How to become a Pet Behaviour Counsellor. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Pet Behaviour Counsellor do?
Pet behaviour counsellors advise pet owners on dealing with general control issues and problematic behaviour with their pets including:
- inappropriate noise, such as excessive barking
- aggression towards people or animals
- destructive behaviour
- toileting issues
- chasing livestock, cars or cyclists
As a pet behaviour counsellor most of your work is likely to be with dogs or cats. Your tasks would include:
- taking referrals from vets
- holding consultations in your own centre, in veterinary surgeries or in owners’ homes
- talking to the owner and observe the animal to get details of the problem
- analysing the nature of the problem and the likely causes
- drawing up a behaviour-modification programme for the owner to follow
- keeping in touch with owners to check progress
- adapting the modification programme if necessary.
You might also offer an animal training service.
You are likely to be self-employed, organising your own tax and insurance, and doing all the administrative tasks involved in running a business.
As you would usually be self-employed, you would decide your own working hours. However, you would need to fit in with clients’ requirements, which could mean working evenings and weekends.
You could be based in your own premises, in veterinary surgeons’ clinics or visit owner’s homes. You may have to spend some time outside to observe animals.
Although the work is rewarding, it can also be stressful and upsetting. For example, some of the animals you come across may have problems which cannot be modified because they are too deep seated or have a medical cause.
How much does a Pet Behaviour Counsellor earn?
Pet behaviour counsellors are usually self-employed and charge for each consultation. Charges can range from £85 to over £250.
Total earnings vary depending on the size of the business. Counsellors typically supplement their income with related work like animal training or writing articles on animal behaviour.
There is no single recognised route to becoming a pet behaviour counsellor. However, you will need:
- knowledge of the theory of animal behaviour
- animal-handling skills and experience.
Knowledge and experience in working with dogs is important, as most of your work as a pet behaviour counsellor is likely to be with dogs.
Courses in animal behaviour vary in content, so it is important to choose training which will meet your needs. Some courses deal mainly with canine and feline behaviour, others with more general aspects of behaviour, possibly leading to careers involving the management, conservation and welfare of wild or captive animals.
The Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) offers courses leading to qualifications including a Higher Certificate, Higher Diploma and BA (Hons) in Canine Behaviour and Training, in collaboration with Middlesex University. The courses combine distance learning with practical workshops. See the CFBA website for details.
- Canine and Feline Behaviour Association
Other relevant courses are listed on the following websites:
- Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training (CIDBT)
- Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)
- the Animal Care College
As well as learning the theory of animal behaviour, it is essential to have practical experience of working with animals. This could come from paid work, such as dog training or handling, or voluntary experience, for example in a kennels or veterinary surgery, or with an animal welfare organisation.
You can find out about opportunities for volunteering in your area from:
- Blue Cross.
As an animal welfare assistant in a Blue Cross adoption centre, you may be able to train as an animal behaviour adviser, giving advice on minor problems.
Training and Development
Throughout your career, you will need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, for example by attending workshops, seminars and conferences, and reading professional journals.
You can join the APBC and the CFBA at various levels depending on your qualifications and experience – see the APBC and CFBA websites for details.
If you have completed an Honours or higher degree in a relevant subject, appropriate specialist courses, and at least three years of clinical experience working with the behaviour disorders of dogs, cats and other animals, you can gain certification from the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB). See the ASAB website for the requirements for certification.
You could complete a postgraduate qualification such as a relevant MSc, or a PhD if you are interested in moving into research. See Hobsons Postgrad for postgraduate courses.
- Hobsons Postgrad
Skills and Knowledge
- animal-handling skills and experience
- knowledge of dog training
- good spoken and written communication skills
- the ability to empathise with clients and gain their trust
- the ability to motivate pet owners
- a tactful approach when offering advice
- awareness of animal welfare legislation
- the ability to keep records and accounts.
You would usually be self-employed or work in a private consulting firm, although you may find employment with an animal welfare charity such as Blue Cross, which runs an animal behaviour service.