Moving house is hard on everyone, but it might be even harder on your dogs. I’ve never had to move with Janice and Leroy, but I did move house once when I had my first Boxer, Gloria. We went through quite a barrage of behavioral issues after that, from being too clingy to having doggie anxiety, and it took me quite a while to realize that the way that I did the move was what caused her to have these issues. Believe it or not, there is a way for humans to make it easier on their dogs when they move. It does take a bit of effort on your part, yes. But if it can make your dog happier and healthier in the long run, then it’s worth adding a few tasks to your moving check list for them. Here are 19 tips for helping your dog feel great about a move.
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Planning Ahead: Before the Move
- Be sure that you already have a new vet picked out before you move. Don’t just wait till you need a vet sometime in the future, because then you’ll be racing to figure out what vet in the area you can trust. Instead, have a vet lined up as your go-to before you move, so that you know where you’re going in the case of an emergency.
- Make sure that your dog has the right kind of identification for both the area and your peace of mind. There are certain laws that all towns stick to when it comes to dog identification – for example, it’s common for towns to require that dogs display their rabies vaccination tag on their collar. You may also want your dog to have a microchip, in case they get stressed out during the move and run off. If they do have a chip, be sure that you’ve updated the address information online so that your dog will find his way back to you.
- Be sure that your dog is comfortable in a crate so they’ll be okay during the ride. You might want a soft crate for riding in the car or at least a harness to keep them safe with a seatbelt if they won’t be riding in a crate. If your dog gets anxious in car rides, consider preparing something like a ThunderShirt to keep the comforted throughout the trip. If you’ll be flying to your new home, be sure to check what type of carrier you will need for your dog on the plane well ahead of time.
- Start training your dog right now if there will be new rules in the new house. For example, if you have to move to a small apartment after living in a big house, your dog may need to start learning to cut down on the barking. Don’t wait till you move to start this training, as that will be just one more thing that will be new about the new home.
Make Moving Day Fun
- Although this may seem like more work for you, it’s a good idea to not move with all clean things. If you can carry some of the old smell from your old house into your new house, with perhaps a single load of dirty laundry or something similar, it will help your dog feel like they are still at home.
- Be sure to keep feeding time light on the day of the move. Your dog will be anxious and having too much on their stomach is a surefire way to cause vomiting. Give them a quick, light meal and plan on feeding them more later if they are hungry after the trip.
- Be sure to schedule breaks in your travel for your dog. Keep a water bottle handy for drinks whenever you stop for a bathroom break. Your dog will get dehydrated from their anxious panting, so they’ll need water at each break. Letting them have a few extra minutes to sniff around and get acclimated as you go can help them feel a bit more grounded in the process.
Settling in After the Move
This, to me, is the most important part of how you handle a move with a dog, so there are quite a few more tips here.
- Be sure that you create a familiar space for your dog as the top priority when you get there. This is not the time to introduce a new dog bed or new toys – set up their old favorites in a corner that they can claim as theirs, that will still have their scent. If you do want to buy a Pet Bolster Bed for the move, let them start using it before you move from the old house so they are used to it.
- When you go out for walks, only go a little bit at a time into the neighborhood. Let your dog establish safe and familiar areas by exploring just one street, or one block, or whatever you think is best, at a time. Don’t push them to walk through the entire neighborhood all at once, even if they want to keep going. If you need to, for exercise purposes, walk the same small circle for a while till they are comfortable.
- If your dog is downsizing to a place where they won’t get as much exercise, be sure to have plenty of ways to keep them mentally challenged. Toys that activate their minds, like this Hide a Squirrel game or a treat-dispensing Kong, can help them stay happy and avoid destructive behaviors.
- Avoid any added stress for the time being. Right after a move is not the time to do a bunch of grooming, to have a bath if your dog hates baths, and so on. Right now, just give your dog time to adjust to the new space. If you can avoid moving during the 4th of July to minimize the chance of loud noises right after the move, that will help your dog stay a little less anxious. It may also be a good idea to put off that housewarming party, and ask guests not to overwhelm your dog with lots of petting and attention, right away. Your dog may want to simply observe for a while until they feel like the house is their domain.
- Keep your old routines as much as you can. If you’ve always fed your dog in the morning, don’t suddenly switch to night feedings. If you must change your routine for a new job or to suit a new house, then start training your dog to this new routine before the move. Otherwise, try to stick to the same walking time, the same play time routines, the same feeding time, and the same bed time as much as you can.
- You may need to treat your dog like a puppy again for a while. By that I mean, you may need to assume that some of their training is going to go out the window. Be on the lookout for behaviors like chewing, barking, and having accidents inside. This isn’t because your dog is trying to punish you, or because they’ve suddenly decided to be bad. It’s just that in their anxious state, they can’t remember all the behaviors that they have to think about every day. You may need to keep your dog on a leash more often until you are sure they are back to “normal” with their training.
- Be sure you pet proof your new place right away when you move in. The worst feeling in the world is when your dog gets injured and you could have prevented it. Look for places where your dog could escape, areas where they could fall or jump and be hurt, precarious furniture or piles of boxes they could tip over, and other hazards. If your dog isn’t used to living in a house with stairs, for example, you may need to invest in a dog gate to keep them safe.
- Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety medications if your dog seems to be having a hard time adjusting. There are some short-term medications that a dog could take to help them get some sleep and feel better while they settle in. This could also be helpful during the moving process when the car ride is making them anxious. This is a good option for dogs that are naturally high-strung already and are clearly struggling to behave after a move.
- Play with your dog on the floor more often. One of the biggest reasons why a new house is so scary for a dog is that it doesn’t smell like home. Without their scent, and yours, all over the place, they don’t really feel like they can let down their guard. By playing with your dog on the floor, you’ll start to get your scent in the house more, and they love the play as well. It gives a positive association to the new space. A good game of tug of war or hide the toy can be a great way to help your dog.
- Keep your dog with you as much as you can while they settle in. Now is not the time to be putting your dog in a boarding facility while you unpack and settle in yourself. As much as you can, keep your furry pal with you so that they feel safe. You will be their one constant from their old home, so they’ll need you around to feel stable.
- Don’t change their diet. If you are worried that you won’t be able to find your dog’s food in your new city, or that you won’t have time to shop, be sure to stock up on your dog’s food before you go. Your dog’s stomach can get upset from the anxiety, and changing food can make that even worse. Now is also not the best time to introduce new snacks or treats – if there’s a special doggie bakery in your new city, save the first visit for after your dog has acclimated.
- Be patient. Your dog may need more time than you to settle in – after all, they have no idea why they are in a new place, how long they’ll be there, or where all their familiar smells went. Give them time to acclimate to the new house and the surroundings before you start having parties, going away for events, getting a new pet, or making any other big changes. Your dog may be more clingy than usual, but this behavior should go away as they get used to the new home. Just be patient with your pal while they get used to this change.
Moving house with your dog doesn’t have to be a big deal if you are smart about it. Getting anxious about it yourself can actually make your dog very anxious, so it’s a good idea to keep yourself calm. Just make a plan of action with these tips, and stick to it. You’ll be doing your dog a huge favor and making their life more comfortable when you take a few minutes to consider how they’ll need some extra TLC during a move. Now is definitely the time to spend some extra hours playing with them and snuggling up to make them feel secure, so take advantage of that!
Once your dog is all settled in to their new home, they should go right back to being your well-behaved, fun loving buddy! You’ll have fun exploring a new city together, and they’ll be even more devoted to you after going through what they likely see as a traumatic experience. Just keep things light and fun and, most of all, consistent, during the move, and you’ll have no trouble at all getting your pup to settle in to a new place.