In my efforts to provide the best possible care for my clients’ pets and for my own, I became certified as a Fear Free Pet Professional in 2017. Their mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them. Or, as they say: Take the pet out of petrified. Below are examples of Fear Free techniques in action.
Snippy Sick Pooch
Cassidy was a terrier-type, senior dog that we walked twice
a day. She was doted on by her family
and, by the time we met her, had already lived a long and happy life. As she aged, she was diagnosed with a heart
condition that required medicine twice a day.
However, the first time her owner attempted to pill her; Cassidy showed
her displeasure with a nip.
My colleague who cared for Cassidy called me to relate the
incident and to request instructions for administering the medicine in a safer
manner. I drove right over to Cassidy’s
house for a Fear Free “Teachable Moment.”
Using what Fear Free calls a considerate
approach, I tucked the pill into a small dollop of peanut butter on the end of
a spoon and offered it to Cassidy. She
was delighted with her new treat and took her medicine willingly from that day
forward. This quick win turned a negative
experience into a positive one for both Cassidy and her owners.
Very Skiddish Vizslas
One of my clients is a busy professional whose work schedule
was making it harder and harder to come home for lunch to let her dogs
out. She had a blended pet family of
four dogs – her two little dogs: easy-going, people-friendly Italian Greyhounds
and her friend’s dogs: high-energy Vizslas that were fearful of strangers and
reactive toward me. I knew the little dogs well as I had been pet sitting for
them for a while but needed to get to know the two bigger dogs.
As always, I met the dogs in advance with the owners present
and observed that they were well-trained and attentive. Sit, stay, and go to your place commands were
executed perfectly. However, my first
visit alone with them turned out to be a challenge.
The Vizsla female was not happy with me being there. She advanced toward me growling, barking, and
kept it up for most of the visit. A thirty-minute visit went into overtime with
me trying to put a slip lead on a frightened, reactive dog. I actually hid behind the larger male Vizsla and
while reaching over him slipped a leash
on the little girl. I spoke calmly,
moved slowly, and offered her plenty of treats to win her over. The Fear Free tactics enabled
me to get all the dogs outside to potty and playtime and back inside again
without further ado.
Making a Good Impression
To ensure my next visit would be a pleasant experience, I
knew that I needed to create good associations with these dogs. When I arrived, I carried the Vizslas’ toys
in where they could see me and they enthusiastically followed me out back for a
good game of fetch. After a few more visits, they were comfortable with me and allowed
me to put on their leashes to take them for a walk.
Now these dogs are easy to handle, fun to play with, and
loving toward me. I was able to introduce
another one of my dog walkers to them who they took to readily. She accompanied
me three times and is now able to enjoy walking these dogs on her own.
Davy and The Doctor
My three-year-old German Shepherd dog is named Davy. Davy and I have been going to dog school with
a top-notch trainer since he was ten weeks old.
He excels in obedience and rally.
But as a puppy, when he went to the veterinarian’s office for a visit,
his boldness faded away, he became distressed, he would often pee on the floor,
and when the vet examined him, he became snappy. I had just started my Fear Free training certification and I was determined to change his dreadful veterinary
experiences into happy visits.
Over the next year, Davy was trained to be relaxed and cooperative during routine veterinary procedures. We practiced skills at home and, with my vet’s permission, repeated our lessons at regular intervals in the vet’s lobby and exam rooms. Davy enjoyed the treats from the vet staff who often participated with us and quickly became accustomed to our simulated exams, pretend blood draws, and x-rays. He calmly accepted a muzzle and the sounds of the clippers. His anxiety about going to the vets was replaced with tail-wagging enthusiasm. He now wants to explore every nook and cranny and attempts to go behind every closed door. Most importantly, Davy has become a vet-friendly dog!
Fear Free for All
I and my staff apply Fear Free methods on
every visit to ensure that each pet we care for has a calm experience with
us. We have cats come out from under the
bed for snuggles, formerly fearful dogs greet us with tail wags, and owners
return home to happy relaxed pets. Proving
that Fear Free techniques are simple and pet tested.
