When your new puppy comes bouncing in for their first veterinary visit, we want them to always be so excited to see us. We achieve that goal by adhering to Fear Free techniques to reduce our patients’ fear, anxiety, and stress. How exactly do we accomplish Fear Free visits for your puppy’s first appointment and beyond? Here are five steps we take to ensure your puppy’s physical and emotional health are cared for.
#1: Drop by for a happy visit with your puppy
If every time you went to a certain place you were poked and prodded by strangers, you would probably develop a negative association and be less than thrilled to enter that building. The same goes for your new puppy. Keeping your puppy healthy and protected from disease means they require a series of vaccinations, so they receive injections at every visit. However, being vaccinated is not necessarily a pleasant experience, so help your puppy form a positive association with veterinary hospitals by stopping by for happy visits. These visits are nothing more than a quick trip to Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital for some snuggles, treats, and attention from our team. Each time, your puppy leaves with positive memories in their “bank,” which can help counteract any negative emotions they experience when receiving essential care.
#2: Lay the groundwork for handling and restraining your puppy at home
When you welcome a new puppy home, it’s up to you to teach them proper manners, which includes cooperating for nail trims, grooming, ear cleaning, and other potentially unpleasant procedures. Make each practice session positive by rewarding your puppy for holding still, and avoid using force.
For example, when teaching your puppy to allow nail trims, use a distracting treat, like peanut butter or spray cheese, to hold their attention. If they focus on the treat instead of flailing around when you touch their paw, they become desensitized to this touch and learn that nail trims mean tasty rewards will follow. However, if your puppy immediately panics when you hold their paw, start more slowly. Begin by offering a treat each time you touch their paw. In time, your puppy will stop pulling their paw away, and you can slowly work up to holding it, provided you come armed with plenty of delicious treats. Teaching your puppy to cooperate for such tasks will make veterinary visits much easier and less stressful for your furry pal.
#3: Ensure your puppy comes to their appointment hungry
We follow the rule that your new pup should come hungry and leave happy at each of their appointments. Treats are powerful motivators for puppies, and can overcome many negative emotions. By moving slowly, not pushing your puppy out of their comfort zone, and rewarding them with treats for each step of a veterinary exam, we can create a positive experience. For instance, although a stethoscope may be scary to your puppy the first time they see one, by letting them sniff it—or even lick peanut butter off it—they’ll soon learn our tools are nothing to be feared.
#4: Pick up on body language cues that indicate fear, anxiety, or stress in your puppy
Since your puppy doesn’t speak the same language, determining what they’re saying can be tough. Fortunately, our team is well-versed in canine body language and can detect subtle cues that indicate fear, anxiety, and stress. At the first hint of distress, we’ll stop the procedure, take a step back, and give your puppy time to relax and return to a normal happy state. By addressing their emotional wellness through reading their body language, we can help your furry pal grow up happy and well-adjusted.
#5: Practice Fear Free methods to help your puppy feel at home
Because we feel so passionately about caring for our patients’ emotional and mental needs as well as their physical health, we’ve achieved our Fear Free accreditation. This certification signifies how devoted we are to reducing fear, anxiety, and stress in our patients, because these negative emotions can have lifelong detrimental effects on both physical and emotional health. Following the Fear Free model when providing veterinary care for puppies helps guarantee a solid foundation for their emotional wellness, and we take every step we can to ensure they feel right at home in our hospital.
Unpleasant, alarming, or downright terrifying situations can have lasting effects on your puppy, especially as they go through their socialization period at 3 to 14 weeks of age. During this time, our team takes special care to ensure your furry pal has the best experience at Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital, because we want them to be as happy to see us as we are to see them. To learn more about our Fear Free methods or how you can help set your puppy up for success at home, contact our office. We’re also ready to meet your new four-legged friend for a happy visit.