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Unit information: Animal Behaviour 3 in 2015/16

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Unit name Animal Behaviour 3
Unit code VETS33000
Credit points 40
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Casey
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Veterinary School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit develops the theme of animal learning introduced at Level I, by introducing theories of animal cognition and animal mind. Such 'higher level' processes are important in understanding how individuals of different species perceive the world, how they acquire and use knowledge,and the extent to which they are aware of themselves and their environment. The development of abnormal behaviours is also discussed in this context. Developing an understanding of how and why human-animal relationships have arisen, and what effects they have on the people and animals involved, is central to developing a broader understanding of the behaviour and welfare of animals in a domestic setting. In this unit, human - animal interactions are explored with respect to the development of undesired behaviours in companion animal species, and how these impact both on owners and the welfare of animals. Behavioural therapy integrates aspects of veterinary and behavioural science. Owners of companions animals, including small animals and horses, increasingly require guidance in behavioural matters as they seek animals that are content, well behaved and where there is mutual benefit in the human animal interaction. In this unit, the various aspects of understanding and modifying undesired animal behaviour are discussed, together with an introduction to the importance of medical differentials and aspects of psychopharmacological therapy. The unit will prepare students with the basic tools they need to conduct behavioural therapy consultations, in liaison with a veterinarian, and provides a sound basis for certification as a clinical animal behaviourist.

The aims of this unit are:

  • To ensure a systematic understanding of all aspects of animal behaviour, including complex issues of cognition and consciousness, and the way in which learning and developmental processes influence the behavioural repertoire of an individual.
  • To ensure that students can apply the methods and techniques they have learnt to treat real animal behaviour problems, taking into account ethical, practical and communication issues.
  • To appreciate the role and limitations of pharmacology and pheromonotherapy in the modification of companion animal behaviour.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the processes of domestication of companion animal species and apply this knowledge to the comparison of the behavioural repertoire of domesticated species and their ancestral species.
  2. Understand the communicative and social behaviours of domestic species and how to apply these to both normal and abnormal behaviours.
  3. Understand the theories underlying the process of associative learning and how these underpin phenomena such as blocking, overshadowing, discrimination and categorisation.
  4. Know how the ability to learn may change at different life stages.
  5. Have a working knowledge of animal cognition including social learning, spatial and temporal cognition, representation and language.
  6. Read widely about theories of consciousness in humans, animals and artificial intelligence, and discuss the concept of consciousness and its relevance to animal welfare in depth.
  7. Understand the role of behavioural therapy in professional, ethical and legal terms.
  8. Apply understanding of ethological principles and learning theory to understand the development and treatment of behaviour problems in companion animals.
  9. Develop communication and problem solving skills in the context of taking histories of behavioural cases and explaining treatment programmes to owners.
  10. Know the principle action of major classes of drugs that affect mood and behaviour.
  11. Run and evaluate the effectiveness of puppy socialisation classes and kitten information sessions.
  12. Develop a working knowledge of training techniques regularly used in dogs and horses.

Teaching Information

Lectures, Tutorials and Practical Sessions

Assessment Information

Assessment of this unit is made up of a combination of unseen written examination (80% marks) and two pieces of assessed coursework (10% of marks for each).

Reading and References

Please refer to the Unit Handbook.