Association of Pet Dog Trainers - Dog Training Professionals

Why Recommend a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist?

There are two national certifications for applied animal behaviorists. One is from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), currently with 37 Diplomates, and the other is the Animal Behavior Society (ABS), currently with 42 Applied Animal Behaviorists. Qualifying credentials are similar.


The Animal Behavior Society is the leading professional organization in North America for the study of animal behavior. The Society recognizes that animal-oriented groups, agencies, businesses, and the general public seek professional advice about animal behavior in general or about behavioral problems of animals. Certification is the means by which the ABS demonstrates to the public that certain individuals meet the minimum standards of Education, Experience, and Ethics required of a professional applied animal behaviorist as set forth by the Society. A professional applied animal behaviorist demonstrates expertise in the principles, research methods, and the application of animal behavior principles to applied behavior problems and in the dissemination of knowledge about animal behavior through teaching and research. By consulting with a certified professional applied animal behaviorist (whether ABS or ACVB), the client can be assured of the qualifications of the consultant.


  1. A doctoral degree (Ph.D.) from an accredited college or university in a biological or behavioral science with an emphasis on animal behavior, plus five years of professional experience,
  2. Or a doctorate (DVM) from an accredited college or university in veterinary medicine, plus two years in a university-approved residency in animal behavior and three additional years of professional experience in applied animal behavior (Similar to ACVB requirements).
  3. Undergraduate and/or graduate coursework must include 21 semester credits in behavioral science courses including 6 semester credits in ethology, animal behavior and/or comparative psychology and 6 semester credits in animal learning, conditioning and or animal psychology (e.g., experimental psychology).
  4. A thorough knowledge of the literature, scientific principles, and principles of animal behavior, and original contributions or interpretations of animal behavior information through published works.
  5. Evidence of significant experience working with a particular species (for example, as a researcher, research assistant, or an intern working with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist) prior to working independently with the species in a clinical animal behavior setting.
  6. A minimum of two years of professional experience in applied animal behavior, including the performance of independent, published research.
  7. A minimum of three letters of recommendation from regular ABS members affirming the applicant's professional experience in the areas listed above.
  8. Maintaining liability insurance.

These standards assure that your clients and patients receive the best quality help for their animal behavior problems.

* Adapted from the ABS Board of Professional Certification, August, 1990 (Revised Jan 2002; text updated Mar 2005)

For additional information, visit the ABS website.