What does an Animal Behavioural Specialist do?
An Animal Behaviour Specialist's duties can include caring for animals in a zoo, shelter, or lab, diagnosing behavioural problems of family pets, rehabilitating rescued dogs, cats, or horses, and aiding in scientific research. Some of the behavioural problems that may be diagnosed are: Separation Anxiety Disorder (a common disorder for abandoned pets), dominance, aggression (found in many dogs that are rehabilitated after being seized from fighting rings), fear (often found in abuse cases), bucking (commonly caused by back pain), head tossing, and spraying (territorial marking commonly found in multi-cat homes).
Some Animal Behaviour Specialists focus on the evolution of animal behaviour over a period of time based on their environment. For example, they may study how a wild horse's behaviour changes after being brought into a domestic setting. There is truly no one specific career path in this field, but Animal Behaviour Specialists usually fall into a few sub-categories as described below:
Ethology - the study of an animal in order to verify links between genetic or environmental factors and the behaviours they cause. Controlled experiments may be used to determine these connections, be it in a lab setting or a more natural, but controlled setting. The previously mentioned wild horse example would fall into the category of Ethology.
Ecology - the study of how an animal adapts to their environment, much like a specialist in Ethology would. Through time based observation they note how and why an animal's behaviour changes, and what helps the animal to survive in the environment it is placed in.
Comparative Psychology - the study of the similarities that govern all creatures, rather than just one particular species. The specialist is watching for common links between species that link disease, migration, intelligence, and even reproduction. These specialists use many methods from other fields of behavioural science.
Anthropology - the study of human behaviour, rather than that of other creatures. This field has its own sub-fields as well, making it a complex field of study covering cultural aspects, physical behaviour, historical behaviour analysis, and even linguistic changes.
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