If you think back to some of the most stressful events in your life, you’ll probably remember major life events like a death in the family, the breakup of a marriage, or sudden unexpected unemployment. You may not realize that, for most people, moving to a new house is right up there in the list of highly stressful life events – even if the move was a welcomed one.
If moving to a new house is so stressful for humans, we can only begin to imagine what it must be like for our animal companions. Dogs, in particular, are territorial animals and can find it extremely confusing and upsetting moving from one environment to another, especially since they have no way of understanding the reason for the move.
That’s why it’s so important to keep the needs of your dog foremost in your mind while moving to a new house, even though your mind will be full of the hundreds of other things you need to take care of during this busy time. It is only by planning ahead that you can reduce your dog’s stress while moving and prevent common problems, including:
- Escaping, roaming, and trying to find their old home
- Separation anxiety
- Toilet training regression
- Excessive barking
- Destructive behaviors.
- Read on for six essential tips for transitioning your dog to a new house.
START BEFORE MOVING DAY
Your plan to transition your dog to your new home in a stress-free way must begin well before the actual moving day.
If you’re moving close by, take every opportunity to visit the new house with your dog prior to moving day. Make every visit a happy and relaxed occasion involving walks, treats, and lots of positive attention. You can also use these visits to check out local dog-friendly facilities, like a dog park, cafés that allow dogs, and potential future walking routes. Depending on how much access you have to the new house before the move, you could consider feeding your dog in the front yard or even letting them check out their backyard in advance.
During the moving process, make sure that you don’t disrupt your dog’s normal routine any more than you need to. Give meals on schedule and keep up your normal walking routine to reassure your dog that everything is fine and there’s nothing to worry about.
Update your dog’s microchip details before the move, and arrange for new dog ID tags with your updated home address. Ensure your dog’s vaccinations are fully up-to-date and look online or ask for recommendations for a good local vet so you’re not struggling to find someone in the unlikely event of an emergency.
PACK LAST, UNPACK FIRST (AND DON’T WASH)
It’s important to leave your dog’s routine as uninterrupted as possible in the lead up to the move. This means that, while you’ll probably start packing your Tupperware and spare linen weeks or even months prior to the move, you should leave your dog’s items until the last minute.
Ideally, your dog will have their bedding, food and water bowls, and favorite toys in the old house for as long as they’re there, and those items will travel to the new house at the same time as your dog. If you’re leaving your dog with a friend or putting them into a kennel on moving day (see the next section), once your dog is out of the house, take their essential items to the new house and set everything up so they’ll have a familiar spot waiting for them when they arrive.
Finally, as tempting as it may be to wash your dog’s bedding or buy new blankets for the new house, resist the urge and just move your dog’s bedding and toys to the new house as is. The familiar smell will go a long way towards helping your dog feel like they’re at home in the new house.
Moving day can be chaotic, with multiple people coming in and out of the house all day long packing and moving furniture and boxes. Not only will this be a stressful and confusing time for your dog, but it could also be a potentially dangerous time where your dog could slip out of an open door unnoticed.
Ideally, take your dog elsewhere for moving day. If you have a safe place they can stay, like the backyard of a friend or family member that they’re familiar with, this would be the best choice. Otherwise, it could be worthwhile putting your dog into a kennel or doggy daycare facility for the day.
If this isn’t possible, restrict your dog’s access to the main doors by confining them to one area of the house or the backyard. You’ll also need to speak to the movers in advance to let them know that there is a dog in the house and under no circumstances are they to let the dog out the door and that they need to be careful to close the door behind them at all times.
A GENTLE TRANSITION
The best way to help your dog smoothly transition to your new house is to make the process as positive and stress-free as possible. While this will probably be easier said than done, particularly in the chaos of moving day, once you’ve moved into your new house you’ll need to make your dog a priority once again.
Re-establish your existing routines as quickly as possible, including mealtimes and walk times. If you’ve moved to a new time zone, simply adjust to the new times and carry on as usual. For example, if you normally walk your dog at 6 pm after work, continue to do so in your new time zone – even if it feels like 8 pm back home.
A mistake many people make is spending an inordinate amount of time with their dog immediately after the move, particularly since most people take some time off work when moving. If you spend every waking hour with your dog for a week and then leave them in the new house while you go back to work, there’s a good chance your dog could develop separation anxiety.
Please don’t leave me here.
It’s all about routine. Even while you’re home from work, spend the amount of time with your dog as you normally would. Encourage your dog to sleep in their own bed as usual, and don’t make a big deal of leaving them in the new house alone for the first time while you head out to buy groceries.
As far as your dog is concerned, it’s routine as usual, even if the location may have changed.
Before you let your dog loose in the new backyard, carefully inspect the area to ensure that it is completely safe and suitable for your dog. Check out the fencing and gate with your dog’s needs in mind. Assume your dog is going to try to escape, and then find any areas of weakness in the backyard. Is your dog a climber, or are they more likely to dig out to freedom? You may need to increase the height of the fence, install additional fencing belowground, or replace the fence or gate altogether.
Ideally, this will be completed before you move. If that’s not possible, keep your dog indoors, or supervised, or on a leash when outdoors, and make securing the backyard your number one priority.
Also look for other potential dangers in the yard, like exposed wiring, potentially poisonous plants, and other hazards. Inspect the backyard from your dog’s point of view to ensure that it is a completely safe environment for your dog to explore.
One of the most common problems that occur when dogs move to a new home is a regression in their toilet training habits. While accidents on the rug can occur due to stress and anxiety, it can also occur simply because your dog is confused and doesn’t know where you expect them to go to the bathroom.
Set your dog up for success by establishing a toilet spot in advance, before your dog arrives at your new home. If you have a backyard, choose a spot close to the back door. For bonus points, help your dog understand that this is where they’re expected to go to the bathroom by collecting some fresh urine and/or feces and leaving it in the spot to establish a familiar scent.
If you’re moving to an apartment or your dog is used to going to the bathroom indoors, bring your dog’s indoor potty with you at the same time that you bring your dog to your new home. While you will understandably want to empty the potty before transporting it, avoid cleaning it completely so that it still has your dog’s familiar scent.
Take your dog to your chosen toilet spot as soon as you arrive in your new home, as well as after every meal.
When accidents occur – and they inevitably will – try not to draw too much attention to the problem or make a big deal of it. Just go back to your old toilet training routine and your dog will soon learn what you expect.
Whether you’re moving to another country or just down the road, there is so much to do and so many things to consider when moving to a new house. Make the move easier on everyone by taking every opportunity to slow down, relax, and consider the needs of everyone in your family – including your dog.
If you think about your move from your dog’s point of view, you’ll realize that they have no way of understanding what’s going on and are probably feeling stressed, nervous, and anxious at all the activity in the house. By following the above tips and being mindful of your dog’s needs during this busy time, you can transition your dog to your new house with a minimum of fuss and avoid a lot of potential problems along the way.