There are so many benefits for senior
citizens to retain their pets that it is absolutely ideal to keep them together
for as long as possible. Studies have
proven that pets provide companionship, mental stimulation, plus a wider
support and social network. Pets lower
blood pressure, reduce stress hormones circulating through the body, facilitate
social interactions, and lessen loneliness.
Crockett’s Critter Care has been fortunate to provide dog walking
services to seniors over the years and we have witnessed the benefits first
Dog Walking and Bird Watching
One of our clients, Mrs. M. had a
little dog named Whitey. Even though her
dog was small, the aging process took some Mrs. M’s mobility and her health had
compromised her breathing so it became difficult to get Whitey out for her
daily walks. Mrs. M. lived in a lovely golf course community that didn’t allow
a fenced yard so she inquired about us walking Whitey twice a day – morning and
afternoon. Each day we reported back to
Mrs. M. how many birds’ nests Whitey spotted on her walks and how her leash
manners had improved.
Our daily visits gave Mrs. M.’s family
reassurance that she had social interaction each day when we entertained her
with Whitey’s adventures. When Mrs. M.’s condition deteriorated and she was no
longer able to live on her own, we were able to find a forever home for her
beloved pet, which comforted her knowing that Whitey would continue to be cared
for and loved.
A sweet orange cat “Marmalade” resided
in assisted living with Mr. J. This little girl was a senior herself and had
some serious health issues. When Mr. J.
traveled to visit his family, he always asked us to step in and care for
her. While on his trips, we would send
Mr. J. pictures and reports which he loved showing to his family. As Marmalade’s health worsened, we offered to
take her to the veterinarian, but Mr. J. cut his trip short to do so
himself. I know that this cat filled a
big space in his heart and home. It was
a pleasure to visit Marmalade and get to know her during her last years.
A Lively Bit of Fluff
A little dog named Duffy is owned by
Mr. Bob and is a favorite at the assisted living facility. We take Duffy for a
walk every day in the morning and evening and we can’t get down the hallway
without everyone stopping to pet this little fluff. Sometimes, Duffy is out front with Mr. Bob
waiting for our arrival. As the seniors chat, Duffy makes the rounds to collect
ear scratches and head pats from his adoring fans. When we bring Duffy back
from his walk, he always jumps into Mr. Bob’s lap for a mutual snuggle.
As part of our service, we monitor
Duffy’s feeding to ensure he is getting all of his meals and we send a report
to Mr. Bob’s family letting them know that Duffy’s needs are being met. We love talking to Mr. Bob about the life he
has led and the importance that animals have played in it. He has been a good
steward for all of his pets which included many dogs, a horse, and a donkey name
Gina Lollobrigida because of her long eyelashes. Mr. Bob feels very strongly that we develop a
partnership with our pets and they should be treated with kindness and care for
their entire life.
For us, it is an honor to support and
share in the loving bond these seniors have with their furry companions.
The warm weather brings Copperheads out of hibernation. They can be seen at our dog parks, in the
middle of our yards, on wood piles and compost mounds, under bushes, in
gardens, on porches, and just outside your front door. Are they dangerous to
our pets? YES!
Take action: If your pet is bitten, take it to your
veterinarian ASAP. Do not delay
treatment. Bites are painful and prone
to infection. Your pet needs to be
evaluated and treated with pain medication, fluids and/or antibiotics. Diagnostic tests may also be warranted to
determine if there are any systemic effects from the venom.
The clinical signs associated with a snake bite are extensive and painful swelling that spreads
rapidly. You may see bleeding or a
bloody discharge at the site of the bite.
Fang wounds are not always visible due to rapid swelling or the mouth
size of the snake that did the biting.
