Dogs like routine. Stability. Unless you’ve worked flexibility into their routine, moving can be a huge deal. Think of all the stress moving causes you alone! You can triple that for a dog who’s cautious about change. Luckily, there’s some easy things you can do to set your dog up for success.
1) Drive to and walk your dog in different places.
If your new home is pretty close by, take your dog to that neighborhood to walk around, explore the sights and smells. By the time you move, that place is already familiar, easing any stress that might occur.
But if your new home is too far away, take your dog out to a variety of places to build up flexibility. Drive to a nearby school or park, and walk around the area there. Switch it up for different walks. Choose places that involve taking the highway, back roads, city roads or neighborhood roads, at different times of day. Of course, buckle up your dog in a certified seatbelt on the way there and back!
Giving your dog these new experiences, means that when you actually make the move, it’s just another adventure. Nothing too scary.
2) Involve your dog in the purging process.
You might think it’s better (and easier) to have your dog go to daycare for the day while you clean out your place. After all, this is a big job! For some dogs, this works just fine.
But a different method is to let your dog see what’s happening, perhaps even take part in it. Let your dog sniff the boxes and the items being put inside. You could even make a game out of it and have your dog retrieve the item then drop it in the box! After a while, the novelty is gone. Seeing boxes stacked up around the house becomes a norm.
“Oh, mom’s putting things in boxes again? Boring. I’m going back to bed.”
3) Create a safe space and keep your dog busy.
At some point, you’re going to have a lot of commotion happening. Maybe someone’s coming to pick up a pile of boxes for charity, or maybe the movers are loading up the furniture. Maybe you’re moving all by yourself and are going to be continuously in and out of the house.
Regardless of what’s going on, all the movement can surely stress a dog out. Have a safe space set up, whether that’s a bed, a crate, or a room gated off. Then give your dog something to do, but be sure that your dog can be trusted with it, unsupervised for short periods of time.
Maybe give your dog a knuckle bone, or frozen Kong. If your dog tends to swallow bully stick ends, stick it in a Quizl to prevent that from happening. Throw some kibble into an IQ ball. Hide treats around the room. Heck, hide all of these things around the room for a big scavenger hunt to buy you more time.
Basically, give your dog a safe, happy space, untouched by the hustle and bustle around.
4) Keep positive energy.
Dogs are empaths. They really do sense how you’re feeling. If you’re stressed, you can bet your dog will be too. It just might not be super noticeable while you’re worried about all the other things.
But if you’re jamming out to your favorite tunes, embracing the entire moving process and are excited for it, you can bet your dog will be too.
If and when you find yourself stressing out, take a minute to grab yourselves a treat. Yes, you and your pup should take a break. Have a little ice cream, share a pizza, and just breathe. It's important for your sanity.
Don't worry, in the end, it’ll all be just fine.
How We Used These Tips:
For an anxious dog, River handled this move like a pro. I've never been more convinced about how much your energy can impact a dog until this.
4 months ago, I sat on my cluttered living room floor, contemplating what to do with my soon-to-be over apartment lease. I've wanted to live in a rural setting for as long as I could remember, and was getting to my wits end in the city. River needed space, and I needed to drive, out on the open road surrounded by nothing but cows and grass.
Beyond that, I've had the urge to travel the country to spread awareness for dog seatbelt safety ever since Piper died. We may be in a pandemic, but life is still moving along, and it feels like we could finally be on a slow uphill climb out. So, I trusted my gut and decided to do this.
I planned out the move over that 4 month period, clearing out one space at a time. Sometimes River wanted to check it out, and sometimes she just slept. Regardless, I always made sure she saw what was happening. I gave away everything except what would fit in my car!
When Donation Nation came to take the furniture away (I highly recommend them if you're in the DMV area), River sat in her crate, door open, behind a gate with lots of treats. She supervised the whole thing and was the calmest I've ever seen her with someone entering the apartment. Usually she would go bark crazy, tail pointed and stare you down so hard you could feel it any which way you moved. But this time, she had her safe spot, got to see what was going on and had treats. What was there to be anxious over? Evidently nothing.
To my delight, the emptier the place got, the happier she and I became. Energy matters. River became more playful, more cuddly, and we thoroughly enjoyed each other's company. Little Miss Independent wanted to actually hang out with me!
There were definitely stressful moments though. We tackled it by taking a break with Chick-Fil-A chicken nuggets (don't tell my aspiring vegan side) and episodes of Chicago Fire. Or hopping in the car and going for a walk in a different neighborhood, which helped River learn to control her excitement in new places. Pressing pause on an activity when you hit a wall really does speed you up in the long run. It preserves your strength and brings out positive energy!
Moving day was challenging though. Evidently I had not yet learned how to play car Tetris. I alone hauled stuff from the apartment, down a long hallway and to the garage, back and forth, all night long. What did River do? Sleep in her safe space until I was ready for her. Not one peep, not one massive bark came out from this dog!
I fully expected severe anxiety from River over the course of the last 4 months, but it really wasn't bad at all. (Well, there was the actual car ride. Stay tuned for that unpredicted fiasco)!
So if you're getting ready for a big move, or even just preparing for a trip, give these tips a go. They work!