Pet Owners Say ‘No More’ to Fear, Anxiety, and Stress

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A revolution in pet care sparks demand for Fear Free Happy Homes

If you’ve ever had a pet who shivered and shook at the veterinarian, drooled and cried in the car, tore the house apart when left home alone, and chewed all his fur off out of anxiety, you know what a toll those fears can take on the animals as well as the humans in the family. Sadly, as the stresses of modern life take an increasing toll on people and pets alike, such problems are on the rise.

That wasn’t what Chicago’s Matt Bubala wanted for his family’s new puppy, Bailey. When his 12-year-old triplets begged for a puppy, he knew their future pet would need a lifetime of care. He was determined that care wouldn’t include a frightened dog running and hiding when the nail clippers or car keys came out. Their new dog would be part of the family, and just as he didn’t want his children to be terrified of the pediatrician, he didn’t want to have to drag their dog, panicked and resisting, into the vet’s office on a leash.

Bubala and his family found their answer in Fear FreeSM, an approach to pet care formulated by top animal care and training experts that has as its mission to “take the pet out of petrified.”

“I had worked with Fear Free Certified veterinarian Dr. Natalie Marks through my production company, and she had been one of the people encouraging me to give in and get a puppy,” he said. “Once we made the decision, and even though she’s not located anywhere near us, we knew she had to become our veterinarian. We wanted what Fear Free had to offer.”

That decision definitely paid off for the Bubala’s puppy, Bailey, now 6 months old. “Bailey has no anxiety,” Bubala said. “He’s a happy puppy, and he loves going to the veterinarian because of their approach there, but also because of what they have us do at home.”

From the first visit, Dr. Marks showed the Bubala triplets how to gently touch Bailey’s ears, teeth, and paws. “Now when they do those things to him at the vet’s office, he’s used to it,” Bubala said. “If he gets something in the paw or his mouth, my kids have learned positive ways to get him to do what they want, such as to sit still while they distract him from nail trimming or whatever needs to be done. It’s all part of the integration with what they do in the practice, and it's amazing.”

Bailey’s great foundation was put to the test when Bubala got a frantic call from his daughter while he was out of town on business.

“They were really upset because they found a tick on Bailey’s head,” he said. “I reached Dr. Marks, and she got on Facetime with them. The kids had been to every vet visit with Bailey, and been part of every exam. They had learned a lot of things from her already. She was able to talk them through distracting him with a cup of peanut butter while they carefully removed the tick under their mother’s supervision. It was over in minutes, and he never even knew it happened!”

Bailey got off to a great start with happy puppy visits, and his family faithfully incorporated Fear Free approaches into his daily life as well. The result is a confident dog who happily accepts veterinary visits, travel, and handling without stress. But what about dog owners whose pets are already suffering from anxiety and fear?

It’s for those pet owners that Fear Free founder and best-selling author Dr. Marty Becker teamed up with two boarded veterinary behaviorists and a Fear Free Certified trainer to write "From Fearful To Fear Free: A Positive Program To Free Your Dog From Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias." The book, available now, shows pet owners how to eliminate fear, anxiety, and stress from every phase of their pets’ lives. It is currently the number one best seller in Amazon's Animal Psychology Science.

Becker and Fear Free also recently launched FearFreeHappyHomes.com, which provides comprehensive resources and strategies for pet owners to protect their pets from fear, anxiety, and stress in their pets’ lives. It also has a searchable directory where pet owners can find Fear Free Certified veterinarians and other pet professionals like Dr. Marks.

Fear Free’s extensive training and certification course has seen nearly 30,000 veterinarians and other pet professionals enroll since it launched two years ago, and those certified individuals are practicing what they preach in their clinics and businesses.

“Not only is Fear Free great for pets because it gives them a sense of security and gets them excited about going to the vet, but it's amazing what it does for the pet owners, too,” Bubala said. “My kids would never have had that patience or confidence if they hadn't learned this approach. My wife hadn't actually been to the vet with us, but the kids were able to run the show. Fear Free not only empowers the pets, it empowers the pet parents, too.”

Right now, pet owners can access http://www.FearFreeHappyHomes.com at no charge, including information from trainers and behaviorists, health information related to anxiety and stress, monthly deals on stress-relieving pet products, a weekly newsletter, and more.

“This is a genuine revolution,” Becker said. “Pet owners are seeing so much improvement in the quality of their pets’ lives when they go to Fear Free veterinarians and Fear Free trainers that they want to provide the same thing for their pets in every phase of their lives, including at home. That’s what makes stories like Bailey’s so important; they signify a change in how we approach pet care that will create positive, lifelong associations with veterinary care, handling, and coping with change – all things that will be part of every pet’s life.”

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Kathie Kerr
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