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Animal Behaviour

Course CodeBAG203
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR COURSE

Discover the psychology behind animal behaviour.

Develop an understanding of the psychology of animals. This course is valuable for anyone dealing with pets, farm animals or wildlife. Through a better understanding of how animals think your ability to manage their behaviour will improve .

 

A course developed and tutored by academics and practitioners from a background in agriculture, veterinary science and wildlife management.

  • Gain an understanding of animal behaviour and motivation
  • Analyze problem behaviour
  • Improve your animal handling skills
  • Gain a new perspective on the animals around you

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  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
    • 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.
    • Co-ordination
    • 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 (e.g. Psychotic, neurotic)
    • Domestication of animals
    • Reducing human contact
    • Reducing human dependence G

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.

Aims

  • 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 (e.g. psychotic, neurotic behaviour) and ways to reduce dependence on humans.

LEARN TO UNDERSTAND ANIMALS

Animal behavior involves any observable activity of an animal, such as:
  • Movement of parts of the body
  • Stopping expected movement
  • Secretions from the body
  • Changes in body colour

There is a Purpose to most Animal Behaviour?

It is assumed that all animal behaviour is an adaptation designed to support survival, either directly or indirectly. However, this is not always the case. Animals can behave self-destructively, out of habit, or out of boredom, just as humans can. To better understand the behavior, we should also consider what motivates it.

What Caused One Behaviour rather than another?

Genetics is of prime importance (i.e. inherited characteristics). Genetic characteristics are also sometimes referred to as “inborn”, “innate” or “instinctive”. Most animals are genetically programmed to act in certain ways in certain situations.

Experience (i.e. learned characteristics), may encompass terms including: “acquired”, “experiential” or “environmental”. Behaviours can be learned through the experience of interacting with the environment (which includes the people or other creatures in it), or it can be learned through personal, subjective experience (perceptions, thoughts and feelings). In the case of animals, these latter factors are usually difficult to identify.

Since genetic and environmental factors both influence behaviour, it is impossible to distinguish particular causes for a behavior. Particularly in regard to animals, no behaviour can ever be characterized as totally instinctive or totally learned. Even though learned and genetic factors both play a role in all behaviors, the relative significance of each is variable.

Some behaviours in animals can be relatively unlearned and therefore, almost impossible to modify. In such cases, we can determine that genetics is the major influence. Other behaviours are relatively easy to modify, thus mostly learned. In such cases, we can determine that genetics has a minor influence.

 

KINDS OF BEHAVIOR

There are three general categories of behavior: reactive, active and cognitive behaviors.

1. Reactive Behaviour: Reactive behaviour includes stereotypical behaviour which is largely automatic. These are the most primitive types of behaviours which have been fully established in the animal well before it is born. Animal tropisms (automatic orientation responses) such as balancing and positioning are reactive behaviours. Other tropisms include things such as breathing, avoiding heat or opening the eyes.

2. Active Behaviours

Active behaviours are developed from inherited potentials. The animal is born with a tendency to act a certain way, but a degree of learning must occur for that behaviour to develop. The process is a little like a computer which delivers pre-programmed responses on demand; the way to act might be built into the animal’s genetic make-up, but it requires a certain stimulus before the action happens. These behaviours in part occur through parental training (e.g. flying, walking, grooming). This is a more elaborate type of behaviour than reactive behaviour. It is believed to occur only in more advanced animals (i.e. arthropods and vertebrates), though there is some evidence that lower order animals can also learn behaviour.

3. Cognitive Behaviour: Cognitive behaviours are the most advanced forms of behaviour. Genetics provides only a very general influence, and the actual behaviour is more influenced by the environment and experience. Cognitive behaviour is more or less deliberate activity. The animal doesn’t just respond to stimuli; it can also invent its own actions. Simple cognitive behaviours are encountered in many (but not all) arthropods, and all vertebrates. Exploration is a simple cognitive behaviour which allows an animal to familiarize itself with new conditions in the environment. Objects are approached, inspected and then moved away from. This action is generally repeated, but with reduced frequency. The most complex environmental factors tend to stimulate the greatest exploratory activity. If mammals are prevented from exploration for long periods, their behaviour can become abnormal. Play is a more advanced type of cognitive behaviour which occurs to some degree in most vertebrates; but more so in mammals. Play may involve more complex and diverse activity than exploration. Play and exploration together help animals adapt to both their physical and social environment. Lack of play in young animals can lead to social problems later in life (i.e. they make poor parents or don’t react well with other animals). Another more complex cognitive behaviour seen in mammals is manipulative behaviour.



Meet some of our academics

Dr Robert BrowneZoologist, Environmental Scientist and Sustainability, science based consultancy with biotechnology corporations. Work focused on conservation and sustainability. Robert has published work in the fields of nutrition, pathology, larval growth and development, husbandry, thermo-biology, reproduction technologies, and facility design.Robert has B.Sc., Ph, D.
Dr. Gareth PearceVeterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Post-graduate qualifications in Education, Wildlife Conservation Medicine, Aquatic Veterinary Studies and Wildlife Biology & Conservation. Gareth has a B.Sc.(Hons), B.V.Sc., M.A., M.Vet.S,. PhD, Grad. Cert. Ed.(HE), Post-Grad.Cert. Aq.Vet.Sc., Post-Grad. Cert. WLBio&Cons., Dipl. ECPHM, MRCVS.
Gavin ColePsychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin is both a highly experienced Psychologist and tutor. Gavin has over 25 years experience in the Psychology industry, and has been working with ACS since 2001. He has worked in both Australia and England, and has been involved in writing numerous books and courses in Psychology and Counselling
Tanya MillerBsc (hons) RVN, PGCE, CCRP, Diploma Canine Massage, (Post Grad Cert. Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner). 18 years experience in education and animal sciences.


Check out our eBooks

Animal PsychologyComparative Animal Psychology. This is an excellent reference for anyone interested in understanding animals better; students, animal owners and anyone who works with animals.
Horse CareIf you're starting a career in the equine industry, this text is perfect to accompany your study notes! If you're a new horse owner keen to develop or solidify your knowledge of horse care techniques, this book will guide you through basic anatomy and physiology; feed and nutrition;, health management and shoeing; handling techniques and the use of equipment. Learn about caring for horses kept at grass or effectively care for the stabled horse. With ten chapters full of expert advice which is easy to read and follow you can be a confident horse owner! 111 pages
Animal HealthA book for anyone interested in animal health, from pet owners to farmers. Contents cover understanding health issues, disease and injury prevention, inspecting animals, differential diagnosis and common illnesses. Animals can suffer from injury, poisoning, hereditary conditions, nutritional problems and viral, bacterial and fungal infections. 77 pages.
Caring for DogsThis book is jam packed full of practical advice and up to the minute information every dog owner needs! You will explore fundamentals of nutrition and health; parasites and illness; breeds and reproduction; training and behaviour management! Understand how your dog thinks and what your dog wants you to know. Try techniques to overcome behaviour problems! This is a book for dog owners, students and anyone interested in working with dogs. 79 pages