Animal behaviourists diagnose and consult on behavioural disorders in animals and assist in preventing their inappropriate behaviour. They are also known as Animal Psychologists, Pet Psychologists and Animal Therapists. Inappropriate behaviour includes aggression (intra-dog, intra-species or towards humans), anxiety, destructive chewing, digging, disobedience, escaping, excessive barking, fighting, inappropriate toileting, incompatibilities, manias, neuroses, phobias, self-mutilation, tail chasing etc.
Animal behaviourists discuss their animal’s behaviour with clients and identify which aspect of the animal’s behaviour the client is unsatisfied with. They determine the factors that are influencing the animal’s behaviour and work out the appropriate therapy plan for the animal. They may be directly involved with the animal’s therapy and may also adjust the animal’s environment to manage difficult behaviour.
In some cases, they consult with other animal professionals and may receive and answer enquiries from the public. Some animal behaviour consultants run classes for people and their pets, while others teach at universities or polytechnics.
In rare cases, they may be involved in court cases and sometimes work with organisations such as the Department of Conservation or animal abuse regulation authorities. Some give talks to the general public, media, schools and tertiary institutions and write articles for magazines and publish or contribute to research papers.
Consultants usually specialise in certain animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, birds, cows etc.. They strive to improve good human-animal interaction and conduct educational talks, TV, and radio shows. To study the mental and behavioural characteristics of animals, they need to have a sound background on the particular species being studied.
Animal behaviourists offer other services such as pet matching, character assessment, re-homing of animals, family counselling, animal training for stage and screen, grooming, breeding and showing of animals.
They attend courses and seminars, and are expected to keep up-to-date with developments in animal behaviour.
Animal behaviourists use animal training aids such as leads. They also make use of a car or van, and may use kennels and cleaning equipment. They work with animals inside in consultancy clinics and outside in most weather conditions.
Animal behaviourists work long, flexible and irregular hours to suit their clients’ needs. They may also work weekends and be on call.