“It’s just a dog” is like hearing nails on a chalkboard in my household. No, “it” is not JUST a dog… she is family! And her emotional well-being is just as important as any other family member’s. So when we’re going through a big life change, I’m always sure to pay close attention to how my dogs Jem and Zoey are adjusting.
The big move into our first home is probably the biggest life change that they have ever gone through in their lives. We just moved at the end of November – the week of Thanksgiving. So not only did Jem and Zoey have to try to figure out what the heck was going on with the move, but they also had the stress and chaos of Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas, and now New Years Eve. We were living with my parents (Larry and Lori – owners of RadioFence.com) until we found a house of our own. Jem and Zoey loved living with their Uncle Buddy and sometimes their cousin Laci when she visited. It’s the house Zoey and Jem were “born” into when they were puppies – it’s HOME to them.
We can’t explain to Jem and Zoey that moving is a positive change, and I need to learn how to help them adjust to big life changes now. There will be many more changes where this one came from throughout the rest of our lives!
Use these tried and true methods to help your dog adjust to a big move!
Stay Positive: Your Dog Knows When You’re Stressed!
The worst thing you could do during this change is worry. Your dog can sense when you’re feeling anxious, worried, or upset, and she naturally adopts whatever emotion you’re feeling as her own. It’s okay to be nervous about introducing your dog to the new home, but the most important thing for you to do is to stay positive for her sake. She will automatically pick up on your happy emotions which will soothe her during this change and make her much more likely to adjust positively.
Include Your Dog In The Packing Process
My dogs always begin to worry and act depressed when I’m packing up for a trip. During this huge packing process from the move, include your dog in what you’re doing along the way. Encourage her to walk with you from room to room, and talk to her while you’re packing. Repeat the same phrase multiple times a day while you’re packing items in a positive tone such as, “you’re coming with me!”
Any process that your dog might perceive as negative can easily be transformed into a positive thing if you use a fun, happy tone with her. Dogs speak the language of energy, so choose positive voices and words. Also avoid negative words like ‘worry,’ and ‘left.’ Don’t say things like, “Don’t worry, you aren’t going to be left here.” Only use positive words and short phrases.
If You Must Travel By Plane…
If you’re moving out of state and you’re going to be traveling there by plane with your dog, by all means DO NOT “CHECK” YOUR DOG WITH THE LUGGAGE! This is the most traumatic experience a dog can go through, regardless of adjusting to a move or not. If you research how many dogs are lost and stolen when they’re checked under the plane, you would never put your dog at risk. The conditions under the plane are so freezing, loud, and unbearable, its a wonder to me how anyone could stomach exposing their dog to this extreme situation.
If your dog is too large to go under the seat in front of you in an airline travel pet bag, you need to fly Delta Airlines. They just announced that they are allowing dogs of any size to travel in the cabin with their owners. FINALLY!
Take Walks In Your New Neighborhood Before Moving
We’re lucky that we’re only changing neighborhoods, not cities or states. If you’re moving to a new house in the same town like us, it helps to take your dog for walks in the new neighborhood before you make the move. They will begin to take in all of the new smells, “mark their territory” on the new mailboxes and fire hydrants, and start to get their bearings.
Once you move into the house, your dog will already be used to the smells and recognize her own scent from previous walks in the neighborhood. This will help her feel like this place is familiar and somewhere she is meant to be in this moment. How often should you take these walks? The more you can do this, the better!
Moving Day: Take More Walks!
When I say “Zoey and Jem do you wanna go for a walk?!” they absolutely freak out! I’ve never seen them so happy as when we’re getting the leashes ready, shoes on, and poop bags prepped. They can’t contain their excitement, which is my favorite part of the whole walk!
Go for at least one walk on moving day, preferably more. This will help to release the anxiety and stress both of you are carrying. It also shows your dog that even though there are changes taking place that she may not understand, she still gets to do her favorite activity no matter what else is different.
Move Your Dog’s Items In First! And Bring Favorites
It may sound silly to some people that you should make sure that the first items you move into the new house is your dog’s bed, food, and water bowls, and other personal items. I promise it makes a huge difference for her.
Its very scary for a dog to sit in an empty house watching people shuffling in and out and piling boxes on the cold floor. She has no idea where she belongs in the meantime. Establishing where your dog’s bed or crate will be located as soon as you get into the house serves as a familiar and safe place for your dog to escape to while the moving process takes place. The smell of her bed and personal items from the previous house is such a huge comfort tool for her. Her first impression of the new home will be of these familiar items that smell like her, your family, and “home.”
Keep The Old Things For The New House
You may have bought new furniture for the house, but avoid the temptation to get your pet new things. A new home and brand new toys, bed, etc is too much unfamiliarity for your dog. Bring all of her favorite things to the new house including toys, beds, blankets, and even a small piece of furniture like a favorite nap time chair if possible.
You don’t have to keep these things forever if you’re looking to upgrade, but bringing a familiar piece of furniture or accessories makes all of the difference in the world for your dog. You can even put them in similar places in the new home to where they were in the old home. Favorites help your dog feel like they’re at home much quicker.
Introduce Your Dog To The New Home Slowly
Once you’ve moved your dog’s items into the home, introduce her to the house with a soothing, calm demeanor. You want to allow your dog to explore the house at her own pace without rushing her.
Reward Your Dog For Exploring The New House
You can even put treats or toys in each room for her to find so she is encouraged to see all of the house. Finding a yummy treat here and there on your dog’s first exploration of the home establishes in her mind that this is a positive, safe place for her.
Bring Your Dog Everywhere With You
If your dog still seems scared, nervous, or uneasy, keep her on a leash and bring her with you everywhere you go.
You can even tie the leash to your side if you want to. Including your dog in your routine of moving will make her feel like she’s being guided along in the process. A dog’s fear is greatly reduced if she feels like you are in control of the situation rather than feeling the burden of having to figure everything out herself.
Include Your Dog In The Moving Process
You’re going to be super busy with projects, painting, unpacking, organizing, etc. Your dog will feel left out, neglected, and forgotten if you become too consumed in these tasks. The best thing to do is to encourage your dog to join in and hang out with you during these stages.
Like I said before, if you use a positive tone and encouraging verbiage with her during these tasks, she will think it’s fun! And it may even help you enjoy yourself more during these dreaded to-do’s.
Be Consistent With Your Routine
Try to keep your previous routine as consistent as possible in the new house. Feed your pup at the same time that you did in the old house, take your scheduled walks, make time for play, and no matter how busy you are take time at the end of the day for cuddles and loving at bedtime.
If your dog is used to having a dog door and an underground/wireless fence at the old house, be sure to make it a priority to set those up at the new place as soon as possible so there isn’t a break in your dog’s routine or training.
Important To-Do List When Moving With A Dog
- Change your dog’s tag on her collar to reflect your updated address and phone number. (I only have our phone number on Jem and Zoey’s tags, so we did not need to change them).
- Keep your dog’s tags and collar on at all times! They don’t know where “home” is yet, and could easily wander off or try to find their way back to the old house and get lost. If your dog doesn’t wear a collar and tag, get them from your local pet store immediately!
- If your dog is microchipped, make sure the information is up to date with your current phone number and address. If your dog is not microchipped, make an appointment to do so immediately!
- Update your vet records with your current phone number and address or find a new vet if you’ve moved out of town/state.
- Locate a reputable pet shop for healthy dog food if you’ve moved out of town/state
Do you have any tried and true methods for helping your dog adjust to moving?