veterinary exam room with stainless steel exam table

Fear Free Veterinary Visits for your Dog

Does the concept of a fear-free veterinary visit sound too good to be true?’ Does the word “vet” cause your dog to cower and tremble?

Well thankfully fear-free veterinary visits are a real thing! Well known veterinarian, Dr. Marty Becker, created a certification program called Fear Free Pets. The program teaches veterinary and pet professionals, how to use fear-free handling techniques, and how to create a fear-free environment. This is so your dog can have a fear-free veterinary visit!

Dr. Becker’s first certification course was offered in 2016 and today over 48,000 pet professionals have been certified by Fear Free. They offer courses for veterinary professionals, groomers, trainers, shelters. There is even one for pet parents looking to create Fear Free homes too!

Some environments automatically create anxiety. Have you ever walked into a veterinarian’s office that is has all hard surfaces? Maybe there is a steel table and the smell of chemical cleaners? Staff can be as nice as can be, but if the environment isn’t inviting, you don’t feel like hanging out. Your heart rate might climb a bit, and somehow, just based on the outside stimuli, you automatically start feeling fear.

Fear Free veterinary offices and hospitals have non-slip surfaces, soft beds or rugs to lay on. Often they have a variety of cookies to please the palate. There’s no icky chemical disinfectant smells lingering in the air. The exam might take place on the floor with calming music in the background. Pleasing pheromones or essential oil diffusers are likely to be used in the rooms. It’s all about your dog and what makes him more comfortable.

The exam may take a bit longer than traditional offices. That’s because the technicians use handling methods that are based on cooperation and not compliance. Nothing is rushed in a Fear Free office. To ease your checkout, prescriptions and payment might be taken in the exam room. That’s so when you are ready to leave, you don’t have to wait at the front desk to pay.

For a Fear Free Practice Certification, more than 50% +1, full-time veterinarians, 25% of staff, and 100% of the leadership, must be certified in Fear Free techniques. 

The certification course is taught through eight online modules. Each has a test at the end, which must be passed with a score of 80% or better. Certification is valid for one year and continuing education courses must be completed to maintain active certification. 

A Fear Free visit reduces the emotional anxiety the dog has when visiting the vet’s office. It also allows a more accurate measurement of heart rate and respiratory rate, which can be elevated when your dog is scared.

A Fear Free veterinary practice may charge a little bit more than another office. But the benefit is well worth a few extra dollars.

To find a Fear Free practice, veterinarian, groomer or trainer,  visit Fear Free Pets.

Holistic veterinarians are usually “Fear Free” without the certification. That’s because the methods taught are what holistic vets have been doing for years.

At home, you can help your dog by changing associations. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make weekly stops at the vet’s office just to weigh in and get pats and attention from the front desk.
  • Bring cookies with you and offer a cookie when you go through the door at the office.
  • Massage sessions are a great way to get your dog used to touch.

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