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Putting Principles Into Action

Kim Campbell Thornton

Fear Free sounds great on paper but seeing it actually work is what’s most exciting. Four Fear Free experts share stories of how their training made a difference in a pet’s veterinary experience or in their practices as a whole.

Teaching a New Perspective

I am an adjunct instructor for a local community college veterinary assistant program, and I teach an introductory class on handling and restraint. My students call it the non-restraint class.  Every week I come in with a large bin full of a variety of treats and toys, and students bring in things they think pets would like as well. The lab is held at one of our local shelters, so there is already some inherent stress for these animals. We spend a lot of time on body language of dogs and cats and identifying their stress level. Using Fear Free principles has created a more enjoyable teaching environment. I hear giggling and praise as students are able to trim nails, clean ears, or weigh a pet without force, and they love giving extra treats. They also express concern when they think the pet is too stressed to continue. Depending on the escalation and level of stress, we either stop or take a break and try a different approach. As the semester continues, the students become increasingly creative in their problem-solving skills. I love being able to give them a new perspective on animal care. It is a complete win for teacher, student and pet!

Gayle DiMenna, LVT, VTS (Behavior), Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Austin Community College Veterinary Clinical Assistant Program Introduction Lab at Texas Humane Heroes, Leander, Texas.





Changing Hearts and Minds

I am a practice administrator and was at the AAHA conference when Fear Free was launched.  I was immediately intrigued and excited about what this educational tool could do for our hospital team and, more importantly, our patients.  When I came back from the conference, I discussed Fear Free with our doctor team and the practice owner agreed that everyone in the hospital should become certified. Now, all of our staff are level 3 or working on their levels if they are newly hired. It is a condition of employment. It has changed our entire hospital’s perception of patients, and our patients have benefited greatly. Almost all of our clients are receptive to what we are doing, and we have received a number of referrals because of our handling techniques. As this is something we are always trying to improve upon, we discuss how Fear Free is going and what could we be doing better at every staff meeting. Fear Free has changed our, our patients’, and our clients’ lives.

Rachel Hendricks, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Practice Administrator, Cayuga Veterinary Services, Elbridge, New York


Priceless Smiles

Fear Free has impacted my life in so many ways. I love to see the pets who WANT to come in to our hospital because they associate so many fun things with us, and the smiles that follow on their families’ faces are priceless. I love the photos our clients take and then share of their pets being fed all kinds of yummy things and they (humans and pets) are all enjoying the experience.  I love that I can share with our clients that I use the same protocols for assessing FAS and working to eliminate it with my very own pets and rescue fosters as well as my training clients.  Decreasing and eliminating FAS is just an all-around great way to live, for humans, for animals, for all creatures.

Tammy L. Vreeland, CPDT-KA, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional, Sayrebrook Veterinary Hospital, Sayreville, New Jersey


Crockett: From Crotchety to Calm

I was working as a vet tech at Companion Animal Care Center in Phoenix, Maryland, when Crockett came to us as a new patient. He was a 13-year-old male hound who had had problems with ear infections all of his life. When I went into the exam room to take his history, Crockett was stressed and pacing. I sprayed Adaptil on a bandana and gave it to the owner to put around his neck, as he was exhibiting signs of avoidance with me. I took 10 minutes to get the history and then went to get the doctor for the examination. When we walked into the exam room again, Crockett was lying comfortably and relaxed on the floor. He was ready for considerate approach and even treats. The exam went very well. The owners commented that this was a miracle because he would always pace and scratch at the door during all his past exams.

Even with success stories such as this one, I feel like the best Fear Free tool and pleasant patient experiences come from keeping the Emotional Record. This tool helps us know the best ways to approach patients who used to exhibit FAS. With one, we scratch his butt so he doesn’t react or seem to feel vaccines given. Another, who previously would not stay still for vaccines or blood draws, just wants to put his feet up on his Dad for us to do what is needed. Another patient is comfortable only in the lobby for her examination. Being able to refer to the Emotional Record ahead of each patient’s appointment makes exams, procedures, and yes, even nail trims, so much easier and pleasant for all. These are the ultimate success stories of Fear Free in my opinion.

Kelly O’Hara, Elite Fear Free Certified Professional

How has Fear Free impacted you, your workplace, or the pets you care for? Submit your success story here to have the spotlight shined on you and be featured on our blog and social media channels!

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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