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Moving with a Dog: How to Help Your Dog Adjust to a New Home

By Lea Jaratz

young couple unpacking with their yorkshire terrier

Moving is one of the most stressful and anxiety-inducing experiences we face. Imagine how our pets, who have no say about their new surroundings, must feel. One day they find their owner packing belongings in boxes, and the next thing they know, strangers are stealing their furniture, putting it into trucks, and hauling it to a completely foreign place. It’s a wonder dogs still love us after we put them through the stress of moving, but there are lots of steps you can take to help your dog adjust in a new home.

Introducing Your Dog to Their New Home

Start slowly with this step. Take your dog along for a visit when you get to do a walk through or if you go to start working on the new house. Let them explore, sniff, and take it all in for a bit, then head home to let them rest. This gives your dog a chance to check out their new surroundings slowly but still decompress in a familiar place.

Make the first visit a positive one. Bring treats, offer lots of reassurance and praise, and help your dog feel confident with the adjustment.

Unpack Their Favorite Things First

Once moving day comes, unpack their security items first. Their crate, bedding, favorite toys, bowls, and treats can come off the truck right away, signaling to the dog that all of their special things will be in their new home.

Tire Them Out

Take your dog on a long, slow walk around the new neighborhood, letting them mark and sniff where their new neighbor dogs have been. The exercise will help release the stress of moving, and they’ll be much more relaxed while you’re settling in.

Offering your dog a healthy outlet through a chew toy or enrichment feeder can also go a long way to put a positive light on the new home while also helping your dog release frustrations.

Take Care of Yourself

Your pet will respond to your stress levels before, during, and after the move, so do your best to eat, sleep, and stay hydrated so that you can be your best for your dog when they need you. Take breaks to clear your head when logistics, finances, or emotions are getting to you – even if it’s just taking your dog out in the yard. Petting your dog and getting exercise together will not only strengthen your bond but it’ll do you both some mental and physical good.

Tips for Moving with a Puppy

Moving with a puppy combines two of the most stressful yet exciting things there are. While puppies tend to settle in quickly, you can make it easier on both of you with a little planning ahead.

Make sure you have a strategy for how and where the puppy is going to do their business and take them for extra potty breaks to show them the new routine. Allow them extra time for their bathroom visits at first as they’re likely to be extra curious in their new yard, and could make you late to work if you don’t plan ahead. Don’t forget to puppy-proof the new home by checking for chew hazards and installing locks where you’ll be storing any chemicals or medications. If the yard is fenced, check to make sure there are no gaps or loose boards that they can wiggle through.

Fortunately, the excitement is probably enough to make your puppy fall asleep early on moving day, so enjoy the peace and quiet while you can.

Tips for Moving with a Senior Dog

Moving can be especially stressful for a senior dog, so having their comfort items, or something that smells like you, is especially important. Even if they don’t go in their crate often, it might not hurt to set it back up for them so they have a safe place if the new surroundings are too overwhelming.

The new home might pose some mobility risks too, so make sure your dog can handle the stairs, or has alternate ways to go in and out if need be. If they aren't used to smooth flooring, it can help to put down runner rugs to help them with their footing. Try to keep your routine as similar as possible.

With all dogs, but especially seniors, make sure their ID tags or microchip data is updated with the new address. Confusion or cognitive issues can make a senior dog more likely to run, possibly even heading back towards the old house.

Home is wherever you and your dog can be together. With a little planning, you’ll find that you and your dog can support each other as you enter the next chapter of your lives.

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