Animal Behaviour

Learn about animal psychology: conditioning, innate behaviour and survival. A foundation for working with pets, livestock or wildlife -or managing your own animals.

Course Code: BAG203
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn what Drives a Pets Behaviour

Understanding pet behaviour makes life much easier, not only for the pet themselves but also for pet owners and anyone who works or deals with pets; from breeders and pet shop staff, through to animal welfare officers, trainers and groomers.
This course provides you with an understanding of animals and what causes them to act the way they do. With this understanding you have a very sound foundation for dealing with animals in any situation.

Why Choose this Course?

1. It is Substantial - Our courses are 100 hours; many other colleges may have cheaper courses, but they are usually much shorter.
2. Students have Strong Support - We employ top teachers and have spent 35 years building resources to support them. Our tutors are accessible, with academics on duty in both Australia and the UK daily.
3.  Courses are revised and updated in response to feedback from every student who graduates. Few schools apply resources like this to improving their courses.
True learning is a process guided by expert teachers. Our teaching staff are a team of experts, spread across the world, all university trained and with real world experience. They include veterinary scientists, agricultural scientists, and behavioural scientists.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Influences and Motivation
    • Ethology
    • What is behaviour
    • Purpose of animal behaviour
    • What motivates behaviours
    • Behaviour types (Reactive, Active, Cognitive)
    • Learned behaviours (Classic conditioning, Reinforcement, Extinction, Operant Conditioning, Skinners experiments)
    • Other influences (external stimuli, internal stimuli, physiological responses, psychological responses)
    • Terminology
    • Observing animals
  2. Genetics and Behaviour
    • Understanding basics of genetics
    • Terminology (eg. alleles, allelomorphs, genes,phenotype, mitosis, homozygous, genotype, etc)
    • Environmental affect
    • Heritability
    • Epigenesis
    • Innate behaviour
    • Interaction between different species
    • Survival
    • Case study : Inherited traits in horse behaviour
  3. Animal Perception and Behaviour
    • Animal communication and perception
    • How animals perceive things
    • Imprinting
    • Types of stimuli; Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Chemical
    • Monocular and binocular vision
    • Terminology
    • Neural control
  4. Behaviour and the Environment
    • Orthokinesis
    • Klinokinesis
    • Navigation
    • Homeostasis
    • Thermoregulation
    • Motivation
    • Biological Clocks
    • Biological clocks
    • Sun Compass
    • Migration
    • Tolerance
    • Acclimatisation
    • Hibernation
    • Sexual and Reproductive behaviours
  5. Social Behaviour
    • Animal societies
    • Aggression
    • Fight or flight response
    • Social constraints
    • Sexual behaviour
    • Social order
    • Bonding
    • Courtship
    • Territorial behaviour
    • Feeding
    • Vocalisations
    • Case Studies; birds, dogs
    • Terminology
  6. Instinct and Learning
    • Shaping
    • Extinction and habituation
    • Instrumental learning
    • Thorndyke's Law of Effect
    • Operant and respondent behaviour
    • Biological aspects of learning
    • Cognition
    • Associative learning
    • Case studies: early learning in dogs, early learning in cats
    • Comparative intelligence
  7. Handling Animals
    • Domestication of animals
    • Problems Handling animals
    • Psychological affects of different handling techniques
    • Preventing problems with pets
    • Training animals (examples: birds, rabbits, horses, cattle etc).
    • Terminology
    • 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 (eg. psychotic, neurotic)
    • Domestication of animals
    • Diagnosing behaviour
    • Psychotic disorders
    • Case study; behavioural problems with cats; various types of aggression and other problems
    • Training cats
    • Case study; aggression and other problems with dogs
    • Training dogs
    • Case study; behavioural problems with pigs
    • Terminology

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 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 (eg. psychotic, neurotic behaviour) and ways to reduce dependence on humans.

What Pet Is Best?

Choosing a pet can be a more significant decision than what most people realize. Pets can't just be discarded like a piece of furniture or clothing when your interest subsides.
Pets are living things, an to acquire one is acquiring a responsibility for it.

