Lockdown brings separation anxiety for owners and pets

Owner of self-catering accommodation in Hillcrest, Jennifer Gregory with her pet pooch Katie, says demand for pet friendly accommodation is growing Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Owner of self-catering accommodation in Hillcrest, Jennifer Gregory with her pet pooch Katie, says demand for pet friendly accommodation is growing Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 19, 2020


Durban - Anxiety separation from a loved pet may have increased over lockdown because owners have spent more time at home - and many pet owners now want to take their animals on holiday with them this season.

Jennifer Gregory, who owns Rooms With A View self-catering accommodation in Hillcrest, said they had seen an increase in demand for pet-friendly accommodation.

"It's very much a trend in the UK and is fast becoming more of a trend here in South Africa.

""I think there's going to be more demand than usual this holiday season and going into the future," said Gregory.

But she warned that offering pet-friendly accommodation had to be done properly and said she limited visitors to bringing a maximum of two dogs and also checked on the breed.

Owner of pet friendly accommodation, Jennifer Gregory with her best friend Katie. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency (ANA)

Her pet-friendly accommodation is fenced from the main property and she does not offer a pet-sitting service, should the guests go out.

"As an owner taking your pet on holiday, it's important to think through the logistics. It sometimes doesn't occur to them, what will happen to their pet if they want to go out.

"Where can your dog be exercised? Will you be going out for lunch and/or dinner and can your dog go with you? What outings can include your pet? How well-behaved is your pet?" she said.

As part of the 1000 Hills Tourism, Gregory said there were many activities on offer for locals and visitors to the area, with a number of pet-friendly places and destinations such as the Shongweni Club and the Shongweni Craft Market.

The Valley of 1000 Hills is popular among tourists and offers lots of outdoor activities, including fishing, abseiling, canoeing, MTB, wildlife parks, as well as the Inchanga Choo Choo.

But looking towards next year with a vaccine on the horizon, owners and pets will have to prepare for longer absences from each other and resulting anxiety separation as pre-Covid working hours are reinstated.

The Washington Post reported that animal expert Zazie Todd, author of "Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy", said gradual changes in time apart would allow both owner and pet time to adjust back to pre-Covid working conditions.

"If you've been with your pet 24/7 and are suddenly going to be gone for a large chunk of each weekday, that's a huge change and should be introduced gradually," she said, adding going on your own for a walk or sitting in your car alone for half an hour will start breaking the pattern of constantly being together.

Clive Wynne, psychology professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University and author of "Dog is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You", said owners needed to watch their pet to see what worked.

"It would be better for the dog to be reminded that I may go away and I may go away at unpredictable times for unpredictable lengths of time, but that the world continues to be stable and I will always come back,“ said Wynne, highlighting that pets also need to sleep for 12 to 14 hours a day.

"So if a dog has been in such a busy household that it's overstimulated, it's probably just going to be grateful to get a bit more sleep.“

Alexander Horowitz from the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College and author of "Our Dogs, Ourselves" said a good tip was to exercise your dog before leaving the house: "This could include a long play bout, not just walks. And give them something to do when you're gone. 'Chewing' happens because they don't have anything interesting to chew on,“ said Horowitz. Additional information from Washington Post

Independent on Saturday

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