Need to know how to handle animals or deal with behavioural problems?

This provides an excellent foundation for working with or training animals in any situation, including farms, zoos, veterinary practices, pet shops or even in the wild. Learn about:

  • Animal influences and motivation
  • Influences on behaviour such as genetics, perception and the environment
  • Social behaviour
  • Instincts and learning
  • Handling animals
  • Managing behavioural problems

This is a course developed and tutored by academics and practitioners from a background in agriculture, veterinary science and wildlife management. It covers genetics and behaviour, behaviour and the environment, social behaviour, instinct and learning, handling animals and problem behaviour and also looks at aggression, circadian rhythms, conditioning, learning, animal perception, causes of behavior and much more.

A useful course for students who have an interest in the scientific understanding of animal behaviour. This will enable students to evaluate behavioural characteristics in animals with which they are in contact.

Learn about Why Animals Behave as they do 

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 eight lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Influences and motivation
    • What is behaviour
    • Causes of behaviour (eg. 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
    • Biological clocks
    • 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 has a choice of which types of animals to focus on, though a variety will still be covered.
  8. 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.


Duration: 100 hours



  • 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.



Dogs communicate with each other using sound, scent, facial expressions and body positions. Their sense of smell is their most highly refined sensory ability and they use scent as their major means of communication.



When dogs respond to scent, they are actually responding to the chemical pheromones secreted in the scent. Pheromones are present in the dog's saliva, faeces, urine, vaginal and preputial secretions, and in their anal, perianal and dorsal tail glands. The pheromones can influence immediate behaviour responses from other dogs, as well as long-term responses.

Pheromones communicate the dog's social status, age, genetic relatedness, and its emotional and physiological state. When a dog sniffs the faeces and the anal regions of another dog it is finding out important information via the pheromones in the scent, including the other dog's sex and sexual status.

Urine sniffing is another major way of communicating between dogs. Urine is a major source of sex pheromones. When a dog cocks its leg or sniffs the urine of other dogs, it is finding information on the other dog's reproductive condition, and its authority and power.



Barking and other vocalisations are much less important for communication between dogs. They have five basic sounds:

1. Infantile sounds made by pups: crying, whimpering and whining
2. Warning sounds: barking and growling
3. Eliciting sounds: howling
4. Withdrawal sounds: yelping
5. Pleasure sounds: moaning

Domestication and breeding has accentuated sound as a means of communication. Wild dogs are much less vocal than pet dogs. Barking, crying and whining are common traits in pet dogs, partly because the dog's alarm bark was one of the first traits that our ancestors selected for.

Crying and whining is a learned response among adult dogs - they rarely whine at each other, only at humans.

Puppies quickly learn to use whimpering and whining to get their owner's attention. It can be controlled or diminished in puppies by not giving in to it and rewarding the puppy with food, affection or interest.

Howling is common in wild dogs and some breeds such as Dobermans, huskies and malamutes. In wild dogs it is used to assemble and coordinate spacing the pack members' spacing in their territory.

Yelping is the most common withdrawal sound in dog. It communicates either distress or actual pain.


Facial and Body Signals

Emotions can usually (but not always) be identified by the dog's facial and body signals. They use eye contact as a means of communicating authority. A dominant dog stares down less dominant ones and the submissive dog averts its gaze and exposes its neck.


What body signals mean

  • Calm - ears and tail are relaxed
  • Alert - ears and tail are up
  • Fear - crouched with tail between legs
  • Frightened - ears are flattened back, tail between legs
  • Abject submission - lying down, hind leg lifted, urinating
  • Aggressive - lips are pulled back and hackles, tail and rump are up
  • Increased aggressive - snarling with teeth exposed and a straight stance
  • Greeting - licking face, begging food, play bowing



Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

Email us at [email protected]

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