Case Study: Reilly’s journey from fearful to Fear Free!

Fear Free Vet Visits - Leesburg Veterinary Hospital

Leesburg Veterinary Hospital is very excited to be the first veterinary hospital in our area to have most of our staff Fear Free Certified!  This means that every member of our team (including front desk staff, assistants, technicians, and doctors) will be practicing techniques that reduce fear, aggression, and stress for our patients. We have enhanced our hospital environment,  learned skills to approach your pet in a considerate manner, and use positive conditioning to create an enjoyable visit for you and your pet. 

In just a few short months since beginning the program, we have already noticed a significant increase in the number of pets that are excited to visit us and a reduction in the number of pets that require muzzles for safe handling.  We expect these numbers to continue to improve as more and more pets associate their visits to LVH with fun and excitement instead of fear and anxiety. Read below to read about one of our success stories!


Reilly is a two-year-old black lab.  He has been a patient with us since he was a puppy.   Reilly has always been shy and nervous during his visits to Leesburg Vet, making examinations difficult.   During Reilly’s checkup with Dr. Kloer in February, he showed obvious signs of fear and nervousness by keeping his head down and hiding under the chairs in the exam room.  At that time, Dr. Kloer was not able to do a full exam and didn’t want to push him.  Instead, she did positive reinforcement by giving Reilly lots of praise and treats.  She also prescribed Trazodone, an anti-anxiety medication to be used for his next visit.

Reilly came back to LVH in March to see Dr. Boyle.  Dr. Boyle and her assistant utilized a considerate approach technique to help him feel more comfortable. This involved moving smoothly and calmly in the exam room, sitting on the floor at his level but turned sideways, avoiding direct eye contact, and allowing him to approach them for treats.  (Providing patients with small, highly desirable treats throughout the veterinary experience helps condition positive emotional responses with the veterinary hospital.) Reilly was given lots of small treats and canned cheese.  To further reduce Reilly’s anxiety, Dr. Boyle performed procedures (including a blood draw) in the exam room instead of moving him to the treatment area.

Fear Free Vet Visits - Leesburg Veterinary Hospital

As part of the Fear Free experience, we will be giving your pets lots of treats during visits.  Treats helps associate a trip to the vet with good things and keep stress levels low.  Bringing your pet to their appointment hungry can help this process too!

Reilly has been back to LVH a few times now since February, and with each visit, he is more relaxed and calm.  Dr. Boyle is able to do full exams while Reilly focuses on happily eating treats.  Instead of hiding or shaking, he comes over to Dr. Boyle, seeming genuinely happy to see her.  Reilly’s owner has commented that the entire veterinary experience is better for both of them – she is happy he’s not so scared and nervous anymore! Dr. Boyle is hoping a few more low-stress, enjoyable visits will lessen the need for anti-anxiety medication too.

To learn more about Fear Free visits at Leesburg Veterinary Hospital, read our article here.

For many of our pet patients, we know the most stressful part of the vet visit is traveling to and from each appointment.  To get our tips on creating positive travel experiences for your pet, download our “Stress Less” document from our website:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: