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What is Clinical Animal Behaviour?

The following gives a brief overview of the role of a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB).

What is a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB)?

A Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB) is a professional who works on referral from your veterinary surgeon. The CCAB creates programmes of behaviour change, using kind, ethical and scientifically validated methods, for animals whose behaviour has become a problem for their caregiver or for themselves. Behaviours that are problematic include biting and scratching people, house-soiling, self-mutilation, and reacting fearfully to everyday life.  Many CCABs work directly with pet-owners, on veterinary referral. Some work in rescue centres and re-homing charities. Some CCABs are also veterinary surgeons, working in a veterinary practice or referral clinic.

What does a CCAB do?

Working with the care-giver and the referring vet, CCABs explore the behaviour of the animal and make a thorough assessment of why the animal behaves the way they do. This usually involves extensive history-taking and direct observation. Once they have made their assessment, they continue to work with the referring vet and care-giver to minimise any risks associated with the problem behaviour and protect the welfare of both the animal and caregiver. They then put a plan in place to modify the behaviour, whilst continuing to protect the safety and welfare of the animal and of all those involved in the animal’s care.

What skills does a CCAB use?

CCABs are educated to degree level in the following subjects:


  • principles of ethology

  • animal welfare science

  • theory of animal learning

  • functional anatomy and physiology of the vertebrate nervous system and endocrine systems

  • clinical procedures; principles, procedures and practice.

  • the interaction between health and behaviour in vertebrate animals.

  • animal law and ethics

  • research skills


As highly skilled, critical thinkers, they apply this knowledge to evaluate the animal’s motivation in the context in which the problem behaviour occurs, and the implications of this for the well-being of both the animal and the care-giver. They also determine how the problem originally developed and the impact that the current environment has in triggering and maintaining the behaviour. CCABs ensure that safety and welfare is always protected in the work they do. They are qualified animal trainers and experienced in coaching and counselling pet owners.  So they can support owners through the entire process of behaviour change, which can often take time.

If you need advice relating to a specific behaviour issue, please contact a practising CCAB or get in touch with a professional membership organisation for practising CCABs.

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