- Master of Criminology (Forensic Psychology) Melb.
- Master of Ed. St. (Monash)
- B.A (Psychology) (Monash)
- Grad. Dip. Ed. Psych. (Monash)
- Grad Dip Mental Health Sciences (Child, Adol’t & Family Mtl Hth) Fac. of Medicine, (Melb).
- Post Grad. Gifted Ed. Psych (Monash)
- Member Australian Psychological Society
- Member Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency
- Member APS College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists
A leading Melbourne psychologist has cast the separation anxiety spotlight on animal lovers, saying they too can experience psychological symptoms when away from their pets that elevates their stress and anxiety levels, potentially impacting their holiday.
“Many pet owners have a gratifying, nurturing and loving psychological bond with their pets that is not dissimilar to the emotional ties between a parent and their child. It is often a co-dependent relationship, where there is a deep connection between owners and their pets,” said consulting psychologist Sandy Rea.
“Dogs especially crave human attention, without which can lead to separation anxiety and related behavioural problems that are difficult to remediate. Less well understood, however, is that people can also suffer from a form of separation anxiety from pets and others they hold near and dear.
“And while pet owner separation anxiety is unlikely to result in the physically destructive behaviour seen in some dogs, it could cause them to at best unnecessarily stress or worry while holidaying, and at worst see them severely curtail or abandon travel altogether.”
Separation anxiety is something many owners of Australia’s 33 million pets(1) are familiar with, especially dog owners who are frustrated with complaints about incessant barking and howling, and returning from work to find furniture and other personal effects ruined by anxious dogs worried that their owners have abandoned them. The problem can cause hundreds of dollars in vet bills, not to mention the cost of repairing or replacing damaged furniture and other household goods.
Ms Rea said in that Mad Paws pet sitters, whether for overnight dog boarding or doggy day care, offered an ideal solution for owners reluctant to leave their pets in a dog kennel type situation away from home where their pet would be one of potentially dozens.
“Pet sitters have the advantage of helping to resolve the potential for stress and distress for both owners and pets, with animals having the security and safety of receiving one on one care and being able to continue to live as part of a pack, which is vital for their wellbeing.
“Boarding kennels have the disadvantage of having to relocate your pet to a strange environment, with them potentially experiencing feelings of abandonment. Behavioural and emotional problems are often the result and owners are then left with having to manage this upon their return,” she said.
Veterinarian and Mad Paws ambassador Dr Lisa Chimes agreed, reinforcing that when an owner travels and leaves their pet behind, it can be quite stressful for the animal.
“Leaving a pet in their own environment or a similar loving home will help alleviate some of their anxiety. Kennels can be quite overwhelming for an animal due to confined spaces they may be left in, as well as the noise and scents of other animals,” she said.
The dog friendly accomodation at Mad Paws offers a solution. This online dog boarding platform matches pet owners with registered pet sitters in their area. Owners can select a sitter based on their unique profile, qualifications and characteristics, which Sandy Rea says can alleviate separation anxiety by reassuring owners their pets are in good hands.
“For the owner to be able to screen, interview and select who is looking after their family member gives them valuable control, and helps to guarantee the psychological and emotional safety of their pet – a vital reassurance tool for when owners are on holiday.
“Entrusting your children to another adult would rightly demand that you have certain expectations around their care and instruction, and this is no different when we leave our pets with someone. Sitters need to be able to ensure the owner and pet needs can be met, and owners need to be reassured of the well-being and safety of their pet when they are away,” Ms Rea said.
Technology can also play its part in mitigating separation anxiety, especially with people remaining online despite being on holiday.
“Owners can have online ‘real time’ involvement with their pet through Facetime and Skype even whilst holidaying on the other side of the world. This can be an effective way to alleviate the stress and anxiety of owners who fret over the lack of regular contact with their pet while they are away, Ms Rea said.
Every sitter is vetted to give owners extra comfort their pets will be well cared for and only those that satisfy our verification processes are shown on the site. In addition every dog boarding stay is covered by free public liability.
Mad Paws also encourages owners to meet with shortlisted pet sitters to fully satisfy themselves that they’ve chosen the right person for their pet. After the pet minding job, owners are asked to rate the sitter to give other owners an honest appraisal of how they performed. These measures combine to give owners real confidence their pet will be happy and safe.