"We spend more time with these animals than sometimes our own families," says Nina Lambert, senior marine mammal trainer at Baltimore's National Aquarium.
Much like human relationships, it's a love and trust developed over time. Lambert has worked with marine mammals for nine years.
"Coming to work is like working with kids," she explains. "They give you something different everyday. Some are very playful, others are a little bit more shy. Some are very outgoing, always eager to learn."
While their intelligence is difficult to measure, experts say dolphins have the ability to learn upwards of 150 behaviors. Training can take a couple of sessions or over a year depending on the behavior's complexity.
The aquarium's eight dolphins, six girls and two boys, do get quite a bit of playtime in the back pools. That's where they really shined competing for our attention.
Then, back to business.
"Pretty much the skies the limit when it comes to training."
Lambert says the median lifespan of dolphins in protected environments is 34 years, whereas wild dolphins have a median lifespan of 17 years.