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Reinforcing a “Positive” Human/Animal Bond

Blog Author: Oreta M. Samples, RVT, MPH, DHSc
NAVTA Committee Member

As veterinary technicians, we have all been educated about the Human-Animal Bond. However, we may not be aware of how powerful our interactions with clients may be in reinforcing a “positive” bond. From the moment the puppy or kitten is presented for its first work-up, technicians can begin to educate owners on the appropriate H-A Bond. This may be most important with children. Showing thru demonstrating the safe way to pick up or hold their pet goes a long way in aiding the child and the animal in establishing a two-way trust, albeit “bond.” Likewise, simple lessons for owners on the importance of fresh water in continual availability is another brick in the bond. The Human-Animal Bond is also enhanced between veterinary personnel and their patients; good bonding practices may even carry over once the pet returns home. This is because training and positive reinforcement are two actions that can be passively carried out with patients while they are under our care. Such things as sitting or even learning to pay attention to the command “no” can be introduced during a pup’s yearly PE or next boarding opportunity. When owners receive their pets back with such skills on board, you as a technician shine as a Human-Animal Bond “enforcer.” It is important for technicians to remember and pass on to clients that the Human-Animal Bond is not just a fuzzy-wuzzy-feel-good concept; instead, it is a shared understanding between pets and owners of what is and is not acceptable in the Human-Animal relationship. Established rules can only sweeten the relationship if carried out compassionately and with continued positive reinforcement both at home and away.

The veterinary technician may often witness a cradle-to-grave scenario between pet parents and their pets. A major part of the positive Human-Animal Bond experience is knowing when it is OK to let go. The act of providing a “good death” is the ultimate sacrifice and care that an owner provides to a pet. Oftentimes, the veterinary staff plays an integral role in this decision and the aftermath. Owners must be reassured by the compassionate veterinary staff through counseling and consoling that this decision is a natural progression in the Human-Animal relationship.