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Applied Animal Behavior

The field of Applied Animal Behavior specializes in the behavior of companion animals, the behavior of farm, zoo and laboratory animals and studies of the behavior of wild animals when these studies are relevant from an applied perspective, as well as methodological studies.

Find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist

What is Applied Animal Behavior?

Applied animal behavior is a field focused on applying our understanding of animal behavior to:
  • Improve the welfare and care of animals
  • Help humans have a better understanding of animal behavior as it may apply to their everyday lives
  • Advance research in deeper scholarly understanding of animal behavior as it applies to animals in wild, captivity, laboratories

Who are Applied Animal Behaviorists?

Applied animal behaviorists are scientists, educators, or other animal professionals with an advanced academic background in the principles of animal behavior. Applied animal behaviorists may have a background in fields as diverse as psychology, biology, zoology, veterinary medicine, or animal sciences. They may work in laboratories, zoos, farms, animal shelters, universities, corporations, or as private consultants (and beyond!). What applied animal behaviorists have in common is the application of scientific principles to improving the care, management and welfare of animals in captivity and the wild.

To promote the field of applied animal behavior, the Animal Behavior Society:
  • Hosts an applied behavior symposium at its yearly conference.
  • Offers public education programs during the yearly conference.
  • Publishes research related to applied animal behavior through its journal.
  • Offers a certification program for applied animal behavior professionals.
  • Act as a resource for media inquiries and speaking engagements.

Thank you to Dr. Briana Gaskill, Dr. Allison Greggor, Dr. Stephen Ross, and Dr. Lydia Hopper for contributing content.

Applied Animal Behavior for Companion Animals

Applied animal behaviorists may work in clinical, animal rescue and sheltering organizations, or private practice. In these settings, applied animal behaviorists use behavior and learning theory to evaluate, enrich, monitor, and resolve behavior problems. Some applied animal behaviorists, such as veterinary behaviorists or applied behavior analysts, may also have other certifications or advanced degrees. Most problem behaviors in companion animals (for example, dogs, cats, parrots, mini-pigs, horses, etc.) are natural behaviors displayed in an abnormal context. After a detailed case history is taken, intervention with behavior modification is planned and executed to resolve or reduce the problem behavior.

Some examples of how/where Applied Animal Behaviorists work:
  • Forensic behavior
  • Corporate consulting
  • Serving as expert witnesses
  • Working with families
  • Conducting research

Field Research

1) Animal behavior can serve as an indicator of the status, population viability or activity of a given wild species.

2) Animal behavior can be used to explain the mechanism underlying increases or decreases in species' populations in light of human-induced changes to the environment.

3) Animal behavior can be used a tool to aid the recovery of threatened or endangered species or their habitats. From using bird song to survey population numbers to promoting breeding in conservation facilities, animal behavior can help in many contexts. As a sub-field of applied animal behavior, conservation behavior is an area of growing and active research.

Applied Animal Behavior in Zoo Settings

Applied animal behaviorists in zoo settings have a number of different duties. Zoos, sanctuaries, and exotic animal facilities present unique challenges. These include behavioral mechanisms that can affect zoo animal welfare, species survival plans for endangered species, research on behavior and cognition that have both zoo and field behavior applications. Applied animal behaviorists in zoos:

1. Help design and advise on the development of zoo animal enrichment and species-typical behavior programs to enhance zoo animal physical and psychological welfare.

2. Conduct behavioral research on the effects of internal or external variables (for example, psychological wellbeing and visitor exposure types) on the behavior, cognition and wellbeing of animals in managed settings (eg., zoos, sanctuaries, laboratories).

3. Help design and advise on animal habitats, animal/human (staff and visitor) interactions.

4. Conduct behavioral research for zoo applications, field applications, and basic research (better understanding of behavioral mechanisms in different species).

5. Problem solve for behavior issues that arise between conspecifics, cross-species behavior, and animal/human interactions within the zoo.

Resources

The Animal Behavior Society (ABS) is proud to be a source of information about animals and their behavior. The ABS, however, does not endorse any products or services and assumes no liability whatsoever for the use or content of any product or service contained at this web site.

  • American Dog Trainers Network
    A resource site that is dedicated to: "Promoting humane education, responsible pet care, and positive motivational dog training"
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
    The ASPCA (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) promotes humane principles, prevents cruelty, and alleviates pain, fear and suffering of animals through nationwide information, awareness and advocacy programs.
  • Applied Animal Behaviour Science
    An International Scientific Journal reporting on the application of ethology to animals used by man - (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/applanim)
  • Association of Professional Dog Trainers
    The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education.
  • Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists
    Questions about your companion animal? Would like to know more about the Certified Animal Behaviorist Certification program from CAAB members? Visit the companion website created by several Certified Animal Behaviorist members (CAAB). Created and maintained by – Peter Borchelt, Dan Estep, Suzanne Hetts and Nancy Williams.
  • MA Program in Animal Behavior and Conservation: Hunter College, New York City
    The 36-credit program (at Hunter College, New York City) prepares students interested in animal behavior and conservation (ABC) to develop and enhance their research skills and understanding of the behavior of animals, and to acquire credentials for employment in fields related to ABC. This free-standing Master of Arts Program replaces the previous concentration in ABC within the Psychology MA program with no changes in requirements.
  • Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
    Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS) publishes articles on methods of experimentation, husbandry, and care that demonstrably enhance the welfare of nonhuman animals in various settings. For administrative purposes, manuscripts are categorized into the following four content areas: welfare issues arising in laboratory, farm, companion animal, and wildlife/zoo settings. Manuscripts of up to 7,000 words are accepted that present new empirical data or a reevaluation of available data, conceptual or theoretical analysis, or demonstrations relating to some issue of animal welfare science. JAAWS also publishes brief research reports of up to 3,500 words that consist of (1) pilot studies, (2) descriptions of innovative practices, (3) studies of interest to a particular region, or (4) studies done by scholars who are new to the field or new to academic publishing. In addition, JAAWS publishes book reviews and literature reviews by invitation only.
  • Applied-Ethology
    Applied Ethology is a web page dedicated to the study of animal behaviour. We are particularly interested in the behaviour of domestic animals or animals kept in captivity. Our intention is to bring together a diverse set of resources which students and scientists in our field will find useful, and which may also be of interest to anybody who wants to learn a little bit about animal behaviour. We have provided some original information and also links to other material of related interest which already exists on the Web.
  • CENSHARE
    Center to Study Human-Animal Relationships and Environments. CENSHARE serves as an umbrella organization for numerous private and public agencies, including political bodies, humane societies, veterinarians, professional animal breeders and trainers, farm groups, pet related industries, and animal welfare and rights organizations. CENSHARE provides a neutral environment for these diverse interests, promoting dialogue, supporting research, offering educational and community programs, and recommending appropriate public policies. Housed at the University of Minnesota on the Minneapolis campus, CENSHARE draws on the community and the University for its ideas and support.
  • Delta Society
    Celebrating Companion Animals - and the Ways They Enrich Our Lives Delta Society is the leading international resource for the human-animal bond. Delta Society has been the force to validate the important role of animals for people's health and well-being by promoting the results of research to the media and health and human services organizations.
  • International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)
    The international, professional society devoted to the scientific study of applied animal behaviour.

  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
    The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) is a professional organization with 700 members throughout the world. It includes six divisions: dogs, cats, horses, parrots, shelter animals, and working animals. The IAABC offers a professional certification.

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