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How can you successfully move with your dog? Planning and preparation are key to your success.
Moving with your dog to a new home can be exciting. Exploring new places and having new adventures can be a lot of fun. Even so, it’s still stressful.
Dogs are creatures of habit and do best with set routines. So seeing household items being moved around and moving boxes and suitcases strewn about can be very stressful to your dog.
As a dog trainer, I knew that I had to get my dogs ready for our last move. I tried to maintain their normal routines as much as possible. And I played with them during the process so that they saw moving materials as something positive.
In this article, I’ll lay out the preparation necessary for a successful move with your dog as well as what to do when you arrive at your new home.
There are steps you can take for your pup to feel more at ease with the move and be safe.
Choosing Your New Home
If you’re just thinking about moving, it’s important to check out areas you’re considering to determine whether they’re dog-friendly. Some areas, unfortunately, have breed restrictions, prohibiting certain breeds or mixes of dogs such as pit-bull types.
Other townships or cities have limits on how many dogs you may have. When we chose where we moved, we checked out the township’s requirements regarding dogs.
These include not only how many and types of dogs but also leash laws, fence limits, and noise laws.
If you’re moving to an apartment or condo, also check out their own contractual requirements and limits. Also, review any neighborhood association requirements or limitations as well as those of insurance companies you may use.
Preparation for the Move
Because of our great bond with our dogs, they can sense when we’re stressed or upset. Of course, a move can be very stressful even when you’re looking forward to your new life.
So it’s crucial that you appear to be calm to your dog. Try talking to him in a soothing voice about the move. Even though he won’t understand your words, he’ll feel the calm assurance in your voice.
The disarray during the move can be very unsettling to your pup. Suddenly boxes and suitcases seem to appear out of nowhere, decorating your home.
Get your dog used to the packing supplies. Put just a couple of boxes out at first.
In order for your dog to have a positive association with them, play with your dog near them. Play fetch or tug and other games that he’s accustomed to.
Do the same with other packing supplies such as the tape, suitcases, hand carts, and other items that you’ll use.
Try to confine these items to a certain area and keep the rest of your house looking as normal as much as possible. And don’t leave your dog alone with these items, because he may ingest some of them if he chews on them.
Puppies and young dogs are more likely to chew on these items. But even adult dogs who are stressed can be likely to do so too.
Getting your dog used to items he’ll be around in a positive way will go a long way to making him comfortable with them.
If you’re moving to a new location that’s not too far from your old location, you may be able to drive him to the new area prior to your move. This will help him get used to being there.
If possible, take him on walks in your new neighborhood so that the transition will be easier when you actually arrive from your move. He’ll get used to the sights, sounds, and smells of the new area–including the “pee-mail” left by other dogs.
If that’s not possible because your new location is too far away from your current one, try taking your dog on walks to a location that’s similar to the new one.
If you live in the city but are moving to the suburbs, try taking your dog on walks to locations that are similar to the new location.
This is important because sights, sounds, and odors can be very different from various locations–such as the city, suburbs, or country.
One of my clients moved from the suburbs to the city. Luckily, they prepared their dog for the change.
The buses, traffic, and other city noises were quite different from the environment their dog was accustomed to. But, by taking their dog to the city on some walks before the move, he adjusted to the move over time.
Do your research on the dog-friendly businesses and areas you may need after you move. These can include parks, restaurants, doggie daycares, and boarding facilities.
Routines Are Required
As much as possible, try to maintain the same routines and schedules that your dog has always had before and after your move. Feed him, walk him, play with him, and train him at the same times each day. Do the same for his sleep routine.
Also, have him engage in enrichment activities such as playing with activity toys and treat-dispensing balls.
Maintaining routines and schedules will help you be successful when moving with your dog.
Safety First–and Last
Before moving, set up a “safe room” that your dog gets used to. Place blankets, toys, and his bed with familiar scents there. Have him get accustomed to the area well before the move.
This area can be used during the move so that he’s safe and can’t get lost while items are being removed from the home. You can put up a baby gate or close the door–whichever won’t stress him out.
Or he can be placed in a crate if he’s accustomed to being there while items are being moved out of your home. If there’s no way to safely keep him in a room, get him used to a crate well before the move. Exercise pens can also work if sturdy and the dog can’t escape.
Alternatively, you can plan on having a friend or family member take care of him while moving if you’re moving near your former residence. Or you can board your dog until you’ve moved into your new location.
The last time I moved, I had six dogs. To be safe in the unavoidable organized chaos of the move, I boarded the dogs overnight until everything arrived at our new house.
And we put up a temporary fence as a potty yard before picking up the dogs. So when the dogs arrived, they had a safe area to potty in until the permanent fence was installed.
Before and after the move, make sure that your dog doesn’t have access to dangerous items. This includes cleaning chemicals, insect or rodent traps or poisons, and electrical cords and outlets (especially for puppies).
