Dogs and cats aren’t capable of multitasking; they live in the moment. So if pets are busily and happily eating, it’s impossible for them to worry about anything else.
In this case, I am certain Ethel had no idea that she was pricked with a syringe containing a vaccine. She never saw the needle. She no doubt felt it, but didn’t appear to care. She showed no reaction at all, as she was far too busy licking peanut butter off her chops.
This is what Fear Free is all about. Thanks to a simple food distraction, Ethel paid no attention to the fact that she was receiving a vaccination. As a result, she enjoyed the experience. Instead of being afraid on her next visit, my guess is that Ethel will pull me into the exam room and actually look for the peanut butter people at Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago – even if that is six months from now.
This method worked only because Ethel wasn’t terrified before she even walked in the door. Even generally food-motivated dogs might not accept food if they are so petrified they are fearful for their very life. Imagine, you’re being held up at gunpoint and the crook says, “Want to take a chocolate break?” Okay, maybe not the best example as I might opt for the chocolate.
This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.
Published July 30, 2017