What Are Innate and Learned Behaviors?

What Are Innate and Learned Behaviors?


Behavior is determined by a combination of inherited traits, experience, and the environment. Some behavior, called innate, comes from your genes, but other behavior is learned, either from interacting with the world or by being taught. Let's read about some pet behavior and try to figure out if it's learned or innate.


Read the introductory page, Pet Behaviors, to learn more about animal behavior.

Visit the following websites and read more about pet behavior:

Now that you know more about why animals behave the way they do, you will explore some problem behaviors in pets and discover what animal experts have to say about them. Your teacher has assigned a type of pet to you. Go to Ask the Behaviorists and begin by skimming some of the behavior problems shown by animals other than the one assigned to you. Then, using the student sheet your teacher has given you, explore your assigned pet in greater detail.

When you are done, check back in with your teacher to share your findings and to discuss animal problem behaviors with the rest of the class.

Knowledge Check

Write a short essay comparing one aspect of human behavior to that of a pet. For example, you can choose behaviors that involve eating, grooming, sleeping, interacting with members of their own species or other species, or any behavior that is exhibited by both humans and pets. Be as specific as you can about which aspects of the behavior are learned and which are instinctive and compare the ways in which humans learn the behavior to the way that pets learn. Discuss a specific pet type rather than pets in general.

This esheet is a part of the Pets: Oh Behave lesson.

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Esheet Details