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How to Become a Pet Psychologist in the US

Pet psychologists or behaviorists study the behavior of pets to determine the source of any difficulties they might be experiencing. People consult with psychologists when their pets are unusually moody, lethargic or aggressive. The pet psychologists usually conduct sessions to rehabilitate the troubled animals and advise the pet owners on how they can maintain their pets in a stable and peaceful environment.

What Does a Pet Psychologist Do?

Pet psychologists examine the animals to establish the cause of their distress and work towards restoring them to a balanced disposition. Their specific duties include:

  • Consult with the pet owners to get an idea of the behaviour that the pets have been displaying that raises concern about their well-being
  • Conduct a preliminary assessment of the pet to have a clearer idea about the problem
  • Research on the factors that can induce such behaviour
  • Where the cause of the troubling behaviour is not immediately apparent, the psychologist consults with professional colleagues
  • Use the findings to devise a rehabilitation plan that can be used to modify the behaviour of the troubled pet
  • Advise owners on the trigger factors and how they can avoid such scenarios in future
  • Conducting research studies on how the animals interact with others of their kind and those from other species, humans and their surroundings
  • Engage in continuous learning and development courses to stay up to date on animal communication methods, group interaction, learning methods and response to stimuli

Qualifications

Pet psychologists usually have to undergo formal training courses to equip them with the knowledge necessary for the conduct of their jobs. An academic degree in animal science, veterinary medicine or other related degree is the first step towards qualifying for this profession.

These academic courses cover topics such as:

  • Animal psychology
  • Animal growth and development
  • Applied domestic animal behaviour
  • Hormones and behaviour
  • Animal cognition and communication

Additional qualifications include:

  • An advanced degree in a specialized field such as animal behaviour, behavioural science or psychology
  • Certification either as Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist or as an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist
  • Experience obtained through internships, apprenticeships or fellowships in animal shelters, care centers, training facilities and veterinary practitioners’ offices
  • Licensing by the relevant state licensing board after taking and passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam
  • Membership of a professional organization for continuous professional development

Skills

You will also need the following skills to excel at this job:

  • Thorough understanding of animal behaviour
  • Compassion, patience and determination as rehabilitation can take time
  • Knowledge of learning strategies and adaptability when a method is not working
  • Be keenly observant and empathetic to any changes in the animals’ behaviour
  • Energy and physical fitness to keep up with the animals
  • Excellent communication skills to effectively interact with both animals and their owners

Salary

The salary of pet psychologists depends on his qualifications, years of experience and reputation. The average per annum salary range is:

Entry Level 

 

$35,000

Mid Career

20 percent discount
20 percent discount

 

$63,000

Successful

 

$90,000

Source: Best Psychology Degrees

Work Environment

Pet psychologists work regular hours in their offices or other care facilities where they see clients and their pets. The care facilities may have a variety of simulated environments to help in the rehabilitation of the troubled pet. The work can sometimes be dangerous such as when dealing with aggressive pets. Psychologists also spend a good amount of time reading, undertaking research and sometimes writing articles on pet behavior to contribute to the body of knowledge. From time to time, they also consult with professional colleagues in their offices, at seminars, in research laboratories and at continuous professional development courses.

Career Prospects

Pet psychology is a specialized area of practice that is not necessarily saturated due to the amount of time it takes to qualify as a fully-fledged psychologist and also because the job calls for people with a natural love for animals. If you obtain all the foregoing qualifications and complement them with numerous opportunities where you gain relevant experience, are patient and determined, then you can be very successful in this career. There are job opportunities both in actual practice and in research and teaching.

This profession gives you an opportunity to build a unique career life and to help animals that are in need.

Image Source: iStock

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