There are a Few Routes; All take Education

Question:
How does a person become an animal behaviorist? Does one need to go through veterinary college or something more like an apprenticeship?

 

Dr. Nichol:

There are a few choices. A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian (4 years of undergraduate study plus 4 years of veterinary medical school) who has also completed a residency program and passed a national board examination. Veterinarians, whether board certified or not, are the only people legally able to diagnose and treat medical and behavioral problems in animals, including prescribing medications.

 

You could become an associate applied animal behaviorist, meaning a masters degree, or a certified applied animal behaviorist, requiring a PhD. Many of these folks are purely research oriented. Dog training organizations have courses and certifications but the term behaviorist is a moniker that, when not attached to any specific qualification or level of schooling, can actually be used by anyone including someone with no formal education. I have studied and attended many hours of training in animal behavior. I practice behavioral as well as general medicine but I’m not a true specialist-yet. Currently I’m involved in a structured program leading to board certification. It’s not easy but the benefits to my behavior patients are tremendous.