Dog Behavior Studies: Program and Course Information

Dog behavior studies can be offered as part of a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree program in animal behavior, or be contained within a program in a related life or behavioral science field offering an animal behavior focus.

Essential Information

There are multiple options for earning a degree focused on dog behavior. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in animal behavior are available, and most programs offer lab components that supply hands-on training opportunities.

Undergraduate programs could lead to careers as a research assistant or other jobs that offer more direct involvement with dogs and other animals. Graduate degrees often prepare students for research in animal behavior. Alternatively, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine is required for those interested in becoming a veterinarian.

Applicants to bachelor's programs must have a high school diploma or GED. For a master's program, a bachelor's degree in animal behavior studies or a related field is required. For a doctoral program, applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree in animal science.

Bachelor's Degree in Animal Behavior Studies

Animal behavior studies at the bachelor's degree level may be offered as part of a degree-granting program in animal behavior or a related field such as biology, psychology, anthropology, or zoology. Programs introduce key concepts in behavior and life science relevant to the student's chosen specialization. Courses may include:

  • Mammalogy
  • Behavioral ecology
  • Nutrition and eating habits
  • Neurobiology
  • Comparative psychology

Master's Degree in Animal Behavior Studies

Like the bachelor's degree, master's programs in animal behavior studies may be offered as part of an animal behavior studies program, or as part of a program in a related field such as ethology, psychology, anthropology, neurobiology, or veterinary medicine. These programs provide more advanced instruction, lab experience, and research opportunities.

Master's level coursework provides more in-depth instruction in the life and behavioral sciences as they relate to both the innate and learned behavior in animals. Courses may include:

  • Animal behavioral adaptations
  • Population genetics
  • Statistics for applied behavioral science
  • Special topics in animal domestication
  • Ethical issues in animal behavior studies
  • Animal learning, motivation and memory

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Doctoral Degree in Animal Behavior Studies

Students in a doctoral program explore advanced topics in animal behavior that integrate multiple scientific disciplines. Specific degrees may include Animal Behavior or Ethology, Neurobiology or Comparative Psychology with a focus in animal behavior. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) programs might also offer an animal behavior focus. Coursework at the doctoral level in animal behavior studies tackle advanced and more specialized topics in the field. Courses may include:

  • Animal reproductive physiology and behavior
  • Research design and analysis
  • Clinical interview and assessment
  • Psych-social interventions
  • Experimental research in animal behavior

Popular Career Options

Careers in animal behavior require at least a bachelor's degree in a related field. Jobs available to these graduates might include the following:

  • Research assistant
  • Animal care technician
  • Animal behaviorist assistant
  • Pet trainer

With a Ph.D. comes increased opportunity for leading independent and experimental research studies in the lab or field, or offering expert advice as an animal behaviorist. A degree at the doctoral level in animal behavior studies can lead to a career as a:

  • Professor
  • Research scientist
  • Applied Animal Behaviorist
  • Veterinarian

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for animal care and service workers is projected to grow 11% between the years 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the BLS reported that animal trainers earned a median salary of $26,610.

Continuing Education Information

Continuing on to pursue education in animal behavior, psychology, or veterinary medicine at the master's or doctoral level could lead to greater opportunities and keep students abreast of advancements in animal behavioral research.

Individuals holding graduate degrees may choose to go on to pursue certification as animal behaviorists and work professionally with pets and their owners to solve animal behavioral problems. The Animal Behavior Society ( offers designations of Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to individuals with animal behavior studies degrees at the master's or doctoral level, respectively. In addition, DVMs may choose to pursue board certification through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (, licensing them to diagnose and treat behavioral problems in animals, including prescribing psychotropic medications as needed.

Dog behavior studies at the master's, bachelor's, and doctoral levels incorporate courses in neurobiology, genetics, physiology, nutrition, and domestication to prepare graduates to pursue careers at different levels of animal care and training.

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