Fear free philosophy leads us to rethink everything from general care to vet visits. Here is what you need to know about Fear Free and why you want to consider vets (and other animal professionals) with Fear Free certification.
What is Fear Free and Fear Free Certification?
Fear Free is a philosophy and practice that works to prevent and reduce fear, stress, and anxiety in pets through educating the people who care for them. Fear-Free Certification is education for pet owners, the professional pet community, and veterinary professionals. The philosophy and programs provide knowledge and tools that center around feeding our pet’s minds as well as their bodies for overall well being.
Fear Free, and the associated movement, was founded by Dr. Marty Becker, often known as “America’s Veterinarian.” It is a transformative initiative and more than 66,000 vets and pet professionals are now Fear Free Certified®.
How Does Fear Free Work?
The first step with Fear Free is understanding how animals communicate signs of stress. Some common examples are dilated pupils, tucked tail, tense face, lips drawn back, and of course snarling or growling. As an owner, you should be asked about any known stressors for your pet that trigger a reaction–things like noises, odors, and unfamiliar people.
The goal is to reduce stress because of the negative impact on all involved. Stress in our pets can lead to things like slower recovery times from injury or disease and challenges with examining and treating pets. And owners with dogs who are stressed at the vet’s office often take their pets less frequently for wellness visits.
There are a number of points when we can reduce stress in pets relative to vet visits. First, we can work to reduce stress on the way to the vet’s office. If this is a known stressor for your dog, talk with your vet on ways to try to reduce their anxiety.
Next, once you arrive at the vet’s office, it’s important to notice the stress level in your dog and adjust accordingly. If your dog gets anxious around other dogs, it’s a good idea to try to separate them or to give as much space as possible. Keep your dog on a leash until he is in a room and consider asking if your dog may go directly to an exam room to wait.
Consider rewards like treats and toys during an exam so your dog associates it with positive experiences. Remain calm, speak in quiet voices, approach the dog in a slow manner, and be aware of any sensitivity to loud noises and quick movements. Overall, the goal with Fear Free is to make the experience as stress-free as possible for the pet and all involved.
What Does Fear Free Mean When Choosing a Vet?
A Fear Free Certified Vet understands the possible triggers and responses of fear in dogs and actively works with the dog and the owner to alleviate them. Anyone can get this certification including pet owners, pet care workers, primary care vets, and specialty vets.
I have many years of experience with Fear Free and actually practiced the methods before the certification became available. That’s how important this is to me and I know it works. I am now certified as well.
If you believe your pet may have issues with stress, please let me know and I’m happy to work with you both. And of course, I’ll be sure to point out to you anything I notice while working with your dog as well. To effectively reduce stress in your pet, we will take active steps to reduce any fear and to reduce their anxiety level. Effective communication between us is key to our success.