Make sure that your dog doesn’t have access to any open doors. Dogs are usually confused and stressed during moves and can bolt out at your current or future residence.
Gates or closed doors that are or lead to outside doors can help avoid such accidents. You can even post a sign at the room the dog’s in to remind people not to let the dog escape.
Also, check that there are no dog doors or holes in cabinets through which he can escape at your new residence. Check fences too to make sure that all is secure and he can’t go under, over, or through any portion.
Other safety measures include having ID tags on your dog. Having him microchipped and the chip registered in your name can also help should he get lost.
Transportation: Prepare Your Dog To Travel by Car or Plane
However you’re traveling, it’s important for your dog to be accustomed to it before the move. A dog who’s suddenly taken on a long car or plane ride might freak out and try to escape–even injuring himself or getting loose and fleeing.
Get him used to traveling by crate if flying or even by car. Find out what type of crate is allowed by the airline you’ve chosen and get him accustomed to it.
By car, you may choose to get him used to a seat belt harness. But, if your dog’s likely to chew the harness–as puppies may do–use a crate or other safe barrier method for the move.
If your dog isn’t used to traveling by car, start going on very short trips to places he may enjoy–such as a pet shop or a park.
If he only went places he sees as negative, such as the vet, you want him to associate travel with something positive. You can even give him a stuffed frozen Kong to occupy him.
But be sure to give a very small meal at least a few hours prior to the test trips. You don’t want to feed him a large meal right before you leave, or he may get an upset stomach.
For a few days before the move, get him used to eating a little less than normal so that this change doesn’t affect him.
If you’re flying, it’s even been suggested to take him on a ride occasionally through a car wash where he’ll see and hear unusual things outside the vehicle.
And hopefully, he’ll get used to a somewhat bumpy ride that way too. Make the trip positive with a frozen stuffed Kong he can enjoy.
On the day of the real move, also give a small meal hours prior to the trip.
During all travel, try to remain calm and speak to your pup in a calm, soothing voice. And don’t forget to have him potty before any travel.
PRO-TRAINER TIP: Prior to all of your set-ups in getting your dog ready for the move, make sure that he’s been well-exercised physically and mentally to help relieve stress. And, of course, make sure that he’s had some water and has pottied before the trip. Puzzle toys and some obedience commands can help tire him out mentally. And a walk or play session can help tire him out physically.
Veterinary and Health Records and Preparation
Gather copies of your dog’s health records from your current vet. This will be useful to any vets he sees in the future.
It’s advisable to check for vets and emergency clinics along your travel route should you need them. And plan for who will become your new vet upon arrival. You can ask for recommendations and do an internet search of ratings when making your decision.
Find out what vaccinations and vet records are required at your destination so that you’ll have them ready upon arrival. Some states even require a health certificate.
If you’re traveling to another country, work with your vet to find out what vaccines, paperwork, or inspections are required by your destination country.
Check with applicable government organizations to determine exactly what’s required. Some countries have a six-month waiting period between when paperwork is filed and the dog’s allowed in the country.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture site has some requirements regarding international pet requirements.
Your Necessary Preparations for the Actual Road Trip or Flight
Have all your dog’s requirements ready with you for the trip to your new home. Of course, you’ll need the following: his regular food, water, bowls, treats, toys, bed, collars, harnesses, leashes, ID, medicines, poop bags, and any other specific needs.
I always bring water the dog’s used to or bottled water when traveling with my dogs to avoid stomach upsets.
If your road trip will last more than a day, you should plan where you can stay overnight with your pup along the way. Make sure that the facility is dog-friendly and accepts your breed or mix and dogs of his size.
Give your dog regular potty breaks as well as the opportunity to eat and drink when needed. If there’s a long ride, it’s important to give your dog some exercise too.
If he’s used to walks, stop at a safe area where there aren’t loose dogs and walk him.
Because a trip to a new area can be very stressful, it’s important to be sure that your dog is secure in his harness and/or collar and can’t escape.
Sometimes a new noise or item can be distressing to some dogs. So, try to stop at potty or walk areas that don’t present many new stressors.
Exploring Your New Home: the Adjustment Period
Arriving at your new home is very exciting. But it’s also very stressful for your dog because he doesn’t yet understand that this will be his new home too with you.
For safety, keep him on a leash in a secure harness and/or collar. Be patient and calm,
While items are arriving at your new home, make sure that your dog’s in the safe room you created that he can’t escape from.
After all of your items have arrived and there won’t be open doors from which he can escape, take him to a couple of rooms he’ll need to use in the first few days. This may include the kitchen where he’ll be fed and the family room where you’ll watch TV with him.
It’s also advisable to have items with familiar scents on them, such as towels or your dog’s bed. Keeping the same furniture (even in a similar arrangement to your former residence) can be comforting to your dog.
