Animal Behaviour BAG203

Explore Animal Psychology

  • Why Do animals behave as they do?
  • Study animal behaviour -learn -use that knowledge to better manage animals
  • With a a foundation in animal psychology, you will learn better from what you observe animals doing in the future
  • Relevant for pets, farm animals and wildlife


This course provides an excellent foundation for working with animals in any situation: farms, zoos, veterinary practices, pet shops or even in the wild. The course is developed and tutored by academics and practitioners from a background in agriculture, veterinary science and wildlife management.


Duration: 100 Hours


There are eight 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
    • 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 (e.g. 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.


  • 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 behaviour.
  • 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.




Every student will have a different reason for doing this course.

Some in the past have studied animal behaviour to help them work better with animals (pets, farm animals or wildlife); while others have just had an interest and passion for the subject.

Most animals can be trained and their behaviour managed provided that they have not been traumatised through bad experiences with humans or other animals, they do not have an illness which could be restricting their ability to cooperate and learn, and they are not too old to learn. The saying 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks' is not without substance. Older animals which have not been socialised with humans can be notoriously difficult to train. 

The training of animals involves assessing the animal itself, the owner, and the environment. Each of these factors interact and so must be considered when establishing a successful training programme. If you only consider the animal, you may overlook your own faulty methods or obstacles in the animal's living environment which are inhibiting progress.


Our Need to Manage Animal Behaviour

Why do we need to manage the behaviour of animals at all?

A simple answer is for the safety of both humans and animals. Many of us are willing to have a dog in our home, but we would not be willing to have a wild dog, or wolf, in our homes. Humans have domesticated dogs so that they are more likely to behave in ways we consider to be appropriate. Dogs may harm humans at times, but they are usually trusted within our family homes to protect us and warn us of invaders. 

Any animal which lives with us must have some degree of control over its behaviour which makes it compatible with humans, which rules out – a fierce dog, a pecking bird, or a scratching cat. People only want animals which are not threatening within the home environment. They also prefer animals that are clean and toilet-trained, which are not going to defecate around the house causing hygiene problems and potential illness.

Therefore, humans have learned to train animals to behave in ways that their owners consider to be appropriate.

The training of animals is not just related to pets. Animals may be trained to perform specific tasks - such as the use of carrier pigeons to carry messages, dogs to help the visually impaired, to sniff out drugs or landmines, and s on. Various behaviour modification techniques may be used to help train these animals to perform these tasks.

We also train animals in captivity. Whilst we may wish animals in zoos and wildlife parks to have as natural a life as possible, we also need to ensure that some training occurs, such as the animals learning where to go for food, how to approach the food area, how to respond to wardens, and so forth. Farm animals need to be taught to accept herding, to approach food troughs, to become accustomed to stalls, to pass through disinfectant dips, and other behaviours.  

As such, animal training is not just for the safety of humans and animals, but also for hygiene, health, efficiency, and the general care and well being of animals.    


  • Anyone who handles livestock - farmers, farm workers, breeders, etc
  • Anyone who advises on animal management - farm consultants, agricultural journalists, teachers
  • Anyone supporting the livestock industry - veterinary assistants, livestock agents, animal protection officers, etc
  • Anyone with a passion for animals


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Fee Information (S3)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $748.00  1 x $680.00
B 2 x $407.00  2 x $370.00

Note: Australian prices include GST. 
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