What Is A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist?

Pets sometimes display behavior that is so inappropriate or unacceptable that it poses serious concerns for their owners. Applied animal behaviorists help owners understand and work with their pets to resolve behavior problems. Common problems are aggression, fear, separation anxiety, house soiling, and compulsive behaviors.

Applied animal behaviorists have post-graduate degrees (either Master of Science or Ph.D.) in animal behavior and animal psychology. Some behaviorists have met the requirements for certification by the Board of Professional Certification of the Animal Behavior Society. ABS certified behaviorists possess relevant education, research, and practical experience and practice according to specified ethical standards. A list of certified applied animal behaviorists appears on http://animalbehaviorsociety.org/. They are an exclusive group, numbering about 40 in all of North America.

The most effective applied animal behaviorists have expertise in (a) behavior modification, so they know the techniques that produce changes in behavior, (b) the normal behavior of the species, so they can recognize how and why a pet’s behavior is abnormal, and (c) teaching and counseling people, so they can effectively teach owners how to understand and work with their pets. It is also helpful for the behaviorist to possess a basic knowledge of common medical conditions that may impact on an animal’s behavior and a familiarity with psychotropic drugs, such as tranquilizers and anti-depressants that can be used to further enhance the effectiveness of a treatment program.

Most pet behavior problems are effectively treated with behavior modification and training. For instance, a dog that is frightened of children will often benefit from a desensitization and counter conditioning program, that provides the dog with gradual exposure to children while associating the presence of children with activities the dog enjoys, such as eating and playing. The dog also requires training to learn how to interact in a controlled and gentle manner with children. Applied animal behaviorists need extensive knowledge of behavior modification and training principles and procedures. Source: (ASPCA www.aspca.org)


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