There are so many reasons why humans love living with dogs. In fact, more than half of households in the United States own a dog, and more than 80 percent own a pet of some kind. Our pets are there with us through many major life decisions and changes, such as moving into a new home.
When you move to a new place, many dogs can become worried, confused and anxious long before moving day. The very first time they notice something different— boxes in the living room, strangers coming into their home and any stress or tension coming from humans— they will know something is up. Unfortunately, you can’t just talk to your dog and explain what’s going on. You have to let your actions, body language and compassion do the talking for you.
Before the Move
Before the big move there are several things you can do to help make the transition less stressful for your dog. You can:
- Familiarize them with the space. Give them a little tour of the new place so it doesn’t seem so unfamiliar on day one. Also, introduce a larger space to them incrementally— room by room over the course of several days— so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the change.
- Teach a few commands. Work with your dog on learning commands like sit, come and stay, which can be very helpful voice commands to maintain some control on moving day. Dogs also enjoy training, so your dog will find practicing commands in the new place to be a fun bonding adventure.
- Make sure your new home is safe. Look around the inside and outside of your home for hazardous chemicals like rat poison lying around. Inspect your fence and make sure there are no holes going under or other escape routes.
- Mark your scent in the new home. Dogs are extremely sensitive to smells; it’s how they take in most of their environment. Leave a few shirts, shoes and other personal belongings in the new house for a few days at least to help it smell more familiar to your dog.
During the Move
This is the day that can make or break a transition to a new home for many dogs. Her anxiety and desire to be helpful could mean your dog gets in the way— a lot. To make moving day run more smoothly, try to:
- Provide them with familiar things. Make sure they have their favorite items— toys, blankets, beds, treats— with them on moving day. Move those items into the new house right before you officially move in.
- Tire them out. Take them for a long run, hike or walk in the morning before moving starts to help tire them out. They will still likely be anxious, but they will have less pent up energy to feed the intensity of that anxiety.
- Be patient— with your dog and yourself. Moving day is stressful for everyone. It can be a physically and emotionally exhausting scenario for yourself and your dog. When you feel quick to snap with heat, take a deep breath and walk away for a moment. Show some compassion for yourself and others.
- Ask a friend to come over and take them for a walk. Solicit the help of a good friend your dog knows and adores. Ask them to come take your dog for a nice long walk, to play in a park or over to their house (if they have been before). This can help alleviate any anxiety they would feel being present during the move.
After the Move
Settling into a new home is the hardest part of helping a dog transition. It’s not hard because it is especially difficult— it’s hard because it can often take a long time. Don’t be quick to rush your dog, and pay attention to his cues. You can help him get comfortable in the new place by:
- Arranging to be at home for the first few days. A week would be ideal, but that isn’t an option for everyone. But, if you can, work from home for the first week or take time off to provide a sense of security for your dog.
- Observing your dog’s behavior. Is he having more indoor accidents? Is he scratching or licking more? Does he only hang out in one area of the yard? Paying attention to changes in your dog’s behavior, especially eating, can be a sign of a difficult transition.
- Keeping your dog contained. You can help your dog feel more secure in a new home by giving them their own space. For example, using a baby gate to keep your dog confined to rooms with tile can help you make sure your dog’s indoor accidents don’t wind up staining rugs or carpets.
- Sticking to the same routine. Keep the day structured exactly how it used to be— or as close as you can— to help your new dog feel more at-ease in the new house.
- Give lots of love. It may sound simple enough, but the fact is, moving is overwhelming and can monopolize even the best intentions. Make a commitment to spend time with your pup (schedule it on your calendar if you have to) so that she knows that even though her surroundings are changing, your love for her is not. Snuggle, go for walks, offer favorite treats, and give her extra long petting sessions.
Moving is a great adventure for many people and families, and it can be that way, too, for your dog. The key is to always make him feel included, try to anticipate his needs and be a calm and comforting presence. It’s amazing how much your dog will enjoy being part of your new home when you take the time to be intentional about the change.