Fear Free Trip
Our goal at Fraser Valley Animal Hospital is simple and that is to help pets. We know that if a dog is hurt, afraid, or anxious, it is much harder to help. We have worked hard at changing our practice to a much more pet friendly building from quiet calm voices to the music your dog hears when you both walk in to FVAH. Our new building in the PAW Centre has been designed to minimize environmental factors that can add stress to our dogs by noting all 5 of a dog’s senses. We have considered the spectrum of lighting and colour and how that affects our pets to how slippery the floor is. We have also spent many hours teaching all of our staff how to have considerate approach and gentle control so as to minimize anxiety in all of our patients. BUT if we are going to be truly successful the fear free visit must start from home. Here are some important tips for your dog’s next car ride!
CAR SET UP
We would never think of driving in our car with a child not buckled in. Our dogs are precious and they too should be safely restrained in the vehicle at all times, either in a crate behind the front seat or with the use of a harness and seatbelt. As with anything new always condition your dog to the crate or seatbelt at home before jumping into the car. For some dogs conditioning may take a bit more time than others. Check out Training Your Dog for more help on conditioning your dog to new treatments or objects.
Choose the correct size crate.
Provide a non-slip mat under the towel
Place the crate on the floor behind the front seat
DO NOT place the crate near an airbag
Be aware that, unlike children seats, dog seatbelt harnesses do not need to be safety tested. We recommend you look at the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety. http://www.centerforpetsafety.org/
Use a back seat in the car
Ensure the harness fits comfortably
Never leave a seat-belted dog unattended in the car
In The Car
Before you start the engine practice in the car and watch for those subtle signs that your dog may be anxious – yawning, licking lips, vocalization, drooling, agitated movements. If your dog LOVES car rides then you are off and ready to go. If your dog is nervous then you want to counter condition your dog to the car.
Counter Conditioning to the Car
Practice in a stationary car first. Have a treat or toy your dog loves and reward your pet for calm behaviour. Continue to do short training intervals until you feel your dog is happy in a stationary car. Then start the procedure again with just turning the engine on and then off. Once your dog is happy and fear free proceed to the next step of leaving the engine running. Continue with baby-steps until your dog is content to take a short car ride. How quickly you proceed is dependent on your dog BUT never proceed to the next step until your dog is calm and content at the step you are working on.
A few tips that you may consider to make the drive itself more pleasant for your dog.
- Play calm quiet music or drive in silence. Studies show that loud banging music can add stress to our pets – so this may not be the time to listen to your favourite punk rock band.
- Consider the use of a pheromone spray on the blanket your dog sits on or a bandana around your dog’s neck. Daptil is s synthetic hormone that is a replica of the pheromone that is secreted by the mother dog when pups are nursing. So this pheromone is calming and comforting.
- Consider a sunshade on the window.
- Drive calmly and avoid loud startling noises.
- Ensure your dog doesn’t have motion sickness. You would probably be scared of the car if every time you got inside you became nauseated and could not escape.
The Trip Home
- Most dogs return home without incidence. But those dogs returning from FVAH may smell different or may not feel 100% and this may lead to inter-dog aggression. Because we obviously want to avoid this, here are a few tips to consider with re-introductions even after short separations.
- Plan ahead and remove objects that may create competition – food, treats, toys etc.
- Watch the dogs during the re-introduction and how they inter-act.
- Consider taking both dogs for a short walk
- Consider re-introduction on neutral ground like a park
- Allow the returning dog time in a separate room to re-acclimatize prior to the reintroduction, especially if your dog had sedation or is not feeling well.
- NEVER punish the dogs if you notice any signs of aggression but DO separate them immediately.
- Do Not encourage high arousal play
Never force your dog into a scary situation. If your dog is frightened call us at the animal hospital as we may recommend conscious sedation (just like many people take to go to the dentist) or consider a house-call or an outdoor exam.