Need Assistance? 01384 442752 (UK)


Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Study Animal Behaviour to Learn what affects behaviour in animals.

  • Learn about difficult behaviour in animals and techniques to deal with it.
  • Discover why animals may be badly behaved or aggressive.

  • A useful qualification for anyone working with animals, for someone wishing to set up their own business, or for anyone studying general psychology.




It's easy to enrol...

Select a payment plan:  

Select a learning method  

Studying animal behaviour with this course is an intensive introduction to the study of animals and why they behave the way they do.


Do you ever see badly behaved animals and wonder why they behave the way they do? Or admire animals that do exactly what their owners or keepers say?


Many animals display what we consider to be negative behaviours, but studying animal psychology can help us to find out why.

  • Learn more about how animals think and why they behave the way they do.
  • Learn techniques to train animals more effective.
  • Find out more about how to deal with difficult  behaviour.
  • A useful course for anyone who owns or works with animals.
  • Course Duration: 100 hours of self paced study.  Start at a time to suit you and study at your own pace.
  • Benefit from the support of highly experienced tutors.


COURSE AIM           

Develop your understanding of animal behaviour, and your ability to apply that to the handling of a variety of different types of animals.


There are 8 lessons in this course, as follows:

  1. Introduction: Influences and motivation.  What is behaviour; causes of behaviour (e.g. genetics; learning; external and internal influences); reactive, active and cognitive behaviour; conditioning.
  2. Genetics and Behaviour.  Understanding biology; natural selection; genetic variation; development of behaviour; behavioural genetics.
  3. Animal Perception and Behaviour.  How animals perceive things; what stimulates them and how do those stimuli function; instinct; neural control; sensory processes: sight, sound, hearing etc.
  4. Behaviour and the Environment. Coordination; orientation; homeostasis; acclimatisation; circadian rhythms; biological clocks; reproductive cycles; etc.
  5. Social Behaviour.  Animal societies; aggression; social constraints; social order; play; sexual behaviour; communication.
  6. Instinct and Learning.  Conditioning and learning; extinction and habituation; instrumental learning; reinforcement; operant behaviour; biological and cognitive aspects of learning.
  7. Handling Animals.  Psychological affects of different handling techniques.  Training animals (horses, cats, dogs, etc). The student can choose which animals to focus on, though a variety are covered.
  8. Behavioural Problems.  Abnormal behaviour (e.g. Psychotic; neurotic); domestication of animals; reducing human contact/dependence.



  • Identify factors affecting animal behaviour.
  • Describe the influence of genes on animal behaviour.
  • Explain how animals perceive and how they respond to various stimuli.
  • Explain the influence of environment factors, such as circadian rhythms, on biological clocks, reproductive cycles, orientation and other animal behaviours.
  • Explain the social influences on animal aggression, play, sexual behaviour, communication and other behaviours.
  • Describe different ways that animals learn (such as conditioning and habituation) and some effects of learning on behaviour.
  • Discuss psychological implications of different handling techniques.
  • Identify abnormal animal behaviour (eg. psychotic, neurotic behaviour) and ways to reduce dependence on humans.


Examples of what you may do:

  • Observe an animal in the zoo, in the wild, or a domestic animal.  Try to observe what you consider to be an example of operant conditioning.  Make notes.
  • Talk with an animal breeder (amateur or professional). This may be a pet owner whose cat or dog has given birth; or it may be a farmer, dog breeder, horse breeder, bird breeder or some other animal breeder.
  • Write a paragraph describing the behaviour of an animal (real or contrived) which utilizes the different words you learnt under “terminology” in this lesson
  • Classify the following animals according to whether they are endo-therms or ecto-therms; a dog, a penguin, a single celled protozoa, a lizard.  How is heat lost from endo-therms to the environment, and how can this heat loss be reduced? 
  • Observe an animal while it is on its own.  Make notes of how it behaves. Observe the same animal or species of animal in a group situation or in the presence of one other animal of the same species.  Make notes on its behaviour and pay attention to any noticeable differences compared to its solitary behaviour. 
  • Visit a zoo, wildlife park or farm where animals are being confined in some way, and observe the behaviour of one particular type of animal over the course of an hour. This can be any animal you choose to study. Make notes on its behaviour, and any problems that you would anticipate with handling.


Do Animals Really Think like You do?

Like humans, all mammals have a brain and central nervous system. These are made up of neurons or nerve cells which transmit information. Insects, amphibians, birds and reptiles also have brains though they are structurally different to mammalian brains. Generally, the amount of neurons an animal possesses provides an indication of the types of behaviour it is likely to engage in. Mammal brains are around twice the size of birds of equivalent body mass and ten times that of a reptile.

The brains of animals act as central information processing units. They control perception, arousal and emotions, motivation, homeostatic regulation, motor coordination and functioning, as well as cognitive processes some of which have already been reviewed elsewhere in this book such as memory and learning, along with intelligence. Other aspects of animal mentality include what happens when things go wrong - mental health problems and disorders.

