How To Face Fear Free Challenges: A Q&A With Dr. Marty Becker and Dr. Kathryn Primm

By Kathryn Primm, DVM

People frequently approach me after lectures with questions about how I handle issues with implementing Fear Free. I have ideas about how to approach these problems, but every patient is an individual. No single answer will solve all problems. After hearing some themes in these questions, I reached out to Fear Free founder Dr. Marty Becker to hear what he has to say. Perhaps his answers and tips can help you as you live Fear Free with your patients!

What do you think is the most important thing all certified professionals need to keep in mind when their efforts seem to fail?

Marty Becker: Never take it out on the pet! For example, if we failed to have one person do a Fear Free blood draw utilizing Clipnosis, we’re not going to punish the cat by stretching it out so its head and tail are in different zip codes. Never get frustrated and completely abandon being Fear Free.

Me: That is excellent advice. I think it is also important that we know when to stop with the technique we are trying and switch to another tactic if the pet seems to advance in FAS.

Is there a key to making sure each visit for a pet is better than the next?

Marty Becker: We need to make notes in the pet’s emotional medical record at every visit, so we can remember exactly what works best for each pet.

Me: I completely agree. If we have an emotional medical record, we can save time at successive visits by starting with the favorite treats or toys or whatever works for that pet and we can also know specific triggers to avoid. That way, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every visit.

What do you do when things do not go well?

Marty Becker: We forensically evaluate if we made mistakes, such as not cleaning the stethoscope with Rescue and wiping with pheromones or having stressed anal gland odor in the room and work to prevent them in the future. Make a different plan for the next visit based on what you suspect and write it down.

Me: I think that here is where the emotional medical record is the most valuable. How can you know what failed if you don’t know what you tried?

Do you have any other advice for our professionals as they meet challenges?

Marty Becker:  Pledge to not let a bad apple spoil the barrel. We go into the next office visit or treatment with the full expectation of being successful.

Me: I think that we are sometimes our own worst enemies. We assume that pet owners will push back or not be willing to postpone procedures, when actually they do not like to see their beloved pets stressed either!

Marty adds that his team’s successes far exceed their failures, but at team meetings they share and talk about both successes and failures. They constantly seek to improve through education, training, and experience.  I would add that Certified Professionals can utilize the resources found in the tool box. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here either because we have paved the way for you. Most important, remember that Fear Free is an investment for you and your patients.

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