Moving can be an incredibly stressful time for your dog. In fact, when I meet with owners whose dog is having anxiety or aggression issues (or really any change in behavior), one of the questions I ask is whether or not the family has moved since owning the dog.
As much as we would like to prevent stressing our pups, the reality is that many of us move at least once in our lifetime. It’s somewhat unavoidable. There are things you can do to minimize your dog’s stress during the transition, though!
Before the Move
1) Begin playing nosework games and/or take a nosework class. Nosework is an increasingly popular sport for dogs and humans to play together. It’s recommended for a number of dogs because of the therapeutic and calming nature of sniffing. If your dog is familiar with the concept before the move, you can quickly implement it as you settle in.
2) If possible, take your dog to visit the home a couple of times before settling in for good. Allow him to investigate a bit and then practice some of his training games or nosework in the environment. You can also play with him or allow him to eat his dinner from a puzzle toy. It’s all about building positive associations with the environment.
3) Take time to have fun and relax with your dog. Dogs are very good at reading our body language and emotions. Since moving is often a time of heightened stress for humans, it’s no wonder that our little canine mirrors get tense, too.
Day of the Move
1) Send him to a trusted friend’s home for a staycation the day of the move. Lots of people in and out of the house can be stressful for a lot of dogs—not to mention that he might bolt through an open door!
If you’re moving cross country, or other great distance, give him a staycation the day the movers come to load the truck.
**If your dog isn’t accustomed to staying at your friend’s home, plan a couple of overnight stays before the big day.
After the Move
1) Keep your schedule light. The two to three weeks following the move is not a good time for a vacation, house-party, overnight guests, or (if you can help it) major deadline at work with long hours. Planning to spend a little extra time hanging with your pup will help the transition. Don’t go completely overboard, though, and spend 24/7 with him or you might have problems going back to a regular schedule.
2) Use enrichment. The easiest way to start this is by ditching the food bowl and feeding from toys instead. After that, they sky is almost the limit! Check out the Canine Enrichment group on Facebook for more ideas than you can shake a dog bone at.
3) Understand that sometimes it’s not so much about the new home as it is about the new surrounding environment. If your dog is used to a nice quiet home on acreage and you move to a busy metropolitan apartment, he may struggle with all the exterior noise. White noise machines, radios, and TVs can help block external noise. If your dog is struggling with all the pedestrians outside the house, put temporary film in your windows so he cannot see them as well.
4) Continue with reward-based training games to stimulate his brain.
5) If your dog begins displaying problems behaviors, do not hesitate to bring in a professional reward-based trainer to help. The sooner it’s addressed, the easier it is to fix and the less stress for everyone! You can find qualified trainers at Pet Professional Guild.