Animal Behaviourist

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.  

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.

Personal Requirements

  • a passion for animals, especially companion animals
  • excellent human communication skills
  • a sense of humour
  • incredible patience with both people and animals
  • adaptable, dedicated and self-motivated
  • emotionally well-balanced
  • confident and assertive to be able to deal with people and animals
  • good business and management skills to run own business
  • strong enough to control a large animal
  • objectivity - ability to distance oneself from others’ problems

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

It is highly recommended that a student study towards and relevant degree in the animal sciences. For this you will need to complete a National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Bachelor's Degree pass 
Recommended Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Life Sciences
In addition, check the university admission requirements to see if you qualify for the programme you want to do.

What to Study

Degree: BVSc - UP (Onderstepoort)

Diploma: Nat. Dip Veterinary Nursing - UP, followed by a part-time theoretical course in Companion Animal Behaviour at Animal Theory Behaviour Consultants of Southern Africa.


  • veterinary clinics and hospitals
  • universities and universities of technology
  • self-employment

Further Information

Animal Theory Behaviour Consultants of South Africa
P O Box 11268
Tel: 082 933 9992

Getting Started

  • watch films and videos about, and read books and articles on, animal behaviour
  • develop a passionate interest in animals, their backgrounds and genetic development
  • make an appointment with an animal behaviourist to talk about this career

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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