Fear Free Certified Employees
Our mission is to prevent and alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress in pets by inspiring and educating the people who care for them.
We get you. Like you, we love pets like family and want what is best for them. Welcome to Fear Free - where veterinary healthcare professionals "take the pet out of petrified" and "put the treat into treatment!" and where pet owners area helping pets live happy, healthy, full lives.
What is Fear Free?
Founded in 2016, Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. Our courses are developed and written by the most respected veterinary and pet experts in the world, including boarded veterinary behaviorists, boarded veterinary anesthesiologists, pain experts, boarded veterinary internists, veterinary technicians (behavior), experts in shelter medicine, animal training, grooming, boarding, and more.
By closely listening to the needs of the profession and those of pet owners, Fear Free has become one of the single most transformative initiatives in the history of companion animal practice, providing unparalleled education on emotional wellbeing, enrichment, and the reduction of fear, anxiety, and stress in pets.
7 Tips to help your pets
A car ride. A clap of thunder. The dreaded vacuum cleaner. Any of these triggers might turn your pup into an anxious wreck. And it’s not easy to see your pal so distressed: When a dog panics, “every single muscle in their body contracts simultaneously, like they’re having a seizure while standing up,” says veterinarian Marty Becker, founder of Fear Free, a program that trains veterinary professionals to create a more calming experience for their patients.
Noise phobias can be especially challenging, says Becker, because the anxiety may snowball. Maybe it starts with fireworks; then the dog becomes afraid of loud bangs on TV, honking horns, the microwave.
But there is hope for high-strung hounds. “There are simple, safe, and sure-fire solutions so pets don’t have to suffer,” Becker says. Below are seven strategies to help nervous dogs relax. Because the anxiety response can be complex, it may take some time to figure out which therapy, or combination of therapies, offers your furry friend the most relief.
Consult a trainer
In some cases, you can “train the dog out of having the reaction in the first place,” says San Diego-based veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang. The traditional approach, she says, is desensitization, which entails gradually introducing your dog to scary noises while offering him rewards. Rewiring your pooch’s associations is a long-term solution. The catch? It’s a lot of work, and your best bet is to hire a trainer who specializes in the technique, says Vogelsang.
Vogelsang recommends a series of albums called Through a Dog’s Ear. “[The music] is specifically composed to decrease a dog’s stress response,” she explains. If your pup is freaked out, put her in a dark room (ideally with no windows), and play one of these CDs. You can also do this in advance of a known trigger: Say you’re planning a road trip, or a party at your house. Try this music therapy in the day or two leading up to the stressful event. (Regular classical music may help as well.)
Get rid of static
You may notice that your dog gets anxious even before a storm starts. That’s because he’s triggered by the buildup of static electricity in the air, explains Becker, and in response, he may hide in the closet, bathroom or basement. One possible remedy: “Take an unscented dryer sheet and wipe down the trunk of your dog’s body,” suggests Becker. “About half [of dogs] won’t have a problem with the storm.”
Try a Thundershirt
The Thundershirt is a compression garment designed to reduce fear in dogs. “It’s like swaddling a baby for comfort,” says Becker, “like a comforting hug.” The company says that the vest (also available for cats) can help with a range of phobias, and works for about 80% of pets.
When a mama dog nurses her puppies, she releases a calming pheromone that encourages them to lay down quietly. You can buy a synthetic version of that pheromone to help your dog relax at any age, says Becker, who suggests asking your vet for a recommendation. He likes a company called Adaptil, which sells both a collar and a diffuser.
Give your dog a chill pill
Becker often recommends a supplement called Zylkene, which packs a calming milk protein. Another option: chews that contain the green tea extract L-Theanine, available at many pet stories.
Talk to your vet about medication
If the strategies above don’t relieve your dog’s anxiety, it may be worth trying a prescription med like Xanex or the new non-sedating drug Sileo. According its manufacturer, Sileo works by blocking the fear chemical norephinephrine to dampen a dog’s anxiety response.
Who created Fear Free?
Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” has spent his life working toward better health for pets and the people who love them. Dr. Becker was the resident veterinary contributor on “Good Morning America” for 17 years. He is a founding member of Core Team Oz for “The Dr. Oz Show” and a member of the Dr. Oz Medical Advisory Panel.
He has written 25 books that have sold more than 8 million copies, including three New York Times bestsellers—one of which is the fastest-selling pet book of all time, Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul.
He also writes the weekly nationally syndicated newspaper feature, Pet Connection, with his writing partner, Kim Campbell Thornton, and is regularly featured in Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Dr. Oz’s The Good Life.
Dr. Becker is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and also at the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at both Colorado State University and the University of Missouri. Additionally, he has lectured at every veterinary school in the U.S. and is on the advisory board of World Vets, an international veterinary and disaster relief program to help animals.
A passionate advocate for the human-animal bond, Dr. Becker serves as an adjunct professor at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He is an honorary board member of Pet Partners and the Humane Society of New York, as well as a past board member and strong supporter of his local pet rescue group, Second Chance Animal Adoption in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He is also an avid supporter of Panhandle Animal Shelter in Sandpoint, Idaho; Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Whitman County Humane Society in Pullman, Washington.
Dr. Becker serves on the board and also as the chief veterinary correspondent for American Humane, with a strong focus on supporting their efforts to end the use of gas chambers in animal shelters, a cause for which he has successfully advocated since his earliest days as a veterinarian. His special fondness for older pets has led him to a spot on the advisory board of The Grey Muzzle Organization, which is dedicated to helping homeless senior dogs. Dr. Becker also serves on the board for Pet Partners, the preeminent organization certifying animal assisted therapy animals.
He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital because he loves veterinary medicine, pets, and the people who care for them.