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.
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.