Where Do Animal Behaviorist Work

A century ago, animal behavior was a study reserved only for the observations of a select few people fascinated by the lifestyles of non-human species. Once a focus not recognized or even encouraged by mainstream science, this emergent field is now one of the most competitive and rewarding fields of contemporary animal management.

Today, animal behaviorists are in high demand almost anywhere animals are a focal point of business. As a result, professionals trained in this area enjoy an invitation to pursue any of a wide variety of career avenues.

Veterinary clinics

Animal behaviorists are not veterinarians, but the veterinarian who is also an animal behaviorist is an invaluable gem. Pet owners visit veterinarians because they want medical treatment or advice, but they inevitably also come with concerns that may be more behavioral than they are clinical.

A veterinarian with species-typical knowledge of domestic animals such as dogs, cats or horses can do much to assuage the fears of a concerned owner dismayed by unusual behaviors. A misbehaving dog may be merely acting on her desire to understand her place in her home’s social structure; an insouciant cat with an alarming interest in a family’s pet hamster may be displaying his natural tendencies as a solitary predator.

Zoological facilities

Unlike the menageries of bygone eras, accredited zoos now operate with the expectation that the understanding of animal behavior should be a fundamental aspect of the care of captive wildlife. Whether they’re employed as animal care professionals or as staff researchers, animal behaviorists bring invaluable insights to the day-to-day management of individual species, with specialized knowledge that can influence decisions such as formation of appropriate social groups, anticipation of inter-species interactions, or provision for suitable environmental enrichment.

Here, animal behaviorists have a plethora of fascinating topics to explore. How do social animals behave within their groups? How do solitary animals interact with members of the same species? How much time do mothers spend playing with their young, and how much time do siblings spend playing with one another?

How do males of the same species behave when competing for females, and how does the female indicate her preference for the winner? These questions are all within the animal behaviorist’s purview to investigate.

Canine training schools

Anyone with patience and persistence can become a trainer, but an animal behaviorist brings the added benefit of understanding the complex interactions and expectations of two highly social species: dogs and humans. Anyone can encourage a dog to memorize commands or reproduce desired behaviors, but only a true grasp on the dog’s role as a pack animal, coupled with his desire to understand his place in the pack, will produce the long-term results most desired by pet owners.


Some animal behaviorists choose an academic path, preferring to dedicate their careers to research benefiting a comprehensive body of knowledge. Many species are poorly understood in terms of their lifestyle in the wild, particularly if they inhabit remote or threatened habitats. A number of endangered and critically endangered species have benefited exponentially from data collected by animal behaviorists working in zoological settings, which offer a consistent level of observation often not available in the wild.

Field research

Animal behaviorists with a zest for trekking the world’s wild places bring their own contributions to the world’s understanding of wildlife. Field researchers often work hand-in-hand with zoos or universities by contributing valuable data collected from years of observations in areas where species have lived and evolved for thousands of years.

Sadly, many of the world’s wild places are no longer conducive to safe observation, but whether studying in the wild, at the zoo or in the university, animal behaviorists will always be valued and courted by wildlife centers of all types and functions. Few fields of study require as much patience and diligence, but few enjoy such an amazing degree of opportunities.

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