Almost every dog owner has a pet who suffers from fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS). They are the underlying cause of many concerning behaviors such as excessive barking, aggression, destructive behaviors, and house-soiling. They are also the source for deterioration of the human-animal bond, and can make a trip to the veterinarian, pet groomer, or boarding facility miserable for pet and owner alike. Left untreated, these negative experiences can lead to devastating consequences and permanent damage. Unfortunately, many well-meaning owners misinterpret or overlook the often subtle signs of emotional injury and turmoil, or think that the pet will simply "outgrow" it. This leads to unnecessary trauma and suffering.
Trips to the veterinarian (even for routine services such as vaccinations and nail trims)
Bath time, brushing, or cleaning ears.
Loud noises; thunderstorms; fireworks; the vacuum cleaner; construction; gunshots; or even buzzers on appliances.
Less-familiar people or animals encountered on walks or near the home.
Being left alone during work hours or even for short errands.
Common FAS triggers include:
Travel, including car rides.
Finally, there''s help.
From Fearful to Fear Free
is based on the groundbreaking Fear Free program embraced by tens of thousands of veterinary healthcare professionals and hundreds of thousands of pet owners (fearfreepets.com and fearfreehappyhomes.com). This is the first and most authoritative book on the subject of reducing FAS and increasing "happy and calm" in dogs. Since pets communicate nonverbally, this book will help you recognize if your pet is suffering from FAS. By knowing your dog''s body language, vocalizations, and changes in normal habits, you can make an accurate diagnosis and take action to prevent triggers or treat the fallout if they do happen.
The most effective prescription sedatives for keeping dogs calm and happy during thunderstorms, fireworks, and other stressful events.
The positive steps you can take to keep your pet occupied, calm, and content while you''re away at work or play.
Simple, practical tactics for helping your dog learn to love going to the veterinarian''s office—literally pulling you into the practice instead of avoiding it!
How to easily groom your dog and give him medication.
Tips to tame the chaos when guests arrive in your home or when your dog encounters other dogs and people on walks.
Ways to tackle some of the common behavior issues that often have a root cause of FAS, while also improving your communication and bond with your pet.
The three veterinary coauthors and one highly respected pet trainer have a combined 88 years of experience in the trenches of veterinary medicine, with specialties in behavior and training. By using their cutting-edge techniques, you''ll have pets that are happier, healthier and live a longer, fuller life.
Dr. Marty Becker, ''America''s Veterinarian,'' has spent his life working to create better physical and emotional well-being for pets. This commitment led him to create and launch the Fear FreeSM initiative, an educational certification program to train veterinarians and pet professionals to ease the fear, anxiety, and stress of the pets in their care. Dr. Becker was the resident veterinarian on
Good Morning America for 17 years, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the American Humane Association. Mikkel Becker is the lead trainer for
FearFreePets.com and specializes in reward-based training with a focus on helping animals (and their people) learn to calmly their fears and gain greater confidence, freedom and peace on the other side. Mikkel is a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA), a Karen Pryor Certified Training Partner (KP-CTP), a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), a Certified Dog Behavior Counselor (CDBC), a graduate from the SFSPCA Dog Training Academy. Dr. Lisa Radosta is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist who graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine and later completed a residency in behavioral medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She has owned Florida Veterinary Behavior Service since 2007. Dr. Radosta lectures nationally and internationally and has written textbook chapters, scientific research articles, and review articles. She serves on the Fear Free™ Executive Committee and the AAHA Behavior Management Task Force. Dr. Wailiani Sung is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist with a passion for helping owners prevent or manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to maintain a high quality of life. Dr. Sung owns All Creatures Behavior Counseling in Kirkland, Washington, where she focuses exclusively on treating behavior problems in dogs, cats, and birds.
YOUR DOG''S BRAIN: WHAT''S REALLY GOING ON IN THERE
FEAR AND ITS EFFECTS
Do you remember the first time you felt severe fear? It was probably when you were a young child, and we''re not talking a Halloween-mask ''boo!'' Maybe your mother disappeared behind a rack of clothes in a store, and you didn''t know where she was. Maybe you saw a shadow on the wall in your darkened bedroom. Or maybe you were frightened by the approach of an ominous stranger.
Fear is a universal reaction experienced by every species, including dogs. It''s an emotional response caused by an encounter with anything, real or anticipated, that appears to be a threat: the disappearance of a loved one, the unknown, or something that experience teaches will cause pain (syringe + needle = ouch!).
Whether we are human or canine or some other species, our bodies experience changes in brain and organ function when we are afraid. When we are faced with danger, whether obvious or anticipated, our bodies spring into action. We breathe more rapidly, our heart rate increases, and our muscles tense up, right down to the thousands of individual hair follicles. In the blink of an eye, these physiological reactions alert the brain to the presence of a threat. Body and mind go into self-defense mode, commonly referred to as ''fight or flight''―prepare for a live-or-die battle or run for your life!
Fear helps humans and animals survive by allowing them to recognize danger and take action, whether it''s to freeze in place, hide, run away, fidget (bark or run in circles), or stand and defend themselves (or at least look and sound as if they could). It''s an instinctive protection system, but it can also cause inappropriate responses that make life miserable for fearful pets and their people. Not just uncomfortable, which is bad enough, but damaging physiologically and emotionally. In short, think PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) for pets.
When fear or anxiety takes over a dog''s life, it can become impossible to take him to the veterinarian or groomer, have him ride comfortably in the car, go for a walk around the neighborhood, leave him home alone, or have friends or family visit. A fearful dog may become aggressive, destructive, or withdrawn. He may become physically ill with vomiting or diarrhea when he is placed in a situation that he fears, or he may refuse to eat at all. That''s no way to live―for you or your dog! That''s why it is vital that we take the necessary steps to reduce or remove the triggers for anxiety and fear in when they arise in animals'' lives and vow to always travel along a path that moves both pets and humans from fearful to Fear Free.
