You’re moving – on to the next adventure, to a new city, to the country, or maybe to a new country altogether. You’re excited and can’t wait – but what about your dog? Unfortunately, he or she most likely isn’t so much excited as they are confused and potentially upset.
Moving can produce a great deal of anxiety in dogs. They don’t understand why their routine is changing and exactly why they’re in a brand-new environment, and may interpret that as being lost or even display separation anxiety. The stress from moving may cause your dog to act out, regress, or even become slightly aggressive and/or fearful. As your dog’s companion, it’s up to you to help them acclimatize and overcome these emotions.
While it’s true that some dogs just seem happy and comfortable no matter where they go, nearly all dogs will experience at least some anxiety when they move. We want to help you help your dog, so we put together this easy guide to help you soothe those frayed nerves.
Plan in Advance
No, we aren’t talking about moving in general (although you should plan that, too). Planning out your dog’s move specifically will allow you to set up measures to address stress as it occurs. This means determining exactly when your dog might experience stress related to the move and finding ways to mitigate that stress when it happens.
Start planning how you will mitigate your dog’s stress as far in advance as possible. Ideally, you should begin preparing your dog several months in advance. If that’s not possible, start wherever you are right now!
One of the most common times for dogs to experience stress is when you’re packing up your current house. Most people become so busy they have little time for their pets. Open doors may also mean your dog spends more time in his kennel to prevent accidental escapes. On top of that, mealtimes, walks, and play sessions may fail to happen at their standard times, making your pup wonder exactly what the heck is happening. He or she grows bored, restless, and anxious in the process.
Alleviate pre-move anxiety by keeping your dog’s routine as normal as possible while you pack. Mealtimes, walks, snuggle sessions, and even playtimes should be preserved as much as possible.
Avoid the temptation to turn to doggy daycares during moves as a panache. Although it may seem wise, it often injects more instability, leading to even more bad behavior. Instead, leave the doggy daycares for later on.
Most importantly, don’t forget to regularly reassure your dog. Sometimes, just a few extra pats and your presence is enough to restore their confidence.
Microchip Pets Before Moving
There’s an increased risk for your anxious dog to run away or break loose during your physical move and shortly after you arrive. Dogs can become lost quickly in a new location, and they won’t always find their own way back because they ain’t used to the area. In some cases, they may also attempt to find their way back to the old location. This can be disastrous in a long-distance move.
To prevent this potential risk, keep dogs leashed and/or kenneled at critical moving points. If your pup hasn’t yet been microchipped, do it now – and have both addresses listed on the file as well as the address for your vet. If something does happen, you will at least stand a better chance of being reunited faster.
Bring Familiar Items, Furniture
Having a familiar piece of furniture (even if it’s just a dog bed) around before, during, and after the move can give your dog an anchor in all of the upheaval that comes with moving. No matter what else is being packed or where you are (hotel room on the way, old destination, new destination), try to have at least one spot set up for your pup with items he recognizes and loves.
Encourage her to return to the spot frequently if she shows signs of anxiety like whining, crying, barking, or trembling in the face of moving chaos.
Speaking of familiar, don’t pack up your dog’s furniture and favorite area until the very end of your packing. When you arrive at the new location, make it the first thing you set up.
Introduce Crating or Kennelling
If you have some time before you move, and your dog isn’t used to crating or kennelling just yet, this is the opportune time to get him used to a kennel or crate. Set it up a few weeks in advance and give him a favorite treat in the kennel at least once a day. Use it not as a punishment, but as a place where he’s treated like a king.
With any luck, your dog will decide he rather enjoys being in his new den – giving you a safe place to keep him secure during intense moving chaos.
Get Lots of Exercise
It’s easy to overlook walks, exercise, and play sessions during the moving process, but this can actually contribute to your dog’s stress level rather than alleviating it. A few play sessions a day will burn off nervous energy, letting your dog be more relaxed and laid-back the rest of the time. It will also give your dog something to look forward to and focus on!
Try to aim for between one and three walks a day. Tailor the length and difficulty to your dog’s current activity level and then add just a little bit more to tire him out.
When you arrive at the new location, try to set up a puppy playdate or doggy daycare session in the first week. Your pup will start making new friends and can burn off some steam without the stress of being in a new home.
Start Small in Your New Home
When you arrive in your new home, don’t immediately set your dog loose and hope for the best – even if it’s fenced in. Often, doing so can be overwhelming to your dog, who is instantly barraged with new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Instead, start by spending most of the day indoors inside a room or two. As he begins to show confidence and explore, expand his range. If he shows signs of stress again, strip it back and move more slowly.
Never, ever let your dog loose in a new location without being securely contained. Even the most laid-back dogs can be spooked by new sounds, a passing animal, or even a car, taking off into the neighborhood never to be seen again.
At the end of the day, what will help your dog most with adjusting to his move is your patience and an open mind. Dogs cope with moving homes in their own individual way; some may be virtually unflappable while others can barely handle the thought of coming out from their den. If you find yourself still struggling days later, a few sessions with a trainer and a visit to the vet might be in order to rule out more serious issues.