexts. 


The MWD students gained an exclusive behind the scenes look at the park’s commitment to animal welfare and the extensive training that goes into caring for marine mammals.  

Staff Sgt. Tara Cummins says she walked away from the experience in awe and admiration. She says, she’s visited SeaWorld as a tourist, but this was the first time, she was able to witness the training involved.  

“It was cool to see how they use the whistle as a marker and how that compares to our dog training and a clicker, it’s ultimately the same concept,” Cummins said.  

The close-up experience provided a perspective into the intersection of veterinary medicine and animal behavior, expanding the students understanding.  

The Sergeant, who is an MWD handler, said she receives quarterly vet training and that she is fascinated with the world of veterinary medicine and animal sciences. During the visit, Cummins said she was amazed on how marine mammals are trained to provide urine samples easily and rapidly for testing, something that is not so easily achieved with K-9’s.  


“It was really cool to see how they are able to actually train their animals how to urinate on command so they can get that sample to the veterinarian with voluntary behavior from the animal so that its less stressful as well,” Cummins said.  

The cross-training experience highlighted the importance of collaboration between diverse fields, showcasing how principles of positive reinforcement and resilience training can be applied across various domains.  

The initiative not only broadened the skill sets of SeaWorld Instructors and military dog handlers, but it also established a spirit of mutual learning and respect between these seemingly contrasting professions. 

“I have an immense appreciation for the dedication that all of the military working dog staff has and how much they pour into these animals especially knowing that they only, often times, are a small portion in that animal’s life and their journey,” Pitcher said. “The amount of passion I have seen from everyone at every stage is definitely very compelling.”  

The interactions between SeaWorld instructors and the training squadron are an example of how military and civilian professionals can come together to share knowledge, ultimately benefiting human and animal well-being.  

“I’ve been looking forward to this for a very, very long time,” Cummins said. “I think it’s fascinating we got to see the behind the scenes, as I mentioned I’ve only been to SeaWorld as a tourist, so I think this experience really expands our knowledge and expands our partnership, its community involvement and I thinks it’s really phenomenal when the Air Force is able to do that, establish these connections.”