How to Become an Animal Behaviorist

If you love animals and love helping people, you may be interested in a career as an animal behaviorist. Animal behaviorists work with zoos, vets and individuals to identify the causes of animal behaviors and encourage modification when necessary.

What Is an Animal Behaviorist?

An animal behaviorist is usually certified by a board such as the Animal Behavior Society and is usually highly trained and educated. Animal behaviorists work with animals, their owners or their keepers to identify their behavioral patterns and figure out why they are behaving in this way. Animals often have behavioral patterns that cannot be noticed by those that are not skilled to identify them. Pets such as dogs and cats may be displaying distress signals or other signals without the knowledge of their owners.

Animal behaviorists are often called in by pet owners when their animals are misbehaving. However, they may also work with zoos and other animal facilities to ensure that animals are healthy and happy. While the goals of the keepers and pet owners are kept in mind, the core of the animal behaviorist’s responsibilities lie in ensuring that the pet is content and safe.

What Does an Animal Behaviorist Do?

How to Become an Animal Behaviorist

An animal behaviorist can also apprentice under a professional. Most animal behaviorists will not have a two year or four year degree, though some may.

A pet owner might call an animal behaviorist to identify problems with their dog or help in training another problem pet. A behaviorist might also be called in regarding other animals such as horses. In this case, the behaviorist will study the animal within their environment and identify any behaviors that they believe could be signs of something negative. The behaviorist will determine what these behaviors mean and will figure out a way to effectively change the behavior if it is bad.

Animal behaviorists may also work with research departments, zoos, pharmaceutical companies or farms. Behaviorists that work with larger institutions will often need to study a broader scale of animals rather than animals individually. They may be able to determine whether there is an issue with the environment that is causing problems for the animals. A poultry farm might call an animal behaviorist in if they find many of their hens are pulling out their own feathers and the behaviorist might be able to identify a cause, such as overcrowding.

How Do You Become an Animal Behaviorist?

The certification program for an animal behaviorist usually requires apprenticeship or hands-on training. This can usually be acquired through specific national programs such as the Animal Behavior College. An animal behaviorist can also apprentice under a professional. Most animal behaviorists will not have a two year or four year degree, though some may.

Animal behaviorists are often called on a consultation basis and are self-employed. Other behaviorists work for large corporations and will sometimes need to continue their education with seminars and other training and behavior resources. Becoming an animal behaviorist usually will not take longer than a year of intensive study, through which the behaviorist may need a certain amount of hours in the field to get certification.

How Do You Advance as an Animal Behaviorist?

An animal behaviorist that works on a consulting basis will advance by building their client base through advertising and satisfied clients. Animal behaviorists will develop their reputation positively through their existing client base and sometimes will even release publications in regards to their findings. Animal behaviorists that work instead with companies may be able to eventually head departments or may work for larger companies.

Behaviorists interested in developing their career further can consider getting a veterinary degree or animal science degree. Veterinarian medicine is a growing industry and is extraordinarily stable.

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