Understanding animal requirements begins with understanding animal behaviour.
Animals have long captivated humans and piqued their interest. We have used domesticated animals for food, companionship, and tools for a very long time. Animal behaviour hasn’t been significantly altered by domestication; instead, domesticated animals still exhibit the same natural behaviours and motivational pathways as their wild counterparts.
So, it is crucial for us to understand animal behaviour in its natural state in order to comprehend animal needs. Although while domesticated animals might not exhibit the whole range of behaviours seen in the wild, their behaviour in a home environment will always reflect a need.
While working with animals, it is crucial to have a solid understanding of animal behaviour because an animal’s behaviour is a key sign of their health and well-being.
Learn to assess the traits that animals exhibit in their behaviour
Animal behaviour researchers are interested in comprehending the origins, purposes, development, and evolution of behaviour.
Animal behaviour knowledge is required for many vocations that include working with animals. Among these is work as:
- Animal assistants
- zookeepers, professors, and researchers who work in establishments with animals
- animal psychologists who also train companion animals
- Animal control officers
- pet store employees
In any situation where a person deals with animals, having a basic understanding of animal behaviour is essential.
Why pick our programme?
This course includes parts on animal handling and typical anomalous behaviours and covers many facets of animal behaviour, including motivation, heredity, animal perception, environmental factors, social behaviour, and learning.
“I found the course to be well written and explained, any queries I had were answered quickly, and the staff to be very friendly and helpful. In all the course has been invaluable. I am a little sad it is near the end as I have enjoyed the whole course”
S. Crosbie Ross
There are 8 lessons in this course:
- Introduction: Influences and Motivation
- What is behaviour
- Causes of behaviour (eg. genetics, learning, external and internal influences)
- Reactive, active and cognitive behaviour
- Genetics and Behaviour
- Understanding biology
- Natural selection
- Genetic variation
- Development of behaviour
- Behavioural genetics
- Animal Perception and Behaviour
- How animals perceive things
- What stimulates them and how do those stimuli function
- Neural control
- Sensory processes, sight, sound, hearing etc
- Behaviour and the Environment
- Circadian rhythms
- Biological clocks
- Reproductive cycles etc
- Social Behaviour
- Animal societies
- Social constraints
- Social order
- Biological clocks
- Instinct and learning
- Conditioning and learning
- Extinction and habituation
- Instrumental learning
- Operant behaviour
- Biological and cognitive aspects of learning
- Handling Animals
- Psychological affects of different handling techniques
- Training animals (horses, cats, dogs, etc)
- The student has a choice of which types of animals to focus on, though a variety will still be covered
- Behavioural Problems
- Abnormal behaviour (eg. psychotic, neurotic)
- Domestication of animals
- Reducing human contact
- Reducing human dependence
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school’s tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
- Determine what influences animal behaviour.
- Explain how genes affect animal behaviour.
- Describe how animals perceive and react to different stimuli.
- Describe the impact of environmental influences on biological clocks, reproductive cycles, orientation, and other animal behaviours, such as circadian rhythms.
- Describe how social factors affect animal play, sexual behaviour, communication, and other behaviours.
- Explain the many methods by which animals learn (such as conditioning and habituation) and how learning affects behaviour in some animals.
- Examine the psychological effects of various handling approaches.
- Determine inappropriate animal behaviour (such as psychotic or neurotic behaviour) and strategies for reducing reliance on people.
Animals can learn proper behaviour.
The founder of classical conditioning was Ivan Pavlov. His theory was based on the results of his canine experimentation. Pavlov studied the connection between a dish of food as an unconditioned stimulus and an unconditioned reaction (eg. salivating at the mouth). He understood that this was a spontaneous, unlearned reaction. He next explored the potential for conditioning the dog to respond to light by salivating by linking a different stimulus (light) with the unconditioned stimulus (food).
Pavlov placed the dog in a soundproof laboratory and fitted it with a unique instrument to gauge its salivation response (attached to the salivary gland). Then, after receiving the meat powder by remote control, a light was turned on. The amount of salivation was really excessive. The process was repeated in order to train the dog to link the light and food. Reinforcement is the process of repeating this action. It strengthens the link between food and light. Without offering food, the experimenter turned on the light, and the dog continued to drool profusely. “Classical conditioning” is the name given to this kind of learning.
Salivation is now a conditioned reaction to the conditioned stimulus (CS) of the light (CR). The conditioned response gradually vanishes if the conditioned behaviour is not reinforced (i.e., if the conditioned stimulus is repeatedly provided without the unconditioned stimulus). Extinction is the name for this. The eradication of a learnt behaviour is extinction.
If the reinforcement that keeps the behaviour going is completely eliminated, learnt behaviour can be unlearned. (The behaviour it reinforces may become more intense if reinforcement is occasionally withheld.)
Depending on how long passes between the presentation of the unconditioned stimulus (such as food) and the controlled stimulus (such as light), classical conditioning may take on many forms:
- When conditioning is used, both light and food are created concurrently.
- When conditioning is delayed, the light is on for a while before the food is presented.
- Before presenting food, the light is briefly turned on with trace conditioning and then turned off.
