Animal Behaviour (Psychology of Animals)

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

OPEN LEARNING COURSE: STUDY ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 

Learn about the psychology of animals
 
Animal behaviour is a fascinating subject. It is of interest to animal psychologists, veterinary assistants, those working in zoos, wildlife parks or nature reserves, pet owners, animal trainers, farmers, naturalists, or anyone else who works with or has an interest in animals. It is also a subject of interest for those studying psychology generally since much of what we learn from animals can be ascribed to human behaviour and lead to a greater awareness of ourselves. 
 
This course allows you to explore different theories and models of animal behaviour and particular characteristics of different groups of animals. You will learn about dominance, hierarchies, mating, co-operation, animal intelligence, aggression, and so forth. Each student is also ultimately able to conduct their own research topic on an animal of interest to them.  
 
This is a course for:
  • Students of psychology (animal study has long been a foundation for understanding human behaviour)
  • People who work with animals (farms, wildlife, pets)
  • Animal owners and animal lovers
  • Laying a foundation to understand animal training

This course will develop your understanding and ability to modify the behaviour of domestic animals.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • Influences and motivation; what is behaviour; causes of behaviour (eg. 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; sexual behaviour; 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 can choose which animals to focus on, though a variety are covered.
  8. Behavioural Problems
    • Abnormal behaviour (eg. Psychotic; neurotic); domestication of animals; reducing human contact/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.

What You Will Do

  • Observe an animal in the zoo, in the wild, or a domestic animal to identify examples of operant conditioning
  • Give examples of reactive, active and cognitive behaviour in a type of animal with which you are familiar. Discuss how cooperation might be relevant to the behaviour of animals
  • Distinguish between animal psychology and animal behaviour
  • Talk with an animal breeder (amateur or professional) regarding observed similarities and differences in appearance and behaviour of offspring, compared with parents
  • Research the breeding of one type of animal in order to control one or more behavioural characteristics. Examples of this might be: breeding dogs to perform better as a guard dog; breeding dogs to perform specific tasks; breeding cats to be a better human companion; breeding pigeons for homing; breeding horses for racing with a jockey; breeding cattle or goats to be more easily handled for milking
  • Give two examples of behavioural characteristics in either a dog or a horse which have low heritability
  • Give two examples of behavioural characteristics in either a dog or a horse which have high heritability
  • Observe animals that are exposed to different stimuli and note their behaviour. Different stimuli can include: Exposure to new people, being in a cage versus being at liberty, entering new territory, light or darkness
  • Explain what is meant by imprinting in animals or birds, when it is likely to occur, and the long-term effects
  • Describe the role of chemoreceptors in an animal’s perception.
  • Explain the role of sex pheromones in mating behaviour, and how are they sensed
  • Classify selcted animals according to whether they are endo-therms or ecto-therms
  • Explain how heat is lost from endo-therms to the environment and how this heat loss can be reduced
  • Explain how the 3 types of orientation are used in navigation by more complex organisms
  • Compare the behaviour of an animal on its own with its behaviour in a group situation
  • Discuss how territorial and dominance systems become established
  • Explain the role of aggression in social groups of mammals
  • Research how different types of sexual strategy ensure that dominant genes are passed on
  • Observe the behaviour of a single animal at a zoo, wildlife park or farm and identify any problems that you would anticipate with handling
  • Interview two different people who work with the same kind of animal (e.g. 2 dog trainers, 2 horse riders, 2 cat breeders, 2 sheep farmers, 2 wildlife park animal handlers) to find out how they handle their animals, and differences they experience between individual animals
  • Contact an animal welfare organisation (e.g. Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or equivalent) to discuss what kinds of animal behaviour problems they see resulting from mistreatment of animals
  • Research particular kinds of abnormal animal behaviours eg. anxiety, phobic, obsessive, compulsive, hysterical, depressive

VISIT THE SCHOOL’S ONLINE BOOK STORE

E books available to buy and download immediately. Many vibrantly illustrated and informative E books to choose from. Printed books selected by our staff to compliment our range of courses. Click on any of the titles below to visit the bookshop and see an outline of that title.

 
Animal Behaviour Tips - Insights into the Animal Mind

A lot of animal behaviour is cyclical, and often the cycles of behaviour are synchronized with some characteristic in the physical environment, such as night and day or seasonal weather changes. The most common cycle is one synchronised with the daily rising and setting of the sun. Coastal animals often display cycles synchronised with tidal cycles. Many animals (both aquatic and terrestrial) display cycles synchronised with lunar rhythms. Most animals tend to display cycles which relate to seasons. Seasonal cycles in sexual behaviour are particularly common.

When animals are relocated to a different environment, where day/night lengths or some other relevant factor is dramatically changed, their behaviour can be disturbed; however eventually, in most cases, their biological clock will reset to the new conditions. Daily and seasonal rhythms are most commonly affected by the stimuli of light duration and intensity. The onset of breeding season, for instance, in many animals, is stimulated by a sequential change in day lengths over the preceding months.

