Dr. Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D., Sr. VP Animal Sciences and Vet Advisor
Certified applied animal behaviorists come from a variety of different backgrounds and include veterinarians who have had additional training in applied animal behavior. In general however, they all have a broad background in animal behavior theory, as well as application. Many of those who are certified did not do their graduate research in the area of companion animal behavior, though they generally had an interest in the area. It is important to recognize that the educational background required is broad, and addresses a wide range of general behavior processes.
The general approach in education would be to earn a BA/BS in either biology or psychology and then a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior. There are many graduate programs in animal behavior in nearly every part of the country. These may be in Biology, Psychology, Ethology or another department. While few of them will offer specific courses or opportunities in companion animal behavior, they will provide the broad basic background needed in animal behavior principles, including Learning Theory, Comparative Psychology, Ethology, Experimental Psychology and Physiology. The graduate program should also include a strong background in research methods and analysis. The most important element in choosing a graduate program will be to find a faculty member willing to support an applied approach, and flexibility in taking interdisciplinary courses.
The Animal Behavior Society website at: www.animalbehavior.org has a listing of animal behavior graduate programs. The site also has information on applying for certification as an applied animal behaviorist.
Certification is still a fairly new process and there are a limited number of certified individuals. As a result, certification for applied animal behaviorists is not well known.
It is difficult to make predictions about the future of the profession. At this time it is clear that animal behavior problems play a significant role in the breakdown of the human-companion animal bond in pet owning families. New people coming into the field have been successful in starting their careers and businesses. However, they have had to work hard, long hours to make things happen.
Financial obligations depend on where one attends graduate school, and whether financial assistance is available. Normal start up costs for a business should be expected.
Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D.
Chairman, Board of Professional Certification
Animal Behavior Society
424 East 92nd St.
New York, NY 10128-6804