So, what is 'Fear Free' anyways?
Founded in 2016, Fear Free provides online and in-person education to veterinary professionals, the pet professional community, and pet owners. The courses are developed and written by the most respected veterinary and pet experts in the World, including boarded veterinary behaviourists, boarded veterinary anaesthesiologists, pain experts, boarded veterinary internists, veterinary technicians (behaviour), experts in shelter medicine, animal training, grooming, boarding, and more.
‘Fear Free’, ‘Holistic’, ‘Co-operative’, ‘Choice-based’ is all essentially the same thing when it comes to Dog Grooming. It means we are looking at the whole of the dog and considering their emotional well being as well as physical. I guarantee 99.9% of groomers you meet will absolutely adore dogs. Why else would we choose such a slobbery, hairy, physically demanding job? But unfortunately the grooming industry, alongside dog training, is completely unregulated. This means anyone can call themselves a dog groomer without having qualifications or skills. But even to be qualified as a groomer, you are not required to know about dog behaviour, which has resulted in a lot of stress for groomers and dogs all over the world. The ‘Fear Free’ initiative is leading the way for providing unparalleled education on emotional well being, enrichment, and the reduction of fear, anxiety and stress in pets. It gives pet professionals, such as vets, groomers and trainers, the skills to recognise when an animal is unhappy and how to help reduce it. Often in the grooming trade if a dog is trying to bite, they are muzzled. If they are trying to jump off the table, they are further restrained. Sometimes two groomers are needed to hold a dog tightly to trim their nails. The goal is to ‘get the job done’, and so long as they do, many owners pay the bill and leave happy. Their dog on the other hand is likely to be highly stressed, which can last for days, and then they will react even worse on the next visit. It is easy to assume your dog is ‘over-reacting’ much like a screaming toddler going for a haircut, however we have to understand that dogs do not have complex human emotions and aren’t actually capable of being spiteful, stubborn or ‘throwing a strop’. They are biting, wriggling, fussing and trying to get away because they are SCARED. Fight, flight, fidget, freeze and faint are the five indicators that the dog’s Sympathetic Nervous System has been activated, and that they have perceived a very real threat to their safety. Much like how we deal with our own fears, we must approach it carefully and at a pace that is comfortable for the dog. We must build our trust back and let them know that they won’t be pushed when they aren’t ready. They won’t be forced to do anything that triggers a high level of stress and anxiety. We will work with them to counter-condition their fearful associations with the sights, sounds, scents and sensations of the grooming experience.
I am the ONLY Fear Free Certified dog groomer in the North East. I am qualified in canine behaviour and communication, animal management and canine training. I have established three different programmes specifically aimed at dogs with a fear of grooming. The programmes will give you, the owner, the skills to better understand your dog and their behaviour, build an even stronger bond and witness a miraculous change that will see your dog wagging their tail on the way to the salon!