At the 2016 Pet Sitter International’s Conference, I heard a veterinarian named Dr. Marty Becker give a passionate talk about a program that he called Fear Free. It was about taking the “pet” out of “petrified” and lowering a pet’s anxiety regarding veterinary visits.
Dr. Becker realized that vets have been doing it wrong and pets were being terrified as a result. Some of the examples discussed were how nail trims were done and how cats were scruffed for common procedures. In too many cases the mind set was this is how it has always been done, and it was also the quickest way to get things done. (I had worked at a veterinarian’s office for three years so I could relate to what he was saying.) In his heart, Dr. Becker knew there was a better way. He did his research and talked to colleagues and the Fear Free movement began to take shape.
He and his colleagues discovered ways of low stress handling, use of calming music and pheromones, compression garments, and therapeutic massage. They promoted better methods to reduce a pet’s stress before, during, and after a vet visit from the ride from home to the office, into the lobby and on to the scale, and finally the exam room and kennel. Everything was scrutinized and solutions were implemented.
Dr. Becker explained how easy it is to recognize fear by understanding a pet’s body language and how to use techniques to lower it. As he talked, I was reminded about how having this knowledge would benefit the pets that I care for. I considered some of the many challenges pet sitters face and knew that this program was for me. As I was leaving the presentation, I said to one of the leaders in Pet Sitters International that I was going to pursue Fear Free certification in the coming year.
The program was in the early stages and the only Fear Free program available was the veterinary program which I took and then became the first Fear Free pet sitter in North Carolina, and the first Fear Free professional of any stripe in New Bern. It was a difficult course and each year additional credits are required to maintain the certification. After three years of study, I am now qualified for the Fear Free Elite Status. This distinction makes me confident that I am providing the best possible care for all the critters that are entrusted to me.
I have so much respect for the methods and how much they have benefited my clients. Fear Free starts with how I introduce myself to a new pet client, it aids the elderly pets at medicine time, it helps pets overcome their separation anxiety, makes the trips to the vets more comfortable, and employs rewards and praise for training pets to be calm walking companions. The Fear Free methods ensure that I and my team give priority to each pet’s emotional and physical well-being in everything we do.
This program has shaped the path that I have taken and provided me with the best tools to offer the pets in my care. When a pet owner entrusts their pet to me or my team they know that they have hired a qualified professional.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
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