For you, moving may feel like an exciting new chapter. Your dog might not agree. Moving with a dog can be very challenging. Here’s how the two of you can get on the same page.
As humans, we may need some time to adjust to a new home. The cabinets may be in different locations, and we need to find new favorite places to frequent. But we can mentally prepare ahead of time. For a dog, a move can feel sudden and unexpected.
Dogs may also sense something is changing as you pack up your current home, but they won’t be able to put their paw on precisely what’s different. It’s a perfect storm for even a calm dog to experience anxiety.
“Some dogs will think the move is just a new adventure, but other dogs may be resistant to change or become upset when things change in their environment,” says Dr. Sharon L. Campbell, the medical lead & behavior at Zoetis Petcare.
There are a few things you can do to help your dog realize that their new home is just as sweet — if not sweeter. Dr. Campbell likes to break moving with your dog down into three phases: Before, during and after. She shared tips for each.
What to Do Before Moving With a Dog
Dr. Campbell believes the most important phase of moving with your dog is what you do before you officially get the keys to your new pad.
“If you can get things right before you actually move, the likelihood that it will be stressful to your dog will be less,” she says.
- Think of your pet when you pick a new place. Campbell says it’s essential to keep your pet in mind when choosing where to live. Ensure the space allows dogs and has plenty of opportunities for exercise, whether that’s a fenced-in yard or nearby spots to walk and play.
- See the vet. If you’re moving to a new city, state, or country, visit your vet. “You want to make sure you get an examination and make sure your dog is healthy for the move,” she says. Ask if you can get a health certificate, which may be required particularly for international moves, and request your pet’s records so you can give them to your new vet.
- Ensure your dog is chipped. Sometimes, when dogs get nervous, they go into “flight” mode and escape. A microchip can help ensure the two of you are reunited if that happens.
What to Do With Your Dog on Moving Day
If you’re moving your dog’s favorite couch and chair, they’re going to know something is up. And it may cause some anxiety. Here’s how to keep your pup calm and help them cope.
- Notice the signs. Campbell suggests keeping an eye out for signs of anxiety, including abnormal barking or escape attempts, excessive licking or panting, and destructive behavior like chewing through furniture.
- Keep a routine. Try to keep the day as normal as possible for the pup — that way, not everything is changing. “Feed, exercise and play with them around the same time,” Dr. Campbell says.
- Save something for last. Leave one area of the house, such as a crate or den with a dog bed and their favorite toys, untouched until you move the dog to whatever mode of transportation you’re using to move. “Give them a place to retreat to,” Dr. Campbell says. Check in periodically throughout the day.
- Consider sending them somewhere else. As great as it is to keep a routine and have a safe space for your dog, it may be best to send Fido somewhere else if you’re afraid they’ll escape or get really nervous. Dr. Campbell suggests a friend or family that they are used to or doggie daycare. Some vets allow you to board your dog for the day.
What to Do Post-Move
You’ve made it to your next destination. It’s exciting but also represents an upheaval for your dog. Help them get acclimated to their new digs with these tips from Dr. Campbell.
- Check your surroundings. Even if your fence passed inspection with flying colors, examine it when you get there to ensure there are no holes or ways your dog can get out.
- Update records. Your neighbors don’t know your dog is yours, and your pup may have trouble finding their way home if they get out because they aren’t used to the area. The best way to ensure that your dog returns home safe and sound is to update the dog tag and microchip information with your new address or phone number. Dr. Campbell suggests doing this as soon as you get to your next place.
- Give them space. Getting everything out of your old home can feel chaotic, but moving in can, too — for you and your pet. Again, Dr. Campbell suggests giving them their own space. But unlike during the move, this space will be different, so it’s extra important to check on them. “Maybe you can give them a food puzzle to keep them occupied,” she says, adding that treats can help the dog associate the new place with positive things.
- Get back into a routine. You’ll want to stay as consistent as possible. Remember, your dog’s life just changed drastically. “If you always play at 8 p.m., you might be exhausted but take that time to throw the ball or whatever it is they like to do,” Dr. Campbell says. “Their world is going to be turned over, but if you can keep them on a routine that they are used to that keeps it as normal as you can.”
Explore together. Get to know your new surroundings and neighbors. Take them to the park and on long walks so they can become acclimated. “Then, it’ll start to feel like home,” Dr. Campbell says.