Earlier this year, I gained my Fear Free certification. For those of you who haven’t yet heard of this, Fear Free is a comprehensive program with certifications for veterinary professionals, trainers, groomers and practices that teaches these carers about the emotional well-being of pets. Enrichment and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress are all aspects of Fear Free.
So instead of posting the ‘traditional’ pre-Christmas warnings about tinsel, pancreatitis risks, chocolate etc. that go along with the season – I’d like you to consider making your dog’s Christmas Fear Free.
Let’s consider the Christmas holidays from your dog’s point of view:
- “My family are always out shopping and going to parties – I have no routine – and I’m worried.”
- “These people who I hardly know have come to stay in my house – AND they are sitting on my chair.”
- “They’ve also brought a dog with them, who wants to drink from my bowl, play with my toys and lay in my bed. I don’t want to share everything.”
- “Those little people – they follow me even when I try to hide. I have nowhere safe to go.”
- “My family says that this road trip will be fun. I’m stuffed in the back of the car with bags and gifts. I think I’m going to be sick.”
- “I’ve been playing all day with the new dogs I’ve met. I’m super-tired but I can’t settle.”
- “Why can’t I play with the shiny balls on that tree?”
- “Trees are for marking but they are usually outside. I marked the inside tree and now my Mum is mad.”
- “We drove for a long time and now there is nothing here that smells normal”
- “I’m not in my home, and that Man who is in charge says I have to stay outside. I’m an inside dog…”
- “They call them Christmas crackers; but they don’t crack – they pop really loudly like a gun and I’m scared but they are laughing.”
- “No one seems to care about me anymore; it’s like I’m invisible.”
If you think your dog will be feeling anything like these examples this Christmas, now is the time to make adjustments and plans to help them through the fear and stress of the holiday season. Because the holidays should be Fear Free for everyone.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand