A move to a new home is stressful on everyone involved, including the pets! Here are some ideas to help make the transition smoother.
Some animals become stressed at the slightest hint of a change. Crates should be re-introduced if the dog hasn’t been in one for a while, and the crating routine should be started a good month or two before the actual change in residence. The best place for a dog while the packing and moving is happening is in a crate, that way, you don’t have to worry if your dog has escaped out an open door; nor do you have to worry about stepping on the dog. Cats can even be put in a cat cage for their own safety.
Before The Big Move
Take your pets to the new home to let them explore their new surroundings even before your things are moved. On leash, walk them through the house and yard outside. Let them smell and explore. For fearful or unsure dogs, have a “bag of tricks” handy to use for distraction, filled with favorite toys and irresistible treats the dog doesn’t normally get. RESIST THE URGE to comfort concerned or fearful dogs! Distract and play instead, and give treats when the dog is acting interested and not fearful. Petting and talking to the dog in a soothing voice only serves to reinforce fearfulness.
Any changes in diet, treats, or basic routine should have happened at least 2 months prior to the move. If you want to make changes, WAIT until at least 2 or 3 months after the move to introduce anything new.
If the pets’ current home is for sale, the best thing to do is to remove all pets during the showing of the house. When I sold my home and moved with my (then) 6 dogs to the country, I packed up ALL SIX of them in their crates in my van and went for a ride every time the house was shown! It did become tedious, but they were safe and out of the house.
On moving day, pets should go to a neutral, preferably familiar area (friend/relative’s house or boarding facility or doggie daycare) to remove them from the confusion, noise, yelling (we all know there will be some of that!). This way, they won’t be frightened or have any possibility of escape during the confusion. While they are away, special projects can be provided to distract and keep them busy. Examples would be stuffed Kong toys, stuffed sterile bones, puzzle toys, or any other stuffable toy that is now available to buy.
After The Big Move
Again, take the dog(s) around the house (keep distracting toys and treats handy – your “bag of tricks”) on leash to let them smell and explore. This time, familiar things will be placed throughout the house, like beds, couches, and the rest of your belongings, and the house will smell familiar.
Keep the dog(s) in small areas at first, where they can be easily supervised. A change as great as a move can confuse dogs. They may have known how to ask to go outside and they may have known where to eliminate at the old home. The new home is a whole new picture for them. Don’t assume they “should know” at first! Backtrack on potty training – show them the door, ask if they have to go outside, accompany them (even have the dog on leash) outside, and praise for eliminating appropriately. Expect “accidents”. Have cleanup supplies handy. Try to be ready so the dog(s) can be corrected and can be shown what is appropriate and expected in the new home.
Even if the dog was free in the old home (i.e. – crateless), plan to use a crate for at least one month and for up to six months or more, assuming the dog was previously crate trained. I thought foolishly that my dogs would adjust well to their new country home. I used a baby gate to confine all but my puppy into a bedroom (the puppy was crated) and left to run a quick errand. When I came home within a half-hour, Ruby had chewed large gouges into the wooden molding around the bedroom window! After that, my dogs were crated whenever I left the house for a year after I moved. Even now, they are crated on and off when I leave. Dogs appreciate routine, and having a comfortable, familiar spot helps the dog adjust.
Signs Of Stress
- Pacing – overall restlessness
- Excessive yawning
- Licking lips (“smacking”)
- Over-reactive to sounds or sights
- More attention-seeking behavior (pushing at hands for petting, jumping up, clawing at your body, wanting to be close and sitting or laying touching part of your body, trying to interact with you requently with toys)
- “Bugged eyes” look
- Increased requests to go outside and come back in
- Destructive behavior (digging at carpet, digging more outside, more chewing of things)
- Loose stools or diarrhea CAN be a sign of stress (or can be sign of health problem, or a change in diet, or eating odd things)
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