Course Description

[Note that the course contents are a mixture of videos, worksheets and other resources]

Every vet, vet nurse, animal physio, farrier, behaviourist, welfare officer or animal nutritionist knows there is one major welfare issue that comes up again and again – and that’s obesity. Amazingly, approximately 35% of dogs, cats and horses in the UK are thought to be obese, leading to a vast range of other health issues and reduced life expectancy. 

Treating obesity in pets looks simple at first glance– feed them less and exercise them more, surely? However, as animal professionals know, it is way more complicated than that. Obesity usually arises from a complex combination of factors such as our relationship with pets, our relationships with food, our relationships with family, and our inbuilt habits. Many dieting programmes fail to consider these important psychological and social elements, and hence they may fail. 

An understanding of human behaviour change can transform how practitioners interact and communicate with their clients, taking factors that have previously been barriers to change, such as our habits, and using them to help change happen.  

This short, pragmatic distance learning course is for practitioners working at the front line in companion animal and equine obesity (including vets, vet nurses, nutritionists, physiotherapists, behaviourists, welfare officers, trainers, farriers/trimmers and more). The course will enable participants to explore human behaviour change approaches to managing obesity primarily in dogs, cats, and horses. Participants will learn the need to first understand the drivers of the issue and the barriers involved in change, then explore potential ways to design change interventions to facilitate change and how to monitor activities to ensure they are impactfulParticipants will learn about facilitating change at individual, local and national levels, and will compare contrast different aspects in relation to management of the different species.  

This interactive course will take approximately five to seven hours to complete and consist of recorded talks and worksheets for the participants’ self-study and reflection as well as links and further reading.  Support will be available throughout, and included in the price is the opportunity to attend a live Q&A session with the HBCA team.  

Sections include:  

  • Background – overview of human behaviour change and why it isimportant 
  • Psychology of companion animal ownership and obesity. 
  • Understanding obesogenic environments 
  • Thinking about how participants can make changes at the level of the individual, community, and society. 
  • A perspective from human health 
  • Summary and next steps 


The feedback from this course will be used in the planning of a more in-depth package that will bring together a wider range of stakeholders, including academic and commercial organisations. 

Practitioners who take part in this initial course and successfully implement human behaviour change approaches in their clients, will be encouraged to work together to share their experiences with future participants in the in-depth courseThere is the possibility that recommendations could be put together from the group to create a useful resources and events both online and in person.  


HBCA Expert Team

Tamzin Furtado

Tamzin is a social scientist with a background in global health, and has a specific interest in the interconnections between human and animal health and wellbeing. She completed a PhD at the University of Liverpool studying how we can improve the management of obesity in horses, particularly focusing on horse-human relationships and human behaviour change.

She now works on projects covering a wide range of aspects of understanding human behaviour in order to improve companion animal welfare, and in using social sciences to find out more about how we can help people to change.

Although Tamzin is a self-confessed horse-nut, she hopes to work with animals across the board in future, and has previously been involved with charities ranging from South-East Asian wildlife to British domestic pets, and particularly loves goats (well, who doesn’t).

HBCA Instructor

Suzanne Rogers

Suzanne worked in science publishing for 10 years - initially as a science journalist and later as the Managing Editor of Trends in Biotechnology. In her spare time she re-qualified in animal behaviour and welfare, gained extensive practical experience with several animal welfare organisations, worked as an equine behaviour consultant and founded Learning About Animals, which consists of four elements: events, equine behaviour, animal welfare consultancy and resources.

Through extensive travel to developing countries, Suzanne gained interest in transport animals and in 2005 joined the Board of the World Association for Transport Animal Welfare and Studies (TAWS), of which she is still an active member. She is also co-founder and Programmes Director of Change For Animals Foundation (CFAF) and co-founder and Trustee of the Aquarium Welfare Association.

In 2007 she became the Programmes Manager of the Companion Animal Unit at WSPA (now World Animal Protection) managing dog population and working equine programmes. A key part of this role was to develop and test participatory methodologies – working within communities to lead to a change in the way people manage and care for their animals. Suzanne led the move away from a heavy focus on mobile clinics towards prevention through participatory approaches. To reflect the broad applicability of the approach to other species she became the Technical Advisor for Human Behaviour Change Programmes.

Since 2011, Suzanne has worked as an international consultant for animal welfare and human behaviour change and set up Human Behaviour Change for Animals (HBCA).

