A healthy mind is as important to a pet as is a healthy body. That’s the thinking behind Fear Free, a multifaceted educational program for pet owners like you and professionals about the best ways to, as it states on its website, “take the pet out of petrified.”
According to Ruth Garcia, the company’s chief operating officer, the Fear Free concept goes back to 1985. That’s when founder and CEO Dr. Marty Becker was visited at his Utah veterinary hospitals by renowned animal behaviorist R.K. Anderson, who talked about the effective use of treats in that environment. Many years later, after attending a lecture in which behaviorist Dr. Karen Overall said that fear was the worst thing a social species could experience, Dr. Becker felt an obligation as a veterinarian to create awareness within the profession about the importance of emotional well-being of pets.
Fear Free launched in 2016 with its veterinary certification program, followed by its animal trainer certification program and Fear Free Happy Homes content for pet owners in 2017. The practice certification program arrived in 2018, and the shelter program debuted only a few weeks ago.
Fear Free Happy Homes is a free online service where you can read articles reviewed by board-certified veterinary behaviorists, access the Fear Free directory to search among its 35,000-plus certified pet professionals across the United States and 40 other countries, as well as watch videos containing fun, easy-to-implement tips.
Many of the videos are fully animated, and the stars in two of them are dogs and cats named Sunny and Cloudy, whose thoughts about the pros and cons of their respective environments are voiced out loud.
“The videos are intended to show the difference between a Fear Free Happy Home and a regular home, without being judgmental,” said Garcia. “Letting the pets talk about what they experience and how it affects them seemed like the best way to do that, plus it added an edutainment factor to the video.”
The Fear Free educational aspect has expanded to print with the April debut of Happy Paws, a consumer magazine done in partnership with the media and marketing services company Meredith Corp.
“Happy Paws’ content is 100% backed by Fear Free-certified veterinary experts and is specifically produced to educate and inspire pet owners to provide a happy, healthy and fear-free life for their dogs and cats while supporting their social and emotional well-being,” Garcia said. “The upcoming [fall/winter] issue will include topics such as keeping your pets safe and happy this season with tips for surviving the holidays, cold weather pet safety, the ultimate dog and cat gift guide, the best way to pet a dog, understanding your cat’s behavior and how to survive the first 30 days with a new puppy.”