THE ELEMENTS OF FEAR
We are fortunate to be living in a time when we have a better understanding of brain chemistry as it relates to fear than we had in the past. Understanding and recognizing a dog''s fear and anxiety―or the potential for those emotions―helps us increase his comfort level in stressful situations as well as help him cope with his stress in constructive ways. But first, let''s take a look at how fear works.
Your dog''s fear response begins when information is sent from the sensory cortex. This is where the brain receives the signals from the outside world. For example, when your dog hears the can opener, this information is transmitted to the auditory cortex, causing him to anticipate delicious food.
Neurochemicals, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, put the body on high alert. In an instant, they speed up the heart rate, increase blood flow to the muscles, dilate air passages for better lung capacity, and release glucose for energy.
Cortisol, known commonly as the stress hormone, is a natural steroid that increases blood sugar, enables the brain to make better use of glucose, and increases availability of substances that repair body tissue. Cortisol suppresses nonessential body functions―such as the digestive, reproductive, and immune systems―that might hamper a fight, flight, freeze, or fidget response. It also communicates with areas of the brain that control fear. In normal amounts, cortisol plays an important role in fighting stress as well as regulating other facets of good health, such as weight, tissue structure, and skin condition.
The body''s response to this influx of hormones occurs rapidly, without conscious thought or action. The rush of neurochemicals and hormones throughout the body and brain aid in what is called memory consolidation and retrieval in a part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex. In short, your dog remembers very well what happened to him when he was scared. When he is back in that situation again, his body will be able to access that memory quickly. He will remember that incident, which caused him fear and rocked his entire body, more clearly than he will remember the half hour you spent teaching him how to high-five the weekend before.
While, in the wild, this type of memory can save an animal''s life (i.e., there''s a predator in that area so I should avoid going there) as he goes about his daily activities, this avoidance mechanism can mean that a pet doesn''t receive proper veterinary or preventive care, putting his health (and, by extension, his human''s health) at serious risk.
Their recall ability is what helps dogs know how to react to a threat, but it can also be what gets them into fear-related trouble. As you probably know, dogs are extremely observant. They spend their lives watching us and are good at learning from experience and observation. This movement from the recliner means mom is going to the bathroom, whereas this seemingly same motion means we''re going for a walk. Puppies'' first lessons on responding to threats come from their mother, and they quickly pick up additional fear reactions as they interact with other dogs, other animals, and with humans (especially those who can unintentionally inflict pain or fear, such as members of the veterinary team). Once acquired, reactions to fear are not easily forgotten and may intensify with experience.
WHEN AND HOW FEAR STARTS
We think of fear as something that develops with experience, but fear can be genetic, starting in the womb. Canine behavior is complex, affected by both genetic and environmental factors. Genetics create a puppy''s behavioral template, but his environment and experiences in utero, after birth, and growing up all influence the expression of behaviors. This is why feral dogs on reservations or in parts of the world where they live on the periphery of humanity (because of religious taboos, fear of rabies, or not enough homes) can be more difficult to integrate into a household; for them, almost every motion or noise could be a death threat.
You may remember seeing a news story circulating on social media about a woman who jumped out of a moving car, leaving her nine-year-old child in the backseat. What motivated her to abandon her child in such a dangerous situation? An innate (and potentially deadly, in this case) fear of spiders. While backing out of her driveway, the woman saw a spider in her car, and her first instinct was to escape from it. Her fearful reaction to the spider was so intense that she simply reacted. That fear overcame the normal instinct of a mother to protect her child. Now, if rational people can respond this way when they are afraid, it''s easy to understand how our dogs might also exhibit fear in situations or circumstances in which they have no control. ―Dr. Wailani Sung
Brain Anatomy: Amygdala
The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped part of the brain that receives information from all of the sensory systems in the body. Think of it as a processing and distribution center for environmental stimuli, turning sights and sounds into emotional responses. The signals are then broadcast to other parts of the brain, such as the hypothalamus (panting, trembling, increased blood flow to muscles), brainstem (fight, flight, freeze, fidget), and cerebral cortex (emotional experience). When a dog is frightened, on the surface we see only that he is hiding under a chair, trembling, but major events have occurred inside his body, altering the way he feels emotionally and physically and ensuring that he will never forget that particular experience. ―Dr. Lisa Radosta
Dogs can be very perceptive. I have had many owners tell me that their dogs know the route to the veterinary hospital. When the owner turns down certain streets, the dog immediately starts to pant and shake. Some dogs become so anxious and fearful that they won''t even jump out of the car or walk into the veterinary clinic and must be carried inside. If a dog is too fearful, sometimes the owner needs the veterinary staff to make a human barrier and slowly walk up behind the dog to get him to move toward the clinic entrance. How sad is that? Think about how it makes the staff of the veterinary clinic feel. It also doesn''t set the dog up for a happy veterinary visit.
Other dogs associate any car ride with visits to the veterinary clinic. They won''t jump in the car, or they pace, pant, whine, or bark for the entire duration of the car ride. Some dogs vomit during the car ride or as soon as they arrive at the destination. I have had several patients who even defecate or urinate during the car ride. That''s unpleasant for both dogs and owners.
These reactions aren''t limited to visits to the veterinary clinic. Many dogs exhibit fear and anxiety during car rides because they may have generalized fear or anxiety of the unknown. Where are we going? Is it going to be fun or scary? It''s not easy to explain to your dog that he doesn''t have to be scared. ―Dr. Wailani Sung
©2018 Fear Free, LLC.. All rights reserved. Reprinted from From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.