IAABC Articles and Resources

The goals of the IAABC were to standardize and support the practice of companion
animal behavior consulting, while providing resources for pet owners needing advice.

Animal Behavior Consulting 101 Part 5: The Core Competencies

Jesse Miller on September 13, 2016

Animal behavior consulting is a complex process that requires the mastery of several foundational skills and the ability to deploy them in different situations.

IAABC has identified a set of core competencies for animal behavior consulting, which define these foundational skills. If you can demonstrate competency in these core areas, then we believe you’re well equipped for success in this work.

We divide these skills into six main areas:

  1. Assessment
  2. Behavioral science
  3. Species-specific knowledge
  4. Consulting skills
  5. General knowledge of animal behavior
  6. Relevant biological sciences

You can find a complete list of all our core competencies here.

Behavioral cases vary a lot; both in the kinds of behaviors an animal might be displaying and in the particulars of the client’s situation. Consultants have to be creative in planning interventions that fit the conditions, and flexible when their first approach runs aground. This means it’s critical that an animal behavior consultant have a toolbox of concepts. Studies suggest that the most efficient way to master a complex process is to explicitly learn the necessary foundational skills. Going about it in reverse, that is, practicing the more complex part and hoping its foundations will fall into place, is much less likely to lead to mastery. By developing their list of the core competencies, IAABC has given animal behavior consultants a roadmap to becoming a competent and well-rounded practitioner.

Good training mechanics and good instincts are important, but making this implicit knowledge explicit through education gives a consultant the opportunity to make new connections, find weaknesses in their knowledge or discover areas that they want to look more deeply into, and ultimately to reach a complete understanding of the principles informing their practice.

You would be forgiven for thinking that qualifying for certification requires an applicant become a Renaissance-style polymath, as comfortable presenting to the Royal Academy as they are training a beagle to stop howling at cars, but this isn’t quite the case. Part of the reason it’s important to have these core competencies made explicit is so that a consultant can recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and therefore know when they need to do more research before taking a case, or when to refer to someone with a different skillset.

The core competencies don’t include specific reference to ethics, but we believe an ethical approach to behavior consulting requires a commitment to professional development, understanding one’s limitations, and a willingness to refer to someone else when you’re out of your depth. Being part of an organization like IAABC lets behavior consultants connect with other members and learn from each other, creating local, national and international networks of experts. I’ll be discussing the key ethical principle we believe should guide decision-making in behavior consulting – LIMA – in a future post.


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