The prognosis of
the snake bite depends on several factors:
the size of the snake; the location of the injection; the age, size and
health of the pet; and the pet’s sensitivity to the venom. Small and frail animals are the most
susceptible to venom which makes them the most vulnerable.
Prevention: While dog
walking use a short leash. Keep dogs
away from exploring holes in the ground, digging under logs, flat rocks or wood
piles. Don’t let your pups sniff around
things you can’t see like wood piles, under bushes, or planks.
Hiking: If you are hiking, stay on the trail or open
paths where snakes are easier to see. If
you pet seems curious about “something” that you can’t see – be cautious.
Yard: Keep compost or wood piles away from the
house. Maintain your garden so it is
free of overgrown plants and debris.
Regularly mow the law. Install fences 8-12 inches deep. Don’t leave
containers of water around. Keep sheds rodent-free. Remove fallen fruit from
the ground. Basically, provide an
environment that is not attractive to snakes.
If you see a snake on your property, bring your pets inside the house.
As a pet sitter, I worry about the dogs and cats that have access to the outdoors while their owners are away. If a dog goes out the doggie door to spend time exploring in the yard, it may be bitten and not even discovered until the next scheduled visit which could be hours later.
An extended leash used for dog walking may enable the dog to venture near a well-camouflaged snake that we don’t know is there until it has struck. A curious cat is certainly no match for a snake bite. Cats are natural hunters and will chase anything that moves without realizing the danger they are putting themselves in.
So it is with good reason for us all to take precautions to protect our pets, keep our distance from snakes when we see them, and take our pet to the veterinarian if a snake strike occurs. Let’s hope 2019 is a mild season for snake bite reports.
I’m curious. When you leave your home, what do you tell your pets? Do you linger over them, tell them you hate to leave and will return soon? Do you leave them with kisses, pats on the head, and kind words? Do you just say – “Gotta go!” and dash out the door?
I asked my pet sitter colleagues this question and received a vast range of responses. Some were short and to the point, others were quite elaborate. Here are some of my favorite responses:
“I love you guys. I’ll be back soon.” But when I am going away for a long trip, I find closing the door for the “last” time agonizing. I never want to leave them and drag it out until the last minute.
When I leave, I choose one to be in charge. This duty rotates. Today when I left, I said, “Rocky, you have the honor.”
I give my dogs treats and put them in their room, feed and love on my two cats and they go to their room. I tell them all “I’ll be back guys!” My husband tells them I’m cheating on all of them!
I have six dogs and four cats. I always tell them I love them and add, “No wild parties.”
“Be good puppers. Mommy will be back soon, I love you.”
“I’ve only got cats, but they get “Bye babies! I’ll see you later!” And kisses/pets for each kitty if I can find them.
“I’ll see you soon my handsome man… Mom has to go to work now, so that you can live like the little king that you are.”
I tell my little fuzzy nuggets that I love you and will see them soon. The scaly and shelled guys get the same thing. My dogs go to work with me, but when I leave in the morning, I say “Bye cats! Bye birdies! Bye rats! I love you all.”
I just tell mine I’ll be right back…and they tell me if they had a nickel for every time they heard that, they would be rich.
Mommy loves you, but I have to go to work now, I will be back soon. Doesn’t matter if I am gone an hour or 8 hours, they are excited when I return.
I have a puppy and we’re working on isolation distress, so I give Kongs (which also happens when I am not leaving so no association) and I head out without a fuss. I also don’t make a big deal about my return, even though I can’t wait to pick her up and snuggle.
I have five dogs. I usually tell them daddy is going to make some money to keep them in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to. I’ll be back soon.
What I discovered in my pet sitter science research is we pay attention. We talk to them, pet them, give them treats, assure them we will be back and tell them that we love them. We like to leave them on a positive note. And when we are caring for our clients’ pets we tell them when we will be back and wish them a nice day. Often we add, “Be good.”
As the owner of Crockett’s Critter Care, I want you to know that you can reach out to me directly with any question, compliment, or concern you have about the care of your pet.