For you, moving can feel like an exciting new chapter. Your dog may disagree. Moving with a dog can be quite a challenge. So you both come to the same page.
As humans, we may need some time to get used to a new home. The closets can be in different places, and we need to find new favorite spots that we are often out and about. But we can prepare mentally in advance. To a dog, movement can feel sudden and unexpected.
Dogs can also feel that something changes when you pack your current home, but they won’t be able to put their paw on exactly what is different. It’s a perfect storm for even a calm dog to get scared of.
“Some dogs will think moving is just a new adventure, but other dogs may be resistant to change or get upset when things change in their environment,” says Dr. Sharon L. Campbell, Zoetis Petcare Medical Director and Conduct.
There are a few things you can do to help your dog realize that their new home is just as cute – if not cuter. Dr. Campbell likes to divide exercise with your dog into three phases: before, during, and after. She gave tips for everyone.
What to do before moving a dog
Dr. Campbell believes the most important phase of moving your dog is what you do before officially receiving the keys to your new pad.
“If you can fix everything before you actually move, your dog is less likely to get stressful,” she says.
- Think of your pet when choosing a new spot. Campbell says it’s important to keep an eye on your pet when choosing where to live. Make sure the space allows dogs and has plenty of opportunities for exercise, be it a fenced yard or nearby places to walk and play.
- See the vet. Whenever you move to a new city, state, or country, see your veterinarian. “You want to make sure you get an exam and make sure your dog is healthy for the move,” she says. Ask for a health certificate, which may be required especially when moving internationally, and request your pet’s records so that you can give them to your new veterinarian.
- Make sure your dog is chipped. Sometimes when dogs get nervous they go into “run away” mode and escape. A microchip can help ensure the two of you are reunited if that happens.
What to do with your dog on the day of the move?
When you move your dog’s favorite couch and chair, he will know something is wrong. And it can lead to some fear. This is a great way to keep your pup calm and help him cope with it.
- Notice the signs. Campbell suggests looking out for signs of anxiety, including abnormal barking or attempting to escape, excessive licking or panting, and destructive behavior like chewing furniture.
- Keep a routine. Try to make the puppy’s day as normal as possible – that way everything won’t change. “Feed, exercise, and play with them at about the same time,” says Dr. Campbell.
- Save something for last. Leave an area of the house, like a crate or den with a dog bed and their favorite toys, untouched until you get the dog onto the means of transport you’re using. “Give them a retreat,” says Dr. Campbell. Check in regularly throughout the day.
- Consider sending them elsewhere. As great as it is to stick to a routine and have a safe place for your dog, it may be best to take Fido elsewhere if you are afraid he will escape or get really nervous. Dr. Campbell suggests a friend or family they are used to, or a dog daycare. Some vets will allow you to take care of your dog for the day.
What to do after moving
You have reached your next goal. It’s exciting, but also a radical change for your dog. Help them with these tips from Dr. Campbell to get used to their new digs.
- Check your surroundings. Even if your fence passed the inspection with flying colors, check it out when you get there to make sure there are no holes or paths for your dog to get out of.
- Update records. Your neighbors won’t know your dog is yours, and your puppy may have trouble finding his way home if he gets out because he is not used to the area. The best way to make sure 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 location.
- Give them space. Getting everything out of your old home can feel messy, but moving in can also be – for you and your pet. Here too, Dr. Campbell suggests giving them their own space. But unlike during the move, this room will be different so it is especially important to check it out. “Maybe you can give them a food puzzle to keep them busy,” she says, adding that treats can help the dog associate the new place with positive things.
- Get back into a routine. You want to be as consistent as possible. Remember, your dog’s life has just changed drastically. “If you always play at 8pm you might be exhausted, but take the time to throw the ball or whatever you’re doing,” says Dr. Campbell. “Your world will be turned upside down, but if you can keep it on a routine that you are used to, it will stay as normal as possible.”
Explore together. Get to know your new surroundings and neighbors. Take them to the park and on long walks so they can acclimate. “Then it will feel like home,” says Dr. Campbell.