By Jeff Louderback
Almost six years ago, I sold everything I owned except for what I could fit in my car, fixed my dog Boston a comfortable spot on the passenger seat, and embarked on the journey from Florida (where I had lived for 13 years) back to my beloved native southwest Ohio.
Moving is a stressful hassle for humans. Dogs are creatures of habit and routine, so a change in environment can understandably create anxiety. Though we can’t have a conversation with our dogs as we can our children to let them know what is ahead with a new home, we can take steps to minimize the anxiety our dog feels during a move – whether it is across town or 1,000 miles away.
Crate train your dog before moving day
Many dogs adapt to crates, but not if they are stuffed into one for the first time on moving day. Be sure to get your dog acclimated to his crate, preferably weeks before the big day.
Pack up slowly and wisely
Dogs love us, and they love being around us. Do you ever notice how nervous your dog gets when you pull out a suitcase on a vacation on which he is not joining in? Just imagine how stressful it will be when the entire house is packed up. Trainers recommend that conditioning dogs slowly by removing a few boxes and items out ahead of time so they don’t associate those objects with you leaving, and they are not overwhelmed with worry.
Find a pet sitter on moving day
If you have a family member or friend who can watch your dog on moving day, that is ideal. That can minimize the anxiety.
Give your dog extra TLC
We give our dogs plenty of TLC on a daily basis. On moving day, they need an extra dose. Offer encouraging words and don’t forget to pay attention to your dog even amid all of the hectic tasks leading up to being ready to make the drive to your new home. Try to maintain the normal routine of going for a walk, tossing the tennis ball, and giving head scratches and belly rubs.
Prepare your dog for his new home
If you are moving locally, take him for walk in your new neighborhood to get him familiar with the sights, sounds, and smells.
Get your dog anti-anxiety medication and gear
Ask you veterinarian about calming medication for the trip, and try it ahead of time to see how he responds. Antianxiety gear like the Thunder Shirt (www.thundershirt.com) might help your dog feel more comfortable.
Pack what your dog needs
Along with food and water, trainers recommend bringing your dog’s favorite toys, extra towels, bedding and treats for a long drive. Boston was content with his Kong tennis ball, his favorite blanket, and his treats of choice during our move from Florida back to Ohio.
Give your dog plenty of exercise
Since he frequently accompanies me on drives and vacations, Boston is aware that I love to stop and look at roadside monuments and historical markets. That is especially beneficial during a long drive during a move. Remember to stop every few hours and take your dog for a walk so he can conduct his business and burn some energy. If time is not an issue, consider going for a hike at a park. The drive will be more enjoyable for you and your dog if you stop and get exercise.
Make sure your dog has proper ID
Since many dogs are overly stressed during a move, there are stories of some dogs getting lost before, during, or after. It’s important to have an ID tag on the pet’s collar and have your veterinarian microchip the dog for permanent identification.
Stay home often during the first few days
It might take time before your dog knows this is his new home when you arrive. Stay by his side as often as possible the first few days. it’s ideal to not leave your dog alone in the new home for more than a few minutes those first few days so they can acclimate with you by his side. When the time arrives for you to start leaving him, do so gradually. Consider tiring your dog out on a long walk before you leave for a long stretch.
Compassion and patience are especially important during this time. Your dog might do something out of the ordinary – like have an accident inside the house or bark loudly when someone walks by the window. Understand this is a normal reaction to anxiety. It might take a few weeks before your dog adjusts to your new home, so do everything you can to make him content and happy.