Animal Intelligence

All animal life forms have intelligence, it is just a question of the degree of intelligence. Animal intelligence normally refers to the process of learning, associating and processing information with the purpose of understanding what has just been abducted.

There are different forms of animal intelligence, and these different types vary among different species of animals and, particularly, every individual. It is not easy to assess animal intelligence because the behaviour of animals of different species varies greatly. One of the ways that animal intelligence has been assessed is through evaluating their performance on tasks, but again this can be different for each particular animal and what they are capable of. For instance, a mix and match sample will be different for each animal - whilst a monkey can quickly learn the strategy, a pigeon may take much longer in learning, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the pigeon is ‘less intelligent’.

Pigeons have been found to sense and distinguish situations on the basis of ‘oddity’. It has been seen that the more frequently the odd tasks are presented to them, the better they are able to perform.

The use of ‘tools’ is another means of determining animal intelligence. For example, if an Egyptian vulture locates an ostrich nest with an egg in it, it will search for a stone. It then grasps the stone in its beak and jerks its neck forwards releasing the stone onto the egg. It may take a number of attempts but they persist until they crack open the egg.  

It is important to use the same criteria in judging animal intelligence, since each species is different and learns differently. Certain species of woodpeckers may hold a cactus spine with their bill to search for insects in the gaps of wood (e.g. branches or tree bark), while a chimpanzee may also use a tool such as a stick or twig to help in its search for food (e.g. to grasp honey from beehives, or to dig holes into soil in search of edible roots).

Intelligence, therefore, is not only measured by the ability of each animal to respond to certain circumstances, but it is also indicated by the different ways an animal finds solutions to particular problems. 


Throughout this course, as your understanding of animal psychology grows, your ability to comprehend and appreciate their behaviour will increase.


Study Animal Behaviour as a starting point -
  • to a new career
  • to improve your current job prospects
  • to a greater understanding of animals and how they think
  • to improve your care of your own pets and animals 


Student Comment

".. well written and explained, any queries i had were answered quickly, and the staff to be very friendly and helpful..... invaluable. I am a little sad it is near the end as I have enjoyed the whole course"

 S. Crosbie Ross  

Studying animal behaviour can give you a useful insight into animals and why they behave the way they do. This qualification is useful if you want to train animals professionally or personally or want to work with animals.



Let us help you choose the right course - please get in touch, contact an Animal Behaviour Tutor with any questions you may have.


Stay in Touch.  Follow us on:










Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Tracey Jones (psychology)B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), DipSW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies) Tracey began studying psychology in 1990. She has a wide range of experience within the psychology and social work field, particularly working with people with learning disabilities. She is also qualified as a teacher and now teaches psychology and social work related subjects. She has been a book reviewer for the British Journal of Social Work and has also written many textbooks, blogs, articles and ebooks on psychology, writing, sociology, child development and more. She has had also several short stories published.
Dr. Gareth PearceGraduated from the University of Nottingham in 1982 with a B.Sc.(Hons) in Animal Science. Between 82 and 85 worked as Research Assistant and Demonstator in Animal Science at the University of Leeds. Over more than 30 years he has furthered his studies, obtaining eight significant university qualifications including degrees in Veterinary Science, Wildlife Conservation and Animal Behaviour. Gareth has significant teaching experience around the world as a faculty member at eight different universities including Associate Professor at Murdoch University and Director of Studies in Veterinary Science at Cambridge University. He has over 100 prestigious research papers published, and enjoys an outstanding international reputation in the fields of animal and veterinary science.
Cheryl McLardyA scientist, teacher, writer and animal scientist, with more than 20 years experience including: Sports Horse Stud Groom, Stable Manager, Yard Manager, Equine industrial Training Manager, FE Distance Learning Manager. Cheryl has travelled widely, working in England, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand; and is now based in Scotland. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons), Higher National Diploma in Horse Management, and a City and Guilds Teaching Certificate.

Check out our eBooks

Animal PsychologyExplore how animals think and comare how this differs between different animals (and humans)
Animal HealthUnderstand animal health issues, diseases and how identify and manage illnesses and injuries. Animals can become sick for many different reasons -diseases caused by infections, injuries, poisoning, genetic disorders, poor nutrition and other things.
Psychology DictionaryThis book provides explanations for common terms used in Psychology.
Caring for DogsA book for both students and dog owners. This book has been designed to complement our dog care and pet care courses; but also to provide a sound foundation for choosing the right breed, and caring for a dog whether as a pet, or a working animal. Contents cover Breeds, Creating a healthy home for dogs, legal issues, dog biology, recognising poor health, parasites, illnesses, nutrition, reproduction, dog psychology, behavioural development, training tips, behaviour problems, grooming, working in the dog industry, and more.