What is the Fear FreeSM initiative? There was a time when pet professionals focused more on the destination than the journey. That is to say, we had an end point in mind and worked efficiently to accomplish that end point, without much regard to the emotional well-being of the pet or the pet’s person. And perhaps without much regard for any emotions we experienced during the sometimes less than pleasant interaction. Although this lack of attention to emotional well-being could be applied to the way pets were once handled at a grooming facility or training facility, this lecture will focus on the veterinary setting. It will be quite easy to extrapolate the concepts we discuss to any setting in which people and animals interact. The Fear Free initiative began as veterinary health care teams recognized that many pets and clients alike experienced distress when they visited the animal hospital. While dogs drag their owners into the pet food store hoping for treats and toys, these very same dogs only enter the veterinary hospital if they are coaxed and cajoled. In the examination room, many pets used to struggle while teams of assistants tried to hold them down. It could be difficult to get an accurate assessment of temperature or heart rate in these distressed animals. The Fear Free initiative offers a fresh new way of delivering veterinary care. With the help of an Advisory Panel of many animal experts, guidelines have been created to facilitate a calm veterinary experience. These guidelines consider ways to manage the physical environment as well as the social environment. Stress matters! Application of Fear Free Fear Free concepts can be applied to the stress associated with all aspects of a veterinary visit. From the car ride to the waiting area. From the exam room to the hospital ward. And even after a patient returns home, he may experience stress associated with special care or exercise restrictions needed during the recovery period. With a little guidance, we can change our behavior and use a quiet approach. We can feed treats to cheer the pet that is willing to eat. With music playing and pheromones diffusing in the background, pets and people alike often relax. But what can we do with the patient that still cannot be safely or comfortably handled? Can we help the patient that is so nervous about coming to the hospital that it is impossible to deliver the most basic of care? Yes we can! Behavior modification rocks! Behavior modification To give their patients the skills to relax and accept handling, veterinarians and pet owners need the help of behaviorists and trainers. The first step in enabling patients is to recognize signs of stress, albeit subtle. Fear and stress can be reflected in panting, trembling, salivating, and attempts to escape or even bite. But did you know that distress can also be reflected by fidgeting or freezing? The frozen pet is not the calm pet at all and her well-being is not good! Perhaps the most terrifying part of the veterinary experience is being subjected to physical restraint. By teaching pets to present themselves for examination, the need for restraint is all but eliminated. Special skills During our session, we will discuss some of the important skills needed for a general examination as well as for management of some common illnesses or procedures. Brush up on your clicker training. Those patients that are too terrified to even take food will also benefit from a systematic desensitization and counterconditioning (DSCC) to all the scary aspects of the veterinary visit. We will talk about ways to develop a customized DSCC protocol that meets the need of an individual. Networking with veterinarians Veterinary health care teams may not know that you are available to help. Integrating the behavioral needs of pets with their medical needs is a win-win approach. Let’s discuss some opportunities in your area!