by Jen Reeder

Debby Trinen’s black Lab, Joy, had the zest for life so common in Labs – she loved to swim and lead the way on hikes. But her playful nature led to many emergency trips to the veterinarian when she was a puppy, which made her terrified of any visit to the animal hospital, even for routine exams.

“She was a very brave dog,” Trinen says. “But when it came time to go the vet, oh! The shaking and the eyes dilated and the backing into the corner – it was horrible.”

Then in the summer of 2013, Trinen got a life-changing phone call from her local veterinarian. She learned that Dr. Marty Becker, the resident veterinary expert on Good Morning America known as “America’s Veterinarian,” was back home in Sandpoint, Idaho. He’d heard about Joy and wanted to see if she’d benefit from the “Fear Free” techniques he was developing for veterinary professionals.

“I was extremely apprehensive because I was like, ‘What’s going to happen here?’ When we first walked into the same exam room that Joy had been in many times, she backed herself into the corner just like she did every time,” remembers Trinen.

Meanwhile, Dr. Becker and his daughter Mikkel, a dog trainer, calmly sat on the floor on the other side of the room and “just started talking and throwing treats out.” Within four minutes, Joy walked over to Dr. Becker. “She wasn’t shaking – she was wagging her tail and eating the treats and Marty started doing an exam on her,” Trinen recalls. “It made a major difference.”

While Joy was one of the first Labs in America to benefit from Fear Free handling techniques, she’s certainly not the last. More than 20,000 veterinary professionals have registered to become Certified Fear Free Professionals since Dr. Becker launched the program on March 31, 2016. The concept is simple but revolutionary: focus not only on the physical health of a pet, but emotional well-being as well.

“When a puppy comes in for the first time, they’re wiggling with delight,” Dr. Becker says. “But we start making mistakes right off the bat. So I thought, ‘How do you reduce the triggers or remove the triggers of fear, anxiety, and stress?’”

Read the rest of this article in January/February 2018 issue. If you’re a subscriber, that issue will be on the way in a couple weeks. If you are not currently a subscriber, join the Just Labs family today! 

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