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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.