Goodnewsforpets recently caught up with Mikkel Becker, CBCC-KA, KPA CTP, CDBC, CPDT-KA, CTC about her work with Fear Free. Mikkel Becker is a certified trainer, dog behavior counselor and the lead animal trainer for Fear Free.
Mikkel is an author who writes about everything Fear Free, including reducing the fear, anxiety and stress that pets feel during their veterinary visit, as well as in their home. She recently co-authored From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias with Dr. Marty Becker, Dr. Lisa Radosta and Wailani Sung. Her goal is the same as the Fear Free goal — to make pets’ lives better through improving their emotional and physical well-being.
Can you tell us a little bit about Fear Free and how it works?
Fear Free is about improving the pet’s emotional state. It’s about protecting how that pet feels during the entire veterinary visit. It’s improving the way that they feel, and helping them to be comfortable with those procedures and different medications that might go home with that pet. This may be during the veterinary visit — reducing the stress of procedures, and reducing the fear that the pet feels during that exam. But, also, it may be improving the way that they feel when they go home with needed care.
Because the fear and stress that pets experience after a veterinary visit is many times the greatest hindrance that’s keeping pet owners from going in again to visit their vet, by improving their emotional well-being, the pet owner is also more likely to continue that care at home and bring their pets in for future care.
Can you tell us how Fear Free techniques helps both the veterinarian and the pet?
Fear Free is all about being able to reduce the stress of the experience with the veterinarian. For a lot of pets, one way we can achieve that is with using gentle control. The common notion is whenever the pet struggles, we’re going to just add in more restraint or more people. Instead, a better thing to do is to actually use less restraint. Less is actually more for most animals, and letting them choose when they want to be examined.
We know you work with a lot of patients, what is a lesson you’ve ever learned from a pet you’ve worked with?
I think the greatest lesson that I take away from Fear Free, and it’s something that I apply with my own life and the way that I am with people, is how well I am around pets. Am I really listening to their comfort, really listening to what it is that they want in a situation. Many times we have expectations that this is what we’re going to get done, and this is how it’s going to happen. Or, this is what I really want in this situation. And instead, by not going in there with these preconceived notions or these expectations, we’re letting that pet tell us how comfortable they are. Recently I worked with a Lab named Marley. Marley was really uncomfortable with being handled, or just having any hands on her, even being in the exam room. By listening to her body language, and letting her ease into that interaction, it made such a big difference. Because by going at her pace, the next time she came in, she was so excited to come in. She’s pulling her owner into the veterinary office, and is so excited to go greet people, just because we went at her pace. Then, we let her tell us what she wanted in that situation. And by listening to her, it actually helped us, as well. And that’s something that really helps with people, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about what drives you and what motivates you to work with pets, and what it is that you love about veterinary care?
Every single day I feel blessed, I really do. I’ve been thinking about that lately, how amazing is it to do something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid, which was work with animals. What I’ve really found is I love that connection of being able to work with cats and dogs, and being able to work with their pet owner.
One thing that we learn as we go into a field, working with animals, is that it’s not just about the animals. It’s really about the people, too. And that’s probably a bigger aspect of it. I like helping them feel more comfortable, and helping them to feel more prepared, and just equipped to be able to help their pet.
It makes me feel good because I know I’m both helping that pet, and I’m really helping that person, and helping that family to just live happier, healthier, fuller lives together.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
For me, one of the greatest gifts that I get in doing Fear Free, and also being here at the conference, is that I get to be with my dad, Dr. Marty Becker. My dad and I have always been so close and it’s just really neat to be able to have this mission that we both just feel like we’re able to help pets, we’re able to help people.
The reason why we’re so passionate about Fear Free is because it is making such a big difference in people’s lives. And I love that it’s something that I get to do alongside my dad, who I absolutely adore. He’s always my hero. So, it’s just a big gift for me.
Connect with Mikkel Becker and Fear Free on social media!
From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias by Dr. Marty Becker, Mikkel Becker, Dr. Lisa Radosta and Wailani Sung will be available April 17, 2018 from publisher HCI.