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How Fear Free Makes a Difference: 5 Experts Share Their Experiences

Kim Campbell Thornton

People at every level in veterinary clinics can become Fear Free certified, and they all notice the difference it makes to patients and clients when they come in. Here are some of their stories and why Fear Free is important to them.

The Muzzle Is Your Friend

I recently had a patient who in the past was labeled as very willing to bite and difficult to muzzle. I went into the exam room and discussed what the patient presented for and how the previous visits had gone. I let the owner know what I would be doing differently. Using Fear Free techniques, I was able to muzzle and use minimal restraint for the patient’s exam and vaccines, and we were even able to trim her nails! She did very well and took treats from me! The patient remained calm and the owner was very happy with our success and so was I!

Rachel Lees, RVT, KPA, CTP, VTS – Behavior, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, The Behavior Clinic, Olmsted Falls, Ohio




Treats Are Just the Beginning

On his first visit to the clinic, Spike barked and growled from his owner’s side and would only hesitantly take treats from her. By the end of that visit, he would jump down from the bench to eat treats tossed toward him and once came close enough to take a high-value treat from my hand before quickly retreating. He was highly reactive to any sounds outside the exam room. A plan was made involving PVPs and environmental management. It included scheduling future appointments at slower times and leading Spike and his owner immediately into an exam room from a side entrance, playing Through a Dog’s Ear, and limiting foot traffic outside the exam room. The doctor removed her lab coat as well. On the second and third visits I was able to feed Spike from my hand and work up to touching and beginning desensitization around his shoulder area for vaccines. PVPs were adjusted as needed and by the fifth visit Spike was able to receive his vaccines and get a heartworm test!

Jaime Thomas, RVT, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Keystone Veterinary Clinic, Stow, Ohio

The End Result

I love when animals who have not had veterinary care in several years are able to be thoughtfully handled and cared for. It’s a win for the client, the pet, and the staff.

Eileen Savier, DVM, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Keystone Veterinary Clinic, Stow, Ohio

Changed Behavior

I work the front desk, and I have seen dogs who were apprehensive on the first visit soon get to the point where they practically drag their owner in, they are so excited to come to the vet. Some are reported to get excited at home when the owner says, “Let’s go see the doctor.”

Calvin Bosley, Client Care Specialist, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Windsor Veterinary Clinic, Windsor, Colorado

Changes in Attitudes

Fear Free has allowed me to safely recommend alternative approaches to office examinations, outpatient surgeries, and home care using PVPs and at-home conditioning. I have also alerted owners that certain behaviors are the result of fear. Fear Free has become a daily practice and we are in the process of getting our hospital Fear Free certified. Clients appreciate a gentle, considerate approach and rarely object to my recommendation for pre-visit sedation.

William Hanson, DVM, DABVP (canine, feline), Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Aurora Animal Clinic, Aurora, Ontario, Canada








This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Kim Campbell Thornton is content manager for Fear Free Pets and is an Elite Fear Free Certified Professional. She has been writing about dogs, cats, wildlife, and marine life since 1985.

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