Got the house? Congratulations! But that may not be what your dog is thinking… Many people have the misguided notion that their dog will be just thrilled to move because they are getting a bigger, better yard. Or maybe your commute will be shorter so you’ll have more time to spend with them. But with that yard or shorter commute comes new sights, sounds, and smells…not to mention the chaos and stress of the move itself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t move to that wonderful house with a big, beautiful yard for your dog – you just need to manage your dog’s stress levels before, during, and after the move (particularly if you have a reactive or fearful dog).
Having moved twice with my puppy and having coached numerous clients through moves with their dogs, here are five tips to help the process go as smoothly as possible:
1. Use calming aids during the entire process (packing, moving, settling in). This may include using a Comfort Zone or Adaptil pheromone spray or plug-in, Lavendar spray, Valerian drops (I use the alcohol-free version from HerbPharm), Rescue Remedy (or a custom blend of Bach Flower Essences), Calming Music (such as Through a Dog’s Ear), and/or a Thundershirt.
2. Play games with all the moving boxes. You can play “find the toy” or “find the treat” in and around the boxes, or even hide and seek using the cues WAIT and COME! Just make sure that none of the boxes can tumble and fall if they are lightly bumped.
3. If your move is local, take your dog for walks in your new neighborhood before you move in. If you have a fearful or reactive dog, borrow a friend’s calmer dog so that you can find out which houses have dogs that will rush you at the fence, or kids who play in the driveway.
4. Pack all of your dog’s items last, and unpack them first. Set up your dog’s sleeping/resting and feeding areas before anything else, and lead them to it straight away. Be sure NOT to wash anything close to moving time so that it smells familiar. Once they have settled, you can help them explore the rest of their new home.
5. Have lots of patience and love! Your dog may become stressed and forget many things during the moving process – even house training! Be sure to take them out every hour the first day and then gradually increase the amount of time you require them to hold their bladder over the course a week. Also, practice gradual separations and calm departures (and calm homecomings) when you need to return to work so that your dog is less likely to develop separation anxiety from the move. Don’t fawn over them with guilt, but give them plenty of time to adjust to their surroundings. A nightly massage for the first week or two might even help!