When we moved, the first days I introduced the dogs to the bedroom, kitchen, and family room. I had a bed and toys with their scent on them to help them literally feel “at home.”
I wouldn’t overwhelm your dog during the first few days. Let him decompress at first before taking him to every room or area.
Try to establish a similar routine to that which you had before the move regarding sleep, exercise, play, feeding, and training.
Be patient and calm. Reward any positive behavior. Each dog’s an individual regarding how long it will take him to settle in.
Within a few days or a few weeks, many dogs will start to relax if they have familiar routines established. It helps that they see that we’re with them during this time.
So, if you’ve taken off some time from work to get settled in, your presence may help your dog adjust to the move.
But remember to also get your dog used to your absence too so that he doesn’t develop separation anxiety. When you leave him–even for an hour–make sure he’s in a safe location where he can’t get injured or escape. Use a crate if he’s used to one.
Make sure that you’ve sufficiently exercised him mentally and physically before you leave him. Physical exercise and mental stimulation can really help lower anxiety levels.
Over time, help your dog explore the remainder of your new home. This includes the yard. Of course, first, make sure that all areas are safe from escape or from any chemical hazards.
Make the new home a positive place for your pup. Make sure that he has fun there. Puzzle toys, play, stuffed Kongs, and other fun things your dog engaged in before can go a long way towards him liking his new environment.
Your dog may not be used to having people playing basketball or children playing next door. Or someone grilling or smoking may be new to him. So go outside with him on a leash and get him used to any new sights, sounds, and odors.
Reward positive behaviors. Play with him if he’ll play. Good things should accompany these new experiences.
Expose him to new experiences gradually if possible. So, for example, if he’s not used to children playing next door, play with him at the other end of your yard rather than right next to the new noise and motion.
A few years ago, new neighbors moved in with four young children. My dogs weren’t used to the sounds of children playfully screaming and playing with toys, including a bouncing basketball.
We went out and played fetch and did some obedience and tricks with praise and treats. So they associated good things with the children being out. And even my shelties and Lhasa apso, both breeds that tend to bark, learned to ignore the new noises.
It’s also important to carefully expose your dog to any potential hazards that he will be exposed to, such as a swimming pool. Never leave him alone where the pool’s located.
Even good swimmers can get tired and drown. If you can and your dog’s able to, you can teach him to swim. They make dog life vests in various sizes.
Get qualified assistance if you aren’t sure how to teach him to safely swim. Not all dogs are natural swimmers.
It’s also important to teach him where he can safely exit the pool if need be. If possible, have the pool fenced in so that he can’t access it if you’re not present.
Get Additional Help If Needed
What if you’ve done all you can and your dog is still having trouble adjusting to his new home? You need to get professional or other assistance.
There are holistic and other aids available. There is a product called Adaptil which can help calm some dogs. It’s supposed to mimic his mother’s natural nursing pheromones.
Of course, check with your vet to be sure that such products are appropriate for your dog.
There is also a product called the Thundershirt which can help calm some dogs if used appropriately. It’s for anxiety other than just thunderstorm phobia.
These anti-anxiety aids can also be used for the move itself prior to your arrival at your new home.
If need be, consult a canine behavior specialist if your dog is having trouble adjusting to his new life. This can particularly occur with dogs that have separation anxiety. Adjusting to a new home can be particularly stressful to dogs with that disorder.
Colby recently moved to a new home and one thing he was thankful for was that he crate trained both of his dogs. According to Colby:
“Crate training was invaluable when we moved with our two dogs, Raven and Elsa. We didn’t have anyone to watch our dogs. When we got to the new house both dogs were unfamiliar and quite nervous. Along with all the doors both front and back open while the movers brought boxes and furniture in and out of the house made it impossible for us to leave the dogs off leash and/or unattended. Their crates were a comfortable, familiar place where they happily relaxed with all the chaos going on around them.”
Is moving stressful for dogs?
For most dogs, the answer is “yes.” They’re all individuals and some will adjust more quickly than others. Planning and preparing for all that’s required for the move and keeping a regular routine will help have a successful move.
How long does it take for dogs to adjust to a new home?
For most dogs, it’s a gradual process. Some might seem to have adjusted in days. But many will take weeks to feel more comfortable in their new home.
How can I help my dog adjust to a move?
Maintain a routine before, during, and after the move. Get him used to the mode of travel in a positive way.
Accustom him to the various new things he’ll be exposed to, such as packing materials and suitcases, by using positive reinforcement. And exercise his body and mind.
Moving to a new home can be very exciting! Looking forward to new experiences and adventures is exhilarating. But moving usually is stressful for both human and canine family members.
Planning, preparation, and establishing routines can really help have a successful move.
Have you ever moved with your dog?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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