What is an Animal Behaviorist?

An animal behaviorist studies the behavior of animals, especially in the context of their natural habitat. They analyze the actions, reactions, and interactions of animals, to understand how and why they behave in certain ways. These professionals use their understanding of animal behavior to address and solve issues related to the welfare and well-being of animals. An animal behaviorist can work with a wide range of species, including domestic animals, livestock, wildlife, and even marine mammals.

Animal behaviorists may work in various settings, such as research laboratories, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers, or even in private practice. They may be involved in animal training, enrichment, and management, as well as consulting with pet owners or animal handlers on how to modify or improve animal behavior. Animal behaviorists may also work on conservation efforts, by studying the behavior of endangered species and developing strategies to protect them. Ultimately, the goal of an animal behaviorist is to improve the lives of animals, by understanding and addressing their behavior in a responsible and ethical manner.

Get online training through our partner:

What does an Animal Behaviorist do?

An animal behavioural working with a dog outside.

Animal behaviorists play an important role in advancing our understanding of animal behavior and improving the lives of animals in various contexts. By studying animal behavior, they are able to identify the causes of certain behaviors and develop strategies to modify or prevent problematic behaviors. This can be particularly important in the context of domestic animals, where behavior problems can lead to abandonment or even euthanasia.

Animal behaviorists also contribute to conservation efforts by studying the behavior of endangered species and developing strategies to promote their survival. Additionally, their work can inform the development of animal welfare policies and standards, ensuring that animals in various contexts are treated humanely and their needs are met.

Duties and Responsibilities
The duties and responsibilities of an animal behaviorist can vary depending on their area of specialization and the specific job they hold. However, some general tasks that an animal behaviorist may be responsible for include:

  • Conducting research: Animal behaviorists often conduct research to better understand the behavior of animals. This can involve studying animal behavior in the wild or in a controlled environment, analyzing data, and writing research papers.
  • Assessing animal behavior: Animal behaviorists evaluate the behavior of animals to identify any issues that need to be addressed. They may observe animals, perform behavioral tests, and review medical records to develop a comprehensive understanding of an animal's behavior.
  • Developing behavior modification plans: After assessing an animal's behavior, an animal behaviorist may develop a behavior modification plan to address any issues. This may involve developing training programs, creating enrichment activities, or recommending changes to an animal's environment or routine.
  • Working with animals: Animal behaviorists work directly with animals to modify their behavior. This may involve training animals, providing enrichment activities, or working with veterinary professionals to develop treatment plans for animals with behavior-related health issues.
  • Consulting with pet owners or animal handlers: Animal behaviorists often work with pet owners or animal handlers to develop strategies for modifying animal behavior. They may provide advice on training techniques, behavior modification, or environmental changes that can improve an animal's behavior.
  • Collaborating with other professionals: Animal behaviorists often work closely with other professionals, such as veterinarians, zoologists, and wildlife biologists, to develop comprehensive plans for managing animal behavior.
  • Teaching and educating others: Some animal behaviorists work in academia, teaching and mentoring students who are interested in animal behavior. They may also give presentations or workshops to educate the public about animal behavior and how to manage animal behavior issues.

Types of Animal Behaviorists
There are several types of animal behaviorists who specialize in studying different aspects of animal behavior. Some of the most common types include:

  • Ethologists: Ethologists study animal behavior in their natural habitats and focus on understanding the behavior of animals in their natural environments.
  • Applied Animal Behaviorists: Applied animal behaviorists work with pet owners and animal trainers to help modify animal behavior. They may specialize in training dogs, cats, horses, or other domestic animals.
  • Comparative Psychologists: Comparative psychologists study animal behavior to gain insights into the evolution of human behavior. They compare the behavior of different species to identify similarities and differences.
  • Behavioral Ecologists: Behavioral ecologists study the behavior of animals in relation to their environment, including how animals adapt to changes in their habitat and interact with other species.
  • Conservation Behaviorists: Conservation behaviorists study animal behavior in the context of conservation efforts, such as how to promote the survival of endangered species by modifying their behavior.
  • Cognitive Ethologists: Cognitive ethologists study the mental processes of animals, including their ability to learn, remember, and problem-solve.
  • Developmental Psychologists: Developmental psychologists study how animal behavior changes over an individual's lifespan, from infancy to adulthood.
  • Neuroethologists: Neuroethologists study the neural basis of animal behavior, including the physiological and neurological mechanisms that underlie behavior.

Are you suited to be an animal behaviorist?

Animal behaviorists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also artistic, meaning they’re creative, intuitive, sensitive, articulate, and expressive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if animal behaviorist is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of an Animal Behaviorist like?

The workplace of an animal behaviorist can vary depending on their specific area of expertise and their employer. Some animal behaviorists work in academic settings, such as universities or research institutions, where they conduct research on animal behavior and teach courses on the subject. They may spend time in laboratories, conducting experiments and analyzing data, as well as in the field, observing animals in their natural habitats.

Others may work in zoos or aquariums, where they observe and study the behavior of captive animals and develop strategies to improve their welfare. They may work closely with animal trainers and veterinarians to address behavior problems in captive animals and promote their physical and mental well-being.

Some animal behaviorists work in private practice, consulting with pet owners or animal trainers to address behavior problems in domestic animals. They may work out of their own offices or travel to clients’ homes or training facilities.

Regardless of their specific workplace, animal behaviorists typically spend a significant amount of time observing and studying animals, both in the wild and in captivity. They may also spend time analyzing data, writing reports, and communicating their findings to others in the field.

Animal Behaviorists are also known as:
Animal Behavioural Specialist