Moving is stressful for everyone, even when you have a checklist, and that includes dogs. When you’re preparing for a move, it’s important to prioritize your dog’s comfort and safety before, during, and after this life change — whether you’re moving to a new neighborhood or a new state. With some planning, you can minimize your dog’s stress and help them adjust to your new home.
While prepping for the move, it’s important to ensure that your dog is wearing updated identification tags. Dr. Nicole Starinsky of the NorthStar VETS emergency and critical care team explains it’s vital to “make sure that pets are comfortable wearing an appropriate collar, leash, or harness. New environments can cause pets to spook, and they can even escape their owners and attempt to find their way back to a familiar environment.”
In addition to making sure that your dog is wearing a collar with updated identification tags, it’s a good idea to consider getting your dog microchipped. This will allow your dog to be identified even if they lose their collar or tags. If your dog is already microchipped, make sure that your contact information is updated with the microchip company so that you can be contacted in case of emergency. For your peace of mind, you may also want to consider purchasing a GPS tracking collar (like a Fi, FitBark, or Whistle) which allows you to identify the location of your dog through an app.
Just like people need to wear seatbelts when in a moving vehicle, dogs should be safely restrained in the same instance with either a seatbelt harness a crate.
“If a long car ride is going to be a part of the move, make sure your pet is comfortable riding in the car and is well adjusted to any travel wear — like leashes and harnesses — that may be needed,” advises Dr. Starinsky.
If the ride to your new home is going to be long, get them ready by taking your dog on short car rides, and offer lots of praise and treats to help your dog make positive associations with being in the car. If you’re going to be flying to your new home, ensure you understand your airline’s regulations for under-seat travel (for small dogs) or cargo for large dogs, including any proof of vaccinations and veterinary checks.
Dogs thrive on routines, and even the most planned move generally involves routines being disrupted. As you are packing up one home and settling into your new one, pay attention to your dog’s behavior to determine if they’re is stressed. “Signs of stress in a pet during a new move can be lack of appetite, reluctance to do things that once brought joy (such as going on walks or playing with toys), or hiding in strange places (such as the closet or bathtub),” Dr. Starinsky says.
Other symptoms of stress to watch for include a regression in potty training. In the most serious instances, dogs can “become so stressed that they can have redirected aggression toward familiar members of the family (both human and animal),” Dr. Starinsky says.
During the move, make sure that you have a plan to contain and safely manage your dog to prevent them from getting overstimulated. The best way to do this is to provide your dog with a safe space of their own. A door propped open even just for a few seconds could lead to a dog going missing.
During the move itself, it’s helpful to get your dog settled in a safe area of your new home right away. This will be your dog’s space, and anytime you aren’t able to supervise them until your new home is fully unpacked and set up for your dog. A bedroom, laundry room, or other quiet area with a secure closing door will be best. The goal is to keep your dog away from any doors that will be opening frequently. Whenever your dog isn’t in their safe room during the move, make sure they’re leashed to you.
Avoid boxing up your dog’s favorite belongings, and instead bring them directly to your new home and get them setup right away. Familiar objects can help your dog adjust more quickly to your new home. You can also add a white noise machine or play music or TV in the room to muffle the noise of the move, which can aggravate or excite dogs. Providing your dog with scent games such as puzzles that you can hide treats in, as well as chews, are a great way to provide your dog with mental stimulation. Sniffing and chewing are both natural stress relievers for dogs and can help dogs get more comfortable in a new environment.
Although you probably want to share the whole house with your dog, it’s important to make introductions to the space slowly to help your dog adjust. Dr. Starinsky notes you should, “Keep their environment small to begin with so it is not overwhelming. For example, instead of giving your dog free reign in your new home, block off three rooms where you and your pet will spend the most time,” she says. “As they gradually become more comfortable with their environment, you can add more area to their living environment to keep things from being overwhelming.”
Even if your new home has a fenced-in yard, don’t leave your dog alone in it. “It is important to never leave a dog alone unsupervised (even in a fenced in yard) in case they are scared and look to escape.” advises Dr. Starinsky. Movers, or neighbors who don’t realize someone has moved in, could also accidentally leave a gate open and your dog could get lost or injured.
Be sure to dog-proof areas of your new house that your dog will have access to. Keep moving boxes that include cleaning chemicals and anything else your dog can chew in a secure location. Also do an indoor and outdoor walkthrough, looking for any areas of the home which could be hazardous, including hazardous plants. Check the height and sturdiness of any fence, in addition to looking for any weak spots where your dog could squeeze through or dig under.
A new home can be exciting, but it’s best to limit how many new experiences your dog gets right away during and after the move.
“Try not to introduce many new exciting things to their environment, such as a new doggy day care, several new dog friends, and several new human play or dog playmates all at once,” explains Dr. Starinsky. Keeping your dog’s schedule as consistent as possible can help them adapt and adjust to life in your new home.
Just because you love your new home doesn’t mean your dog will be comfortable there right away. “It can take time for a dog to adjust to their new home,” says Dr. Starinsky. They may have accidents inside, even if they are potty trained, or go off their food, or not act like their usual selves.”
The best thing you can do to help reduce your dog’s stress is to “give them time and extra attention, and most of the time they will bounce back relatively quickly,” Dr. Starinsky says. Be patient and compassionate with your dog as they adjust to the new space, but don’t be afraid to seek support. “If your pet is having a hard time adjusting, please seek out the care of a veterinarian for additional advice and recommendations.” encourages Dr. Starinsky.