Various psychological schools give diverse interpretations to Pavlov’s research findings. The classic behaviourists were the ones who, in a sense, adopted Pavlov’s findings. They used his data to support their mechanical understanding of human behaviour, considering the process of learning involved to be automatic. They adopted Pavlov’s theory, according to which learning is dependent on how closely the two stimuli are timed. They believed that unless the two stimuli were provided at roughly the same moment, the conditioned association between the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli would not have arisen.
Cognitive psychologists, on the other hand, interpret Pavlov’s findings in a different way. They focus more on what goes on within an organism’s head. They believed that unless the organism was capable of actively digesting the information it received, no response would take place.
Some theorists contend that the organism notices when conditioned and unconditioned stimuli coexist and records this information in memory. The organism reacts in anticipation of the uncontrolled stimulation when the unconditioned stimulus is delivered because it recalls that the two previously occurred simultaneously. Although there may not seem to be much of a difference between these two readings, they have very different psychological effects.
Understanding the Dog’s Mind
Evolution and Domestication
As we’ve already established, it’s widely acknowledged that domestic dogs are mostly descended from wolves. Dogs would have been prized as scavengers, hunting partners, sources of warmth at night, and guards as the connection progressed. One of the most important similarities between wolves and domestic dogs is that both are highly social animals who like to live in packs, whether those packs are made up of other wolves, dogs, or humans. Their psyche and behaviour are significantly influenced by this characteristic.
It has been proposed that social dogs’ behaviour has been influenced by fear, aggression, dominance, and submission. The most effective tactics for dogs to employ at various times have been shown to be these behaviours. Dogs have also acquired social awareness, meaning they are aware of other canines or people nearby, thanks to their relationship with humans.
Newborn puppies are completely dependent on their mother but as they develop physically they become more independent and aware of their surroundings.
The stages of development can be divided into distinct phases:
The Neonatal Period
- spans the first two weeks of life
- are completely dependent on their mother
- sensitive to touch, taste and smell but movement is limited
- eyes and ears are still closed
- main activities are sleeping and feeding
The Transitional Period
- occcurs during third week
- period of rapid development from total dependence on dam to a degree of independence
- eyes and ears open and respond to stimuli
- start crawling backwards and forwards
- able to stand and lap milk from a saucer
- will defecate and urinate away from its bedding and its mother
- start play fighting with litter mates
- start to display social signs such as tail-wagging and growling
The Socialisation Period
- occurs from end of third week up to week 10
- critical period for formation of social relationships
- begin to learn about their environment
- will interact with each other and with humans
- may initiate play with raised paw or tail wagging
- will learn to control biting through play experience
- dominant and subordinate puppies will become apparent
- may show prey killing and sexual behaviour e.g. mounting other puppies
The Juvenile Period
- extends from 10 weeks to sexual maturity
- gradual improvement in motor skills
- learn relevance of behaviours and which are appropriate to specific situations
- basic learning capacities are fully developed at the beginning of this period – by about 4 months old previous learned tasks may interfere with new learning
- may still not be trained to do difficult tasks due to their short attention span
Common Behaviour and Body Language
To communicate with one another, people utilise words. Although we occasionally assume that our dogs comprehend what we are saying, dogs and other animals mostly communicate through body language. To communicate with people, they use their ears, tails, mouths, stances, and eye contact.
In rare instances, incorrect body language interpretation might result in dog bites. A dog may see a child’s intense gaze as a challenge, bare fangs, and an aggressive physical stance if the youngster grins and leans in to stroke the dog.
In most cases, you can infer a dog’s mood from a mixture of indications. While some of these signs, like raised hackles, may be quite visible, other signs might be subtler or more susceptible to misunderstanding.
Where can this course lead?
You might have the background needed for one of the possibilities listed below if you take this animal behaviour course. Instead, it might inspire you to continue your education and pursue a position that calls for extra training and specialised knowledge.
Opportunities in the field of animal behaviour can be found in the areas listed below, to name a few:
- Animal Behaviourist
- Animal Trainer
- Animal Welfare Officer
- Veterinary Assistant
- Animal Caretaker
- Pet Store Worker
- Biodiversity Officer
- Biodiversity Restoration Assistant
- Biosciences Researcher
- Biosecurity Officer
- Community Engagement Facilitator
- Conservation and Science Support Officer
- Fauna Spotter/Catcher/Wildlife Consultant
- Field Guide/Ranger
- Field Officer
- Flora & Fauna Officer
- Forestry/National Parks Ranger
- Administrative Assistant
- Field Assistant
- Information Officer
- Laboratory Technician
- Quarantine Officer
- Research Assistant – Avian/Wildlife Ecology
- Research Scientist
- Safari Supervisor
- Threatened Fauna Recovery Officer
- Tour Guide
- Wildlife Educator
- Animal Welfare Organisations
- Conservation Councils
- Research Institutions
- Government Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Agriculture, Primary Industries and Regions, Environment
- Ecotourism Companies
- National Parks and Wildlife Service
- Nature Foundations
- Fauna Consultancies
- Not for Profit Organisations
- Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries
- Pet Stores