Moving? Help Your Dog Prepare for the Move

Moving House. Funny Dog On BoxMoving is a major stressor for everyone. All that packing, coordinating logistics, schedule disruptions, last-minute surprises. Yikes! It’s enough to cause even the strongest among us to get weak in the knees. Just imagine how your dog feels, too!
Your dog’s environment becomes completely chaotic and his usual stress-relieving activities, such as play and walks may suffer temporary disruptions. These types of changes can trigger behavior changes in your dog that could become permanent, and not necessarily for the better. Moving can exacerbate a dog’s inherent anxieties, It can trigger an onset of separation anxiety. Your dog may respond aggressively to the new environment, people and other animals.
But you can help prepare your dog for this life-altering event by planning ahead.
As you begin the process of packing, use packing boxes in play
  • Play agility games with boxes and suitcases. Before taping the bottom together, use a box with open top and bottom as a tunnel your dog can go through. Have him climb on low boxes filled with items or jump over them. Basically, set up an obstacle course for him with the boxes and make a game out of running through the course, letting him earn yummy treats with each obstacle. Please be sure that the boxes are stable and do not represent an injury or scare risk.
  • Play some K9 nose games that allows your dog to use his most magnificent ability: the sense of smell. Hide high value treats or favored toys in some of the boxes and let him discover the treats by exploring around a field of boxes in your living room.
  • Play “101 Things to Do with a Box,” a free-shaping game which encourages exploration and helps build a dog’s confidence. You will need a low-sided box, bigger than your dog, some yummy treats, and a clicker or word marker. For more information, click here.
  • Consider how your departure routine will change when you are in your new home. What will be exit points? Where will you keep shoes and bags? Where will the cars be parked? Will your dog be able to see and/or hear car remote locking/unlocking, car doors opening/closing, garage door opening/closing, engine starting, etc.? If so, plan now to desensitize him to all those things right from the start.
On the big packing and moving day(s)
Packing and moving is stressful for everyone: both humans and dogs. It is best to get your dog out of that situation entirely. Depending on your dog, that could mean going to dog daycare, spending the day with a favorite pet sitter, visiting a friend or family members, or a playdate with dog buddies. Be sure to get the packed boxes out of the home before he returns.
If none of these options is viable for you and your dog, be sure to have your dog safely contained in a crate or other confinement area with something fun to occupy him (such as a stuffed and frozen Kong). Also play the Through a Dog’s Ear music for calming and to block sounds. Be sure your dog is wearing a collar and/or harness with current identification and contact information (remember your phone number may be changing during this move). There will be open doors, strange people carrying heavy furniture and weird noises. If your dog isn’t safely contained during the move, he could become spooked and bolt out of the house.
At the new house
  • Take your dog there before you move. Play games with him there: K9 nose games (treats in boxes or in obvious hiding places), hide & seek, favorite toys and chews, trick training, etc.
  • Set up his confinement area and play with him in there, as well.
  • Have a doggie friend join you at the house and let them play together inside and outside (if fenced).
  • Have his familiar toys and bedding at the house all set up for visits ahead of move-in, as well as for the day when you will be fully moved in and living there.
  • If possible, have boxes unpacked before move-in day. Any boxes remaining should become part of the play, such as the obstacle course, hide and seek, K9 nose games.
  • Go on “Sniffaris” around the new neighborhood or your new yard. Make it a leisurely stroll, letting your dog sniff every square inch of the new neighborhood, if he desires. Take the walks before moving in, as well as after the move. If you are building your home, go when there is no construction activity, such as the weekend.
  • Use DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) diffusers at the new house in your dog’s confinement area and bedroom (places he will spend the most amount of time. For more information on DAP, please refer to this web article. We recommend the Adaptil brand of DAP products. You can find them at local pet stores or on Amazon.
  • If your dog has separation anxiety and you have been working your systematic desensitization training, drop the criteria for missions significantly for the short term.

Give your dog some time and space to acclimate to his new environment, but avoid isolation. Have favorite friends come visit so the new home has those wonderful associations built from the start. If you see your dog is having trouble adjusting to his new environment and you are unsure how to help him, call a qualified positive reinforcement trainer to help.

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