How to Become a Pet Therapist

Although there is no clear pathway to becoming a pet therapist, there are a number of requirements that need to be addressed. Pet therapists work with animals that have emotional or psychological issues that affect their behavior. Also known as pet psychologists or animal behavior specialists, pet therapists can help an animal learn good behaviors and can determine the reason for bad behaviors so that action can take place to eliminate such bad behaviors.

Since pet therapists understand animal behavior, which includes social behavior and animal instincts as these relate to the natural environment and/or the shared human environment, they are able to determine the best way to modify an animal’s behavior based upon a consultation with the pet’s owner regarding the pet’s behavioral problems.

Pet Therapist Skills and Experience

There are a number of skills needed to become a pet therapist as well as a set number of hours needed to acquire those skills. Most often, some of the qualities needed to be a good pet therapist are natural, such as patience, compassion, understanding and energy. Some qualities must be acquired, such as an in-depth knowledge of animal behavior.

This can be attained through volunteer work and internships and/or employment at:

  • veterinarian officers
  • universities
  • animal shelters
  • animal training facilities
  • zoos
  • animal behavior centers
  • working for other independent pet therapists

Pet Therapist Education

Though there is no set educational path for a pet therapist, there is a growing need for pet therapists. Some states are beginning to regulate the qualifications and requirements, so it is best to investigate those requirements according to the state that you wish to practice in.

Courses, which will help in the knowledge in this field, are:

  • Animal biology
  • Animal behavior principles
  • Physiology
  • Ethology – the study of animal behavior
  • Comparative psychology
  • Veterinary medicine
  • Zoology
  • Veterinary sciences

Degrees in animal behavior, psychology and veterinarian sciences will prepare the candidate for the education and knowledge needed in this field. In addition, there is a certification as an applied animal behaviorist available. For more information on this certification, visit

The Pet Therapist Occupation

Pet therapists can charge up to $50.00 for their services. Most often, a pet therapist is also a veterinarian. However, being a veterinarian is not required and it is entirely possible that a person can claim the title of “pet therapist” without formal education and/or certification. Instead an internship and/or residency at an university with a behavioral program or with another Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) is required along with the passing of an examination.

Animal Behaviorists work with veterinarians in identifying problem behavior and finding remedies to cure it. Sometimes changes in behavior and/or the existence of behavioral problems may indicate an underlying medical condition, which can be evaluated by a veterinarian.

Some pet therapists work as consultants to universities, zoos, laboratories and/or veterinarians, publish peer-reviewed articles in medical journals, are researchers and/or teachers or trainers and serve as competition judges in animal shows or competitions.

Some pet therapists operate their own business, consulting individuals regarding their pet’s behavioral problems, such as:

  • excessive barking
  • excessive territorial tendencies
  • soiling problems
  • destructive behavioral tendencies and/or aggressive misbehavior