Fear Free Cooperative Care.

Do you dread taking your dog to the vet because it turns into such an ordeal?  Does your dog become highly stressed and afraid or even aggressive during vet visits?  Would you like to be able to groom your dog and clip toe nails and give at home care if needed, without it turning into a battle?

Help is here.  There is a new trend in veterinary practices, and amongst some forward thinking groomers, called FEAR FREE.  In the training world the protocol that we use to train Fear Free handling is called Cooperative Care.  The primary focus here is the word “cooperative”.

The old style of veterinary handling depends upon restraint.  The dog is restrained and forced to submit to necessary veterinary procedures.  Some dogs love going to the vet!  If you have one of these dogs you are lucky. But for most dogs going to the vet causes trembling, salivating, panting and trying to escape. Why is this such an ordeal for most dogs?

Think about the sci-fi scenario of being abducted by aliens and transported to an other worldly theater where the aliens did all sort of experiments on you with scary looking tools.  This is kind of what dogs experience when being examined with scopes and poked with needles and held down so they have no means of escape.  I’d be scared too!

Most dogs only visit the vet once or twice a year and remember, dogs are masters of classical learning.  They associate the smell and sight of the vet’s office with the scary experience they had at the last visit.  Fear, anxiety and stress.  This tends to get worse.  They never forget!

Much the same thing can happen at a groomer.  The sound and sights of the equipment themselves can be terrifying and if the groomer is in a rush they may not take the time to notice the dog’s emotional state and plow right on through.  If your dog is like my dog, they will bite you if you hurt them!  I don’t blame him.  Dog’s don’t have hands or language.  They use their mouths to protect themselves.  That’s all they have.

Cooperative Care is making the dog part of the process by giving them a clear way to signal to us they they are afraid or uncomfortable.  It is a bit like playing Red Light/ Green Light.  When dogs learn that they can stop the handling at any time by signaling you (red light) and earn treats by returning to neutral (green light), it changes everything.  You and the dog are working together to make the handling truly cooperative.  When dogs know they have a choice it relieves them of fear, anxiety and stress.

The Cooperative Care protocol must be taught by a certified positive trainer who is very familiar with counter conditioning protocol for handling and is also Fear Free Certified.  The methods are taught at home in a safe, neutral environment before taking it to the vet’s office or groomer.  Look for veterinarians that support Fear Free practices or that are Fear Free Certified practices.

You can also look for groomers that support these practices or have your trainer work with a groomer to support the home training that you have done once you take it into the grooming environment.

For more information about Fear Free you can go to www.fearfreepets.com.  You can search their directory to find a Fear Free Professionals in your area to help you change your dog’s emotional state from Fearful to Fear Free.