Animal Behaviourist

An Animal Behaviourist is also known as an ethologist, they study animal communication and how animals interact with each other and their environment. An Animal Behaviourist is often called upon to diagnose and advise on behavioural problems in captive or domestic animals and can work in a variety of situations. Vets will often refer animal owners to an animal behaviourist if they are experiencing behavioural issues.

In day to day work you may; consult in various locations, identify the appropriate animal health and welfare legislation, take a detailed history of the behavioural problem, assess the animal’s response to a variety of situations, establish the cause of the problem, apply the animal learning theory principles, advise on how this behaviour can be modified, produce reports on the behaviour and the modification plan and liaise with owners and the involved veterinarian, assess progress.

Key Skills Required:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work calmly and safely under pressure
  • Report writing skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Good observation skills
  • Ability to work effectively both in a team and independently
  • IT skills

Key Points to Know:

  • A full driving license will likely be useful as many Animal Behaviourists travel between clients/ clinics.
  • Opportunities within the Animal Behaviour field are very limited.
  • You may work at a veterinary practice or visit client’s homes and some cases may be outdoors.

To be an Animal Behaviourist you will need to:

There is no set route to become an Animal Behaviourist, you will require a relevant degree or equivalent. Potential degree paths include; animal behaviour, animal behaviour and welfare, animal management, zoology with animal behaviour, canine behaviour and training, biology or related subject.

It is beneficial to register with Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB) which is administered by The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) – a degree or postgraduate qualification in a biological or behavioural science is required to register.

You will also need practical experience working with animals; volunteering or working in kennels, stables, animal rescue centre, veterinary practices or animal welfare charities is very useful.

There are also many online courses that can help you to start your animal behaviour journey such as; Level 5 Dog Behaviour Practitioner Diploma course, Level 6 Advanced Canine Behaviour Diploma course and Advanced Diploma in Companion Animal Training.

You may also decide to further your study via a postgraduate degree course e.g. Animal Behaviour, Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Anthrozoology, Clinical Animal Behaviour  – these Masters course examples are suitable if you have an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as biology, ecology, zoology, animal behaviour, botany or environmental science.

Estimated average salary: £15,000 – £30,000 annually.

As an Animal Behaviourist, you can anticipate employment in a variety of roles including:

  • Veterinary Clinics
  • Animal Charities
  • Zoos
  • Self-employment
  • Lecturer

Being an Animal Behaviourist is a challenging, hands-on role that requires a mixture of theoretical and practical application of knowledge. The job can take you to a range of situations including training, teaching, research and publishing. Animal Behaviour is currently a small, unregulated field. In 2011, a set of agreed standards were established by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council relating to the knowledge and skills required for animal trainers and animal behaviour therapists. Many experienced Animal Behaviourists opt for the self-employed route as there are limited positions available within businesses.

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Megan Richards