An animal professional talking with an owner and interacting with their dog.

What Is An Animal Behaviorist?

6 mins |

Does your dog often drive you crazy with its problematic behavior? Jumping on your friends, getting on the table, having anxiety when separated from you or maybe it even shows aggression toward other dogs? 

Every puppy is unique and mischievous in their own way, but to have a wild adult dog is another thing. Luckily, you have a person to turn to when things get tough to manage. Animal behaviorists are professionals that modify and manage your pet’s behavior and help to prevent issues in the future. 

What Are Animal Behaviors?

Behavior is the way an animal acts. It is a reaction to what is happening and what one does to cause something to happen, change, or remain the same.

Anything an animal does that involves movement or a reaction to stimuli is called behavior. Behaviors include things like blinking, chewing, walking, flying, vocalizing, and huddling.

Every animal possesses both instinctive and learned behaviors. Animals learn behavior during the course of their existence, and those with more complex brains display a large number of learned behaviors.

Animal development, physiology, and health can be affected by the environment, and it can also have long-term effects on animal behavior. Hormones, hunger, illness, the presence of predators or prey, weather conditions, and many other factors can affect how an animal behaves.

Depending on the environment each species developed to thrive in, different species will be genetically driven to behave in a particular way.

What Does An Animal Behaviorist Do?

An animal professional petting a dog.
Everyone looks happy!

Animal behaviorists are specially trained experts in the field of animal behavior and the science behind animal learning. 

They observe behavior, will guide clients in identifying the root cause of their dog’s problematic behavior, develop a personalized treatment plan, show them how to implement it successfully, and follow up to assist with any difficulties they may be encountering along the way.

They typically specialize in particular species of animals too, whether that’s in birds, fish, dogs, cats, cows, etc. Additionally, they might want and concentrate on specific behaviors like procreation, barking, and hunting. 

Also, some animal behaviorists are experts in anthrozoology or the study of how animals and people interact.

Applied animal behaviorists are specialists in pet behavior. These experts frequently focus on modifying certain facets of the human-animal relationship in order to encourage behavioral modification in animals. 

They are a very useful professional if you are dealing with a mischievous and energetic dog, such as the Samoyed, and can’t control its behavior.

Qualifications And Training For An Animal Behaviorist

When it comes to qualifications, the field of animal behavior is loosely controlled, much like professional dog training. It’s critical to look for experts who have the necessary training and experience. 

There are several levels of experience in the subject as well, ranging from behavior consultants to board-certified veterinary behaviorists to certified applied animal behaviorists to trainers who work with dogs who have behavioral problems, and so on.

Only those certified by the Animal Behavior Society may use the title “animal behaviorist”.

Pet dogs and cats are the areas of expertise for many applied animal behaviorists.

Also, behaviorists and veterinarians collaborate frequently. In fact, each time your dog exhibits a change in behavior, you should take them to the vet. Any underlying medical condition that causes discomfort may have a negative impact on conduct and personality. 

You might also think about talking to an animal behaviorist if your veterinarian excludes an underlying medical disease.

You should be able to rely on the depth of expertise and training of the animal behaviorist to assist you to identify the causes of your dog’s problematic behavior. 

A happier, calmer, and better-behaved dog will result from the proper therapy and different methods such as training, environmental management, or counter conditioning.

Personal Qualities Of An Animal Behaviorist

If you want to become an animal behaviorist, you should know it is a really specific and interesting job profile, and it requires some personal qualities and characteristics to help you thrive, aside from training and experience. 

Also, dealing with people will require the same level of dedication as working with their animals. 

You’ll also need to be able to apply what you learn, as well as possess good academic skills. You must be willing to dedicate yourself to continuous professional development.

Additionally, you’ll need to be able to immediately establish a connection with both animals and their owners as well as have good listening, analytical, and communication abilities.

Working Conditions

To assist pet and livestock owners in better understanding and caring for their animals, animal behaviorists work in a variety of settings. Some of these settings are universities and research facilities, zoos, animal training facilities, animal shelters, and private practices.

However, animal behavior consultations may take place in a clinic, the owner’s home, or in an outside location.

Also, some animal behaviorists work in academic institutions, typically in the biology or psychology departments, where they instruct and do in-depth research. 

Many people work as full or part-time research assistants to start their careers.

Larger zoos may hire animal behaviorists and their assistants to do research, act as curators, create surroundings that are suitable for the animals, keep an eye on behavior, create educational exhibits, and speak to the public about animal behavior.

Animal behaviorists with a focus on behavior modification work in veterinary practices, zoos, animal shelters, and private practices. 

Salary And Benefits

It is challenging to estimate the typical wage for this profession because the career routes chosen by animal behaviorists are quite diverse. Salary levels vary greatly depending on the industry or level.

However, the average salary for an animal behaviorist working in private practice or for a business is higher than that of a researcher or an employee of a nonprofit organization like a zoo.

To Sum Up: What Is an Animal Behaviorist

What is an animal behaviorist? An animal behaviorist is a real-life “animal whisperer.” These specialists assist their clients in managing, changing, and preventing problem behavior in pets.

This profession is of great importance for pet owners as well as veterinarians and other professionals in relation to animals. With a range of profiles and working conditions, this is quite a big field to do research in and is yet to expand. 

Have you ever needed guidance to understand and correct some of your pet’s behavior? What has been your biggest problem? Let us know in the comments below! 

Sandra is a veterinary undergraduate student based in Macedonia. She combines her two passions: veterinary medicine and writing, and she also tends to raise awareness about animal welfare as much as she can. As a student, she has attended many seminars and conferences related to the veterinary profession, and currently, she is focused on veterinary content writing. Although she owns a cat, she strongly claims that “dogs are her favorite people”.