HOMEOSTASIS

This term was first used by American psychologist, Walter Cannon (1932) who wrote:

“The coordinated psychological processes which maintain most of the steady states in an organism are so complex and so peculiar to living beings – involving, as they may, the brain and nerves, the heart, lungs, kidneys and spleen, all working cooperatively –that I have suggested a special designation for these states, homeostasis”. Homeostasis occurs not (as once thought) through negative feedback mechanisms, but rather through a combination of feedback, feed forward and adaptive control.

Stress is often characterised as a threat to homeostasis; but this is only partly true. Some aspects of stress have little relevance to the internal environment of the body.

Both external and internal stimuli can cause stress (these stimuli are called “stressors”). Many different things can cause stress in an animal, ranging from physical (eg. injuries or illness) to the psychological (eg. presence of danger). Coping is a term used to describe when an animal makes an effective response to a stressor, and alleviates an undesirable situation.

Thermoregulation

Most animals have an optimum body temperature around which they function most efficiently. This is known as thermoregulation. Most animals are also able to influence their own body temperature to some extent, by means of adaptive behaviour or by utilising specialised physiological responses. Animals are able to detect changes in their body temperature, the environment or both through thermo-reception.

Ecto-therms are animals which derive heat primarily from outside their bodies, i.e. they are cold-blooded. That is, their body temperature conforms to that of the environment. Reptiles are ectothermic. Endo-therms derive their heat primarily from metabolic activity within their bodies, i.e. they are warm-blooded. Endo-therms can raise their heat production through muscular activity, i.e. shivering, increased metabolic rate, and by increasing food consumption since heat is a by-product of digestion. Mammals are endothermic. 
 

OTHER STUDY OPTIONS: 

Dog Psychology and Training
 

Introduction to Psychology


For more information on the range of careers available in psychology, have a look at - http://www.thecareersguide.com/articles.aspx?category=14
 
 

DON'T CHOOSE TO LEARN BY ROTE! Education is not just about temporarily absorbing facts then regurgitating them during an exam, only to forget them months later. It is about changing the way you think. ACS is NOT assessment based. Our courses are structured to teach you how to improve your thought processes, which you will apply over a lifetime, not just a semester.

With ACS, you are taught by people who are active in industry. If you want to learn Psychology, learn from someone who has sat in the Therapist's chair. If you want to learn writing, learn from a widely published author. This is what we offer you at ACS. Many lecturers and tutors have spent a lifetime within that institution. Our tutors are university educated, but work out there in industry; which means that once you have graduated, we can advise you on where to next!

Our courses are flexible enough to incorporate a student's own experience; it is personalised, therefore remaining with the student long after the award has been received - Agriculture students report on their findings at a farm; psychology students work through long misunderstood emotional situations in their lives. Theory is combined with self-direction and practical application. This is how a student actually EXPERIENCES the learning, rather than simply LEARNING BY ROTE.

In a class situation, there can be hundreds of students to one lecturer or tutor. At ACS you have easy access to a tutor – by phone and email. Our tutors get to know each student, and are invested in their learning.

Still Not Sure?

Use our Careers and Course Counselling Service - Contact one of our experts who can tell you more about the industry and help you determine the best course Click to Contact Us

 

  Dr Robert Browne

Zoologist, 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 Pearce

Veterinary 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.
  Tracey Jones

Widely published author, Psychologist, Manager and Lecturer. Over 10 years working with ACS and 25 years of industry experience. Qualifications include: B.Sc. (Hons) (Psychology), M.Soc.Sc (social work), Dip. SW (social work), PGCE (Education), PGD (Learning Disability Studies).
  Gavin Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. He has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Gavin has worked for ACS for over 10 years.
  Horse Care
This book is an accumulation of information from biology, agricultural science and veterinary medicine. It looks to explore and explain the fundamentals of appropriate horse care aims and techniques. In doing so it will consider horsemanship as a combination of art and science.
  Getting Work in a Modern World
A realistic guide to getting a job or starting out in business. This is a must read; for students, parents, the unemployed, careers advisors or anyone interested in changing or forging a sustainable career.
  Psychological Profiling
Psychological profiling is used to assess anyone from potential new staff and school children to serial killers. It helps you to determine someone’s personality, neuroses, mental health and career suitability. This book provides an excellent overview of psychological profiling techniques and pitfalls.
  Caring for Dogs
Covers Breeds, Creating a healthy home for dogs, legal issues, dog biology, recognising poor health, parasites, illnesses, nutrition, reproduction, dog psychology, behavioural development, training tips, behaviour problems, grooming, working in the dog industry, and more. This is a book for dog owners, students and anyone interested in working with dogs. 79 pages, 71 colour photos.