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  • Writer's pictureOleg Sobol

Tips for moving with your dog

Congratulations! You're moving to a new home, a new neighborhood, maybe even a new state. It's an exciting time, but probably hectic and stressful too. Moving to a new home is a huge life change that can be stressful for your dog too. Let's explore how you can help make the experience as worry-free as possible for your pup, both before and after the move.

A Boston terrier with its head out the window of a car

Safety first

You're organized. You're prepared. You might even have a fancy-schmancy spreadsheet to help you track everywhere you need to update your address. Bank, cell phone provider, insurance, USPS. What about your dog? Don't forget to purchase new doggie ID tags with your new address. Similarly, if your dog is microchipped, add that microchip company to your fancy-schmancy spreadsheet for address updates. Maybe even put them at the top of the list and update that address today! Safety first.

"Moving to a new home is a huge life change that can be stressful for your dog too."

Speaking of safety, set aside a tote bag or small moving box to use as a travel safety kit for your pup. Keep this in the car with you during the move. Include things like: medications, first aid kit, vaccine records, extra harness and leash, towels, travel water bowl, and yummy treats. These are items you want to be able to access quickly if needed, rather than rummaging through piles of sealed moving boxes.

Boxes, bubble wrap, newspaper, oh my!

Unless you're a professional packer-upper or a certified (maybe certifiable) Container Store addict, you probably don't have packing supplies strewn about the house on a regular basis. Although you might not think twice about your new home décor of boxes, bubble wrap, newspaper, tape, and bags of junk, your dog probably will. All these new items in the environment could end up being scary or stressful for your pup. To help with this, slowly condition your dog to the packing process.

"The goal is to build a positive association to moving supplies and sounds."

Remember when your dog was a puppy and you learned about preventing fear of weird human stuff? I'm talking about you, vacuum cleaner, ya big weirdo. Time to dust off those fear prevention skills! The goal is to build a positive association to moving supplies and sounds, one bit at a time. Start with one empty box and let your dog explore. Toss a few treats after the exploration starts. Then bring out a few more boxes. Then start packing. Don't forget about sounds, such as pulling and tearing tape, crinkling paper, or accidentally popping bubble wrap. At each step, give your dog some super yummy treats, along with lots of happy talk. Throw in some fun fetch or tug games every now and then too.

In with the old, in with the new

That's not a typo. Yes, moving is time for a fresh start, new beginnings, and new stuff. Your instinct is probably to throw out old supplies as you start fresh in your new home. Out with the old, right? Not when it comes to dogs and moving. For now, in with the old.

"Having familiar items around in the new home can help your dog during the transition."

A Dalmatian dog lying on a dog bed

Fight your instinct to throw away that raggedy old dog bed, or those hanging-by-a-thread stuffed squirrels. Having familiar items around in the new home can help your dog during the transition. Go ahead and get new stuff too! But, keep the old stuff out for a couple weeks after the move as your dog settles in.

Due diligence is for dogs too

You probably did your due diligence before deciding to move. Maybe you had a home inspection. Maybe you drove around the neighborhood a few times. Maybe you researched crime statistics. Now it's time for your dog's due diligence.

"Let your dog choose the walking route and sniff all she wants."

A dog being walked around a neighborhood

If you can, take your dog for a walk around the new neighborhood a few times before moving day. Start with right in front of the new home. Then, go up and down the block a few times. Then, go for a longer walk around the neighborhood. Let your dog choose the walking route and sniff all she wants as she takes in the new environment. She has a lot of pee-mail to catch up on before moving in!

Moving day plan

Two people lifting a large moving box

Moving day will be stressful for all involved, humans and dogs. You will probably be on edge managing the final details. There will be strangers in and out of the house. Strangers will make strange noises with strange stuff. They will leave doors open. They might even dislike dogs. (What?!?)

"Strangers will make strange noises with strange stuff."

Plan ahead and decide what moving day will look like for your dog. If your dog goes to daycare regularly, book moving day as a daycare day. If your dog isn't a doggie-daycare dog, consider a trusted friend, family member, or dog sitter for the big move. Even if your dog is The Friendliest Dog in the World, moving day can still be a stressful and over-stimulating experience.

Welcome home!

Phew, welcome to your new home! Start off on the right paw by creating a safe space that has your dog's familiar items that you saved. Set up this space in a quiet area away from moving boxes and the hubbub of unpacking activity. Try to have this arranged before welcoming your dog into the home for the first time.

A dog wearing a harness and leash standing on carpet

When you first come in with your dog, keep the leash on and give your dog a guided tour. Avoid running around freely just yet, so you can explore one room at a time together. Reward behaviors and build positive associations in each room while your dog sniffs all the new smells. Toss some treats on the floor, play a little in each room, and practice some tricks or well-learned skills that you can reward.

New home, new fun

I know you'll have your hands full unpacking and settling in, but make sure to give your dog plenty of attention, play, and belly rubs during this time too. This is a whole new world, and your dog may be looking for reassurance from you. Take some breaks from unpacking to play tug, hide and seek, fetch, or some food-scavenging games. Make the new place and the process of unpacking all fun, fun, fun!

A chocolate Labrador retriever playing tug

Speaking of fun. Save a few moving boxes of different sizes and clean paper that was used for packing. You can re-use these supplies for some fun DIY mental enrichment games. (More on that in a future blog!)

Keep your radar up

Pay close attention to behavior changes in your dog during the first few days. Don't let your guard down. For example, be proactive about new sounds that might be unfamiliar to your dog. Pair the new sounds with treats and play to make it a positive experience, just like you did during move prep.

"Watch your dog's mood and temperament very closely."

Try to stick to same schedules for feeding, walking, and other daily routines, especially for the first few weeks while your dog is getting used to the new home. Keep a very close eye on the potty schedule, and be prepared for an accident or two. During the first day or two, take your dog out more frequently than you normally would, and reward the heck out of going potty in the new yard (lots of treats and happy talk).

A Vizsla dog lying down with a worried expression

Watch your dog's mood and temperament very closely. If your pup seems scared or anxious after the first few days, that might be a sign that more is needed.

If you need any one-on-one help, don't hesitate to reach out.


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