Moving to a New House? Here's How to Handle It with Your Dog in Tow
The upheaval of building boxes, stashing them with all of your belongings, and transporting them to a new home is enough to spike anxiety levels in most humans—but for pups, who don't have a clue what's going on, the sudden disarray can be particularly jarring. Not to mention their territorial tendencies and affinity for a regular routine, both of which are bound to be uprooted by a move. "Dogs can often pick up on cues that things are changing and tend to be weary of that," says New York City-based veterinarian Lisa Lippman.
To allay potential anxiety, Lippman suggests taking these precautions throughout the move process.
Before the Move...
Channel all the calmness you can muster. Fido will feed off of your energy first and foremost, so it's important to act as you usually would. In that same vein, regulate what you can: Make a point of sticking to your dog's usual walking and eating schedule, even as your own day-to-day routine starts to shift. "You'll also want to gather and tape up boxes and bring out suitcases a couple weeks before you normally might, in order to start desensitizing your dog to the sights and sounds of moving," says Lippman. Consider hiding treats in and around these items to encourage your dog to explore and instantly generate a positive association with their presence.
If you're heading somewhere nearby, take an advance trip with your dog in tow, and give him time to sniff out his future neighborhood, either mapping out a potential walking route or playing in a local dog park. Safety-wise, ensure your furry friend is microchipped and collared, and that the information is updated with your new address, so he can be easily returned if he strays during the move. If you're relocating somewhere far enough that you'll have to find a new veterinarian, seek out recommendations or scan reviews of doctors in your new area ahead of time, and gather copies of your pup's records from your current veterinarian to pass along. Depending on the state (or country) of your new home, you may also need to procure a health certificate showing that he's up to date on vaccinations.
During the Move...
The combination of heavy furniture being lifted, people moving swiftly through your home, and lots of propped-open doors does not bode well for a dog scrambling underfoot. To keep him safe and free of injury, it's best to set him up with a friend or family member for the few hours when you're removing all of your belongings from your house and loading them for transport. "This process also tends to surface a lot of dust and debris, which you don't want him eating either," says Lippman. (If it's not possible to have him elsewhere, keep him in a crate or a quiet room where he's farthest from the hustle and bustle.) Then, when you're ready to hit the road, scoop him up, ensuring he's secured in an approved kennel or carrier if you'll be traveling by plane.
To manage day-of jitters, Lippman also suggests setting your dog up with pheromones via an Adaptil collar, plug-in, or travel spray ($12.59, chewy.com). "These items release a particular scent that matches the calming pheromones given off by dogs' mothers when they're young," says Lippman. "You won't be able to smell it, but it can quickly help diminish his nerves."
After the Move...
Once you've arrived at your new place, drop a couple of your dog's favorite treats in each room, and with him comfortably leashed, let him lead an exploration of the space and uncover the rewards. The instant dose of positivity helps tell him, "you're safe here." While you or your movers are loading all of your items into the home, keep him out of harm's way again—safely crated or baby-gated in a room until everything has been dropped off and big pieces of furniture are in place.
Just as you did in the days leading up to the move, stick as closely to his typical schedule as possible, ensuring his regular walks and meals are not neglected in the flurry of unpacking. And if you'll be switching to a new vet, visit him or her as soon as possible, so that you have a relationship established should your dog get injured or ill during those first few weeks in your new digs.