Masters in Clinical Animal Behaviour – Royal Dicks Veterinary College, Edinburgh University.

First Year Curriculum

Course DescriptionMarkGradeCreditsResult
Prinicples of Applied Animal Behaviour73%A320Pass
Clinical Animal Behaviour66%B20Pass

Principles of Applied Animal Behaviour

This course introduces the theoretical concepts that underpin the professional field of Clinical Animal Behaviour, drawn from disciplines of ethology, psychology, anatomy, neurophysiology and psychopharmacology.

Course Objectives:

  • Critically appraise our current understanding of the ethology of vertebrate domestic animals including perceptual abilities, cognition, normal behaviour and communication, social learning and the process of domestication to include artificial selection.
  • Critically evaluate key principles underlying behavioural ontogeny; including sensitive periods, socialisation and attachment theory in order to communicate evidence based practice to others.
  • Critically evaluate the influences and interaction between ‘nature and nurture’ in the development of behavioural disorders for a range of the most commonly kept domestic animals. Be able to debate this with your peers and produce preventative guidance for the general public.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the theory of animal learning relating to associative and non-associative processes.
  • Examine the functional anatomy and physiology of the vertebrate nervous and endocrine systems including their role in mediating behaviour, the role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis and the anatomy and physiology of pain.

Clinical Animal Behavour

In this course, students will gain an appreciation of the interaction between health and behaviour in domestic/captive animals and build on their understanding of the development, diagnosis and management of behavioural disorders and conflicts in a range of companion animal species.

Course Objectives:

  • Critically evaluate the interaction between health and behaviour in companion animals and be able to recognise the impact of nutrition and medical disorders, especially the role of pain on behaviour.
  • Discuss the theories underlying a range of behaviour problems and be able to gather information relevant to a case, in order to critically evaluate and appraise it.
  • Demonstrate how a scientific understanding of the biology and normal species specific behaviour can be applied to training and the treatment of problematic behaviour in a range of companion animal species.
  • Be able to critically appraise a broad range of training techniques and training aids and evaluate treatment and training options based on the principles of learning theory.
  • Evaluate the scientific basis and assess the ethical implications of a range of adjuncts used in the management of problem behaviour, including behavioural therapy, psychopharmacology, pheromonatherapy and dietary interventions.


This course is designed to expand knowledge and appreciation of how humans and non-human animals interact, covering theoretical and practical aspects of the interaction. There is an emphasis on examining the animal aspect of the interaction while adopting a multidisciplinary approach to the wider subject area.

Subject areas include:

  • Human-Animal relationships and communication
  • Companion and Therapy animals
  • Conflict between humans and animals
  • Evidence-based approaches to the study of human-animal interactions.

Second Year Curriculum

Course DescriptionMarkGradeCreditsResult
Reserach Methods and Data Analysis75%A310Pass
Evidence based Veterinary Medicine in Clinical Practice63%B10Pass
Animal Ethics, Policy and Law62%B20Pass
Clinical Animal Behaviour in Practice62%B20Pass

Research Methods and Data Analysis

The research methods and data analysis course focuses on an understanding of scientific and statistical concepts; scientific investigation including the importance of collecting data of the highest possible quality; efficient data analysis using appropriate statistical methods and statistical and data software packages (the main stats package used will be Minitab); as well as gaining the appropriate ethical approval. The course will cover a range of topics over the five weeks, including scientific & research methods; hypothesis and quantitative and qualitative study design; research data & statistics; data analysis and presenting data. At the end of this course, students will be able to apply scientific and statistical methods to actual research projects.

    Evidence Based Veterinary Medicin in Clinical Practice

    This course will provide students with high-quality SCQF level 11 specialised skills in evidence-based veterinary medicine.

    The course begins with a focus on foundation concepts of evidence-based veterinary medicine (EBVM), which must be understood and appreciated by professional scientists in a veterinary context. Emphasis is placed on the concepts of EBVM, and the relevance and importance to veterinary and clinical animal behaviour practice. At the end of the course participants should feel confident about explaining the concept of EBVM, and undertaking the five main steps of Ask, Acquire, Appraise, Apply and Assess in their professional practice. The assessment will involve creating a completed Knowledge Summary for their chosen topic to the standard of the open-access RCVS Knowledge site Veterinary Evidence.

      Animal Ethics, Policy and Law

      This course enables you to critically understand the different ethical viewpoints and theories used to evaluate our uses of animals. You will develop an understanding of what policy is and how it is evaluated and what law is and how it can be used to protect animals. At the end of this course, you will be able to integrate the theoretical and technical elements of ethics and policy to make recommendations and identify gaps in legislation and regulations. 

      Clinical Animal Behaviour in Practice

      In this course students will learn about:
      Human and family psychology including::
      Counselling skills; facilitation and maintenance of behavioural change; interpretation of client behaviour and attitude, methods of effective communication and collection of information, assessment of understanding, ethical issues; professionalism in relationships with clients and others.

      Clinical behaviour procedures and practice including:
      Taking case-histories and effective communication and liaison with clients, Applying principles of ethology and learning to techniques for diagnosis and treatment of all common animal behaviour problems, Identification and critical evaluation of contributing factors, role of environmental factors, differential diagnosis, Devising and effective delivery of structured treatment regimes, client understanding, compliance and efficacy of treatments, Approaches to extended treatment and follow-up. Case studies will be utilised in order to facilitate learning.

      Course Objectives

      • Demonstrate an in depth understanding of the aetiology and treatment of a range of common behavioural problems in companion animals
      • Devise behaviour modification programmes to facilitate learning and demonstrate an ability to use a range of behaviour modification techniques appropriately, to include systematic desensitisation, operant and respondent counterconditioning and habituation
      • Apply the principles of effective counselling and critically evaluate their role throughout the behaviour consultation, treatment and follow up
      • Evaluate the professional, legal, ethical and safety implications relating to a behaviour case, propose how these may be addressed and communicate this to peers, clients and veterinary professionals
      • Examine the mode of action of major classes of drugs used in clinical animal behaviour and be able to critically evaluate their role in the treatment of behavioural disorders