HBCA Instructor

Jo White

Human behaviour change is at the heart of all the work Jo undertakes in animal welfare. As co-founder of the social enterprise Human Behaviour Change for Animals alongside Suzanne, she is committed to making a difference. A life-long passion for animals has resulted in a career that spans nearly three decades working with and connected to animals. From its practical beginnings with horses who remain a constant, to developing and implementing international projects to deliver behaviour change to improve animal welfare, including the human animal.

Jo’s interest in behaviour led to an increasing focus on the role of the human animal in sustainably improving the wellbeing of animals. Using the principles and theories of human behaviour change within her work, including research, education, training, campaigning, communications, advocacy, project design, and strategy development. She has worked to deliver positive change through building capability, creating opportunity and developing motivation among the people and communities involved with animals.

Jo has an MSc in (Human) Behaviour Change, a Degree in Equine studies, a Certificate in Campaigns, together with varying practical equine qualifications. During her Master’s Degree Jo undertook research exploring the potential for human habit formation and change to deliver sustainable improvements for animal welfare; this research is now ongoing.

In 2001 she became Campaigns Manager for the then International League for the Protection of Horses, which went on to become World Horse Welfare. During her ten years at the charity she was promoted to the Senior Management Team as Director of Campaigns and Communications.

Jo developed and led a number of international welfare projects seeking improvements, through influencing and supporting change. Examples included the campaign to end the long-distance transport of horses and donkeys for slaughter. This work successfully delivered changes to legislation that improved welfare – including a reduction from over 160,000 to around 26,000 horses and donkeys being transported each year. In 2010 she was awarded the British Equine Veterinary Association Welfare Award, for her work on this campaign. Examples of others areas of focus include UK and EU animal welfare policy and legislation, work on equine disease and movement, capacity building in Romania, and the change process associated with rebranding World Horse Welfare.

Jo’s ambition of running her own company became a reality in 2011 when she set-up the social enterprise Progressive Ideas. She has since worked with a variety of UK and international NGOs, universities, policy makers, commercial organisations and individuals, covering a myriad of different animal welfare projects where understanding human behaviour and behaviour change is central.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    0 - Course Introduction

    • 0.1 Welcome and Introduction from HBCA

    • 0.2 Welcome and Introduction from Tamzin

    • 0.3 Obesity Course Workbook - PDF

    • 0.3 Obesity Course Workbook - Word Document

    • 0.3a Workbook alternative format

    • 0.4 Pre-course short survey

    • RESOURCE: World Horse Welfare’s Right Weight Initiative

    • RESOURCE: The Horse Trust's Equine Veterinary Research Project

    • RESOURCE: HBCA Blog Thick and Thicker

    • RESOURCE: HBCA Blog Equine

    • RESOURCE: HBCA Blog UK Context

    • Image: Learning

    • An introduction to our sponsor - LickiMat

    • An introduction to our sponsor - Oscar

    • An introduction to our sponsor - Trickle Net

    • An introduction to our sponsor - Tug-e-Nuff

    • An introduction to our sponsor - World Horse Welfare

    • An introduction to our sponsor - The Horse Trust

  • 2

    1 - Introduction to HBC

    • 1.1 Introduction to HBC from HBCA's Suz Rogers

    • 1.2 Introduction to HBC from HBCA's Tamzin Furtado

    • 1.3 Interesting links and articles

  • 3

    2 - Psychology and obesity

    • 2.1 Introduction to psychology and obesity

    • 2.1.a Videos to go with section 2.1

    • 2.2 Introduction to psychology and obesity

    • Image: Voice

  • 4

    3 - Obesogenic Environments

    • The environment and obesity

  • 5

    4 - Making Change

    • 4.1 Making change happen

    • 4.2 Making change happen

    • 4.2a Videos to go with section 4.2

    • 4.3 About the weight comparison chart

    • 4.3a Weight Comparison Chart (Blue Cross)

    • 4.4 Case study

    • Image: Focus on the 'to do'

    • Image: Seeds

  • 6

    5 - The Human Health Perspective

    • 5.1 Perspectives from Human Health

    • 5.1a Adult weight management changing behaviour techniques

    • 5.1b Obesity system atlas

    • 5.2 Resources

  • 7

    6 - Final Words

    • Thank you and final words

    • Feedback Survey