Dr. Tom DeHondt has been a veterinarian at DePorre Veterinary Hospital in Bloomfield Hills since 2015. He takes pride in providing the highest possible level of medical care, as well as the teamwork displayed among all the staff in this common goal. Since the world can be scary for our four-legged friends, Dr. DeHondt— who has been Fear Free Certified® since 2017— provided tips on how owners can effectively communicate with their pets, which can help foster a calm, peaceful and happy relationship.
1. Recognize Four Fs
Flight is avoiding, escaping or retreating; Fight is aggression; Freeze is becoming a statue and Fidget is mouthy or jumping on people— it’s also important to recognize what settings bring out these behaviors and what’s making your pet uncomfortable!
2. Understand Pet’s Communication of Stress
Are they lip licking, yawning, head turning (away from you), shaking or holding their tail low? Are their ears flat or twisted back? Is their tail hanging straight down or raised? Etc.
3. Respect Pet’s Personal Space
Make sure they want your attention. If you are petting them and you stop, how does the pet respond? Do they look away, or do they look to you and ask for more? Listen to what they are telling you. Let sleeping dogs and cats lie!
4. Use Understandable/Consistent Language
Think about how confusing it would be if someone was talking to you and then switched to a language you didn’t recognize or comprehend.
5. Utilize Positive Reinforcement
Use treats and appropriate toys to desensitize stress and reward the behavior you desire. Eliminate opportunities for your pet to get into trouble.