If you do not get a behavioural type to match your home situation, you are almost certain to be creating trouble for yourself, and your family. 

  • Some pets cost a lot more to keep than others (A large dog can cost tens of thousands of dollars over it's lifetime)
  • Some pets may affect your lifestyle (particularly indoor pets). Consider what you will do with the pet when you go on holidays. 
  • Some types of pets require more interaction with the owners than other pets.

Choosing a Pet Dog

  • Energetic breeds need to be walked daily or even more often. Are you committed to walking a dog regularly for 15 years?
  • Are holes being dug in your garden a problem?
  • Is a dog guarding your home in a more assertive way a problem?
  • Is a dog who is super loyal and needs to be physically close to you a problem?
  • Is a dog that nips at the heels of people a problem?

While many behaviours can be affected by training; these and some other behaviours are strongly affected by the genetics of a dog's breed. Choosing a breed based upon "cuteness" is not a good idea. 

Managing Animals Starts with Understanding Them
Learning animal behaviours can help you get a better insight into how animals think and act. When you know what prompts certain actions; you then have a basis for discouraging undesirable behaviour and encouraging preferred behaviour.

Cat Behaviour Can be Problematic

We want cats to catch and kill vermin; but we don't want them to attack protected wildlife or other pets. Unfortunately by themselves, cats don't really differentiate between a mouse and a small native mammal.
We may want cats to stay around our home; but it is in their DNA to prowl wider afield; and they are built to climb, hence difficult to keep confined.

Cats have two roles in human society, to be pets and to control pests.  Cats are very good hunters, hunting rodents, insects, birds, small rabbits and so on.   Research has shown that –

  • Cats with kittens will catch prey around every 1.5 hours
  • Cats without kittens will catch prey around twice a day
  • 40 – 65% of outdoor cats will have prey in their stomach

So cats are natural hunters, but this can cause distress to their owners, when they see their beloved pet chasing and killing birds and smaller creatures. Remember it is their natural instinct.  Cats do look cruel when they appear to “play” with their food, but researchers have argued that this is actually displacement behaviour, as when the cat catches the play, they may then start to believe the prey may fight back.  Hungry cats are less likely to play with their food, but this could also be because their hunger is greater than their fear that the prey will fight back.  

Some cats appear to hunt more than they need. Some suggest that ensuring the cat has enough to eat will stop them from hunting, but hunger and hunting do not appear to be related in cats.  Some experts believe this is because cats require variety in their diet, so they are motivated to hunt, even just after eating their prey.    But should we and can we stop a cat killing prey?
The most efficient way to do this is to keep cats indoors. But if the owner does this, then they will have to provide sufficient indoor exercise and mental stimulation.  

If the cat is not kept inside, owners can try walking them on a lead or build an outdoor enclosure.
It can be very hard to prevent a cat from hunting and killing, so it has been suggested that owners can approach this in a different way – rather than trying to change the cat’s behaviour, change the prey’s behaviour:

  • Do no put out bird tables or baths or anything that entices birds to the garden.
  • Keep deterrent devices that scare away birds
  • Put a bell on the cat’s collar, so prey can hear it coming
  • Get a collar with a sonic alert. This mimics a bird’s alarm call.
  • Keep the garden open so cats have fewer places to hide and wildlife and see cats easier.


 This course can help you with any of the following:

  • Learn to manage dogs, cats and other animals as pets or working animals
  • Help train working animals (eg. blind dogs, sniffer dogs, sheep dogs)
  • Get a job in a kennel, pet shop, on a farm or elsewhere
  • Start a business helping people with their animals (animal training, grooming, dog walking, etc.)
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter or charity; getting experience and laying a foundation for a career change.


Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.

ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.

Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
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You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

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We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

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).

Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has managed veterinary operating theatre, responsible for animal anesthesia, instrument preparation, and assistance with surgical techniques and procedures.

Jacinda Cole (Psychologist)

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist.
B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA
Jacinda has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and a Masters in Psychology (Clinical) and also trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy. She has co-authored several psychology text books and many courses including diploma and degree level courses in psychology and counselling. Jacinda has worked for ACS for over 10 years.

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