FEAR FREE PET TECHNIQUES

FEAR FREE PET TECHNIQUES

Attitude adjustments for your pet  

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 at 5 months.
Davy at 5 months.

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.

Keep Pets Calm & Party On

Keep Pets Calm & Party On

Get Ready! The Holidays are Coming

Your homelife is usually quiet and routine but from the end of October with the arrival of Halloween until the doldrums of January 2 set in, things are not normal. When the doorbell rings, it puts your pet on the alert that something possibly wicked is coming their way. All the holidays offer strange scents, sights, and sounds that may unnerve your usually calm pet.  You need to take special precautions during the holiday season to keep your pet and your household on an even keel.

Intriguing Decorations

As you put out your holiday décor your pet may find it interesting, tasty, or worth demolishing. Best to let your pets sniff, see, and smell the decorations first.  As you add these unusual pieces around the house, consider that they can pose a health hazard to your furry friend. They may get tangled in the lights, devour the potpourri, or trash your special crystal. Take a pet’s eye view of the things you are displaying to keep your treasures and pets safe.  And, If you are going to dress up Fido or Fluffy – chose a comfortable outfit and give them time to get used to it. 

Threatening Strangers

Droves of people coming to the door for your special event can make your pet anxious. They want to know who is entering your kingdom, if they are a friend or foe, and then act accordingly. If your dog is growling or exuberantly leaping to welcome your visitors, your guests will be uncomfortable. And remember, if you are busy answering the door, your pets may take advantage of the unguarded opening and make a dash for the outdoors. Save your pets (and your friendships) by providing a quiet and secure crate or room for them while you handle the crowd. Provide treats, toys, and a comfy spot for your fur babies so that they can peacefully enjoy your event. Both your pets and guests will appreciate having their own space.  

Festive Food

Chocolate is a food group for many humans but deadly for dogs; as is any candy containing xylitol. Keep all the human food out of reach and under close scrutiny while preparing for your party so that your pets are not tempted by something delectable but harmful for them. You certainly don’t want your pup parking his cookies in the dining room after slurping some milk and eating a few grapes. Be careful about the plants in your home, as well; the ASPCA has a list of plants that are toxic for pets.

Planning ahead and seeing the world through your pet’s eyes will ensure everyone has a safe and happy holiday season.

Do You Give Your Dog Choices?

Do You Give Your Dog Choices?

I’ve been involved in several discussions lately with “dog” people about the importance of giving dogs choices.  For example, Davy and I attend classes with a local trainer.  During a recent training session, each handler was asked to enter the ring alone, remove the dog’s leash, and walk away from their dog.  When it was our turn, Davy watched for a few seconds and then bounded to catch up.  I proceeded to change pace (normal, slow, fast) and make many quick changes of direction.  I was so proud of Davy as he showed great interest and enthusiasm to keep pace with me. He happily and eagerly did what I asked with each maneuver.  He read my “cues” and fell into place with ease.

This class consists of pet owners who are actively involved in showing their dogs in agility, rally, and obedience; performing in dog sports like barn hunts and dock diving; and training their dogs in scent work.  The dog participants ranged in age from puppies to seniors and include Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, Aussies, Cattle Dogs, Cavaliers, and German Shepherds.  We all took our turn.  Some of the dogs were a little unsure at first and wandered off to sniff a bit – but once they figured it out, I could see their confidence rise, their energy level pick-up, and their tails wag.  I have to admit, it was a nice break from sit, stay, down, left, right, about, and heel.  Most importantly – it was fun!

So I began to think of other ways to give my dog choices and started to set up little problems for Davy to solve.  Instead of dictating the direction of our walks, I started to ask Davy, “Which way?”  As long as his choice was safe, I followed his lead.  What this is doing is letting it be his walk.  He gets to add his own input which makes him feel more in charge.  After all, who wants someone dictating their every move?              

At home, we play the “Find It” game – especially on rainy days.  I ask him to sit, show him a toy, hide it in a place where he can’t see it, and then ask him to Find It.  But now, I ask him to select the toy from a few toys that I bring out for the game.  It’s one more choice that he gets to make.  Then for a treat – he gets to choose the one from my right hand or my left.

Pick a ball… any ball

Davy loves to play fetch in the yard.  What started with one ball has increased to three – a sturdy Kong ball, a lightweight whiffle ball, and a bouncy La Crosse ball.  Davy gets to choose the ball he wants me to throw, and he gets to choose when I throw it.  He knows that he must be in a sit before I put the ball in play.  He’s good at making the right choice.

At night, Davy is able to select his sleeping spot.  He can choose from several dog beds, the couch or my bed. Interesting that his choice is not always the same.  He’ll come up on the bed when I am reading or watching TV, but leaves when I turn out the lights. Then his preference is his doggie bed on the floor.  During the day, he is more likely to be found resting on the couch.  I like to give Davy choices.  I think it enriches his world to be able to have a say.  It breaks up the routine, builds confidence, and instills in him a happy working attitude.  It also helps to create a better relationship between us.  Letting your dog make the right choices is the key to success.  Next time you are paying attention to your dog, give him a chance to make some of the decisions.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.