Animal Behaviour - A Common Overview

Animal Behaviour - A Common Overview

Animals perform 2 types of behaviour - instinctive behaviour and discovered behaviour.

Instinctive Behaviour

For higher mammals instinctive behaviour is restricted and might be confined to four broad areas:

• To eat

• To drink

• To breed

• To survive

These four areas are "hot wired" into the animals mind and beneath the control of the nervous system.

Discovered Behaviour

All different behaviours are "learned" and are virtually at all times for the enhancement and preservation of the above 4 areas and in particular the last one - to survive.

Instinctive behaviour is additional advanced by what the animal has learned.

Survival Instinct

The discharge of a neural transmitter (intuition) tells an animal that it is thirsty and must drink. The animal has discovered where to seek out water... and drinks. The animal survives.
The release of a neural transmitter (intuition) tells an animal that it is hungry and needs to eat. The animal has learned how you can get food... and eats. The animal survives.

An animal's capacity to learn is an important factor to its survival and some animals' willingness to be taught has led to their virtually guaranteed survival as our "trainable home pets".

Mostly we train our animals to study behaviours which can be acceptable (house training), desirable (general obedience) and sought after (fetch a ball). We do this by utilizing a range of behavioural strategies akin to learning by affiliation, conditioning, habituation etc. However our animals also have the power to learn behaviours we discover unacceptable. The reasons for this are many and diverse however the realized behavioural response I come across most ceaselessly in my work as a McTimoney Animal therapist is because of pain or discomfort.

When an animal experiences pain or discomfort it should alter its behaviour in a roundabout way:


Dogs may be reluctant to play or engage in actions, won't socialise with different canines, turn into aggressive etc.


Horses may attempt to keep away from being saddled up, won't stand still for mounting, they might buck or rear etc.

These behaviours are designed, more or less, in an attempt to not have interaction within the things that damage and therefore preserve the possibilities of survival. A learned behaviour happens in response to a stimulus, in this case pain or discomfort.

Associative Studying

Animals additionally learn by association - which is a "brief minimize" and happens when the animal has gone through a studying process. The animal learns to display sure behaviours particularly situations. It then learns which behaviours are "effective" and shows only these best behaviours which are additional refined to become a conditioned response.

Most animals I see have developed strategies and realized behaviours to be able to be able to deal with their lives whilst experiencing some pain or discomfort. Normally this has developed over time right into a conditioned response and could be quite ingrained into the animal's behaviour patterns.

However, once the stimulus (pain) is eliminated the learned (usually unacceptable) behaviour naturally goes away and everything is hunky dory again, or so you would think......

Unfortunately this doesn't occur till the animal learns this for itself.

Horse cat behaviour

For example, a horse who has been ridden in a decent saddle and developed back pain will discover being ridden very uncomfortable. It is going to due to this fact develop behavioural responses to try to avoid this situation, and, over time learns which one works best. For explanatory purposes we could say this shouldn't be letting you set the saddle on.

Sooner or later, if things don't change, the horse will associate the saddle (or any saddle for that matter) with pain and the horse is conditioned to display that behaviour, i.e. horse sees saddle and you'll't get anyplace close to it!!

So, you change the saddle for one that matches and have the horse's back finished and the behaviour still persists. Why? Because the horse would not converse our language so you may't tell him you have changed the saddle and had his back achieved and he is already developed a conditioned response to the sight of a saddle. The horse has to learn for himself that he's not in pain, the saddle is comfortable and being ridden is now OK.

Dog Behaviour

Exactly the identical principles may be utilized to canine who are reluctant to go up or down stairs, leap in or out of vehicles or socialise with different dogs. The scenario causes a stimulus (pain) which elicits a behavioural response ie. refusing to cooperate or being aggressive. Eventually just the state of affairs itself - perhaps seeing the automotive or another dog - causes a conditioned response. Website URL: