Moving house with dogs | Tips to keep your canine calm

dog moving in red car

Moving house is stressful enough for us humans, but especially confusing for our pups. Here’s some handy tips for getting your dog familiar with your new place, so moving day doesn’t come as a shock.

It’s a real shame we can’t tell our furry friends what’s going on. Moving house, for them, can be an incredibly unnatural and scary experience. Dogs originally started hanging around nomadic tribes of humans, following us around, helping us scavenge, hunt and protect camps at night.

These days, our domestic breeds of dogs are much happier to stay put, and call one place home. This can make moving from one house to another a difficult thing for your dog to wrap their head around, especially if it’s their first time.

In this article, we’ll guide you through everything you’ll need to do to introduce your new house to your pup, prepare them for moving day, and keep them comfortable during the transition.

Getting familiar

Our main priority with introducing your new house to your dog is creating positive associations with the space. We want our dog to be excited and relaxed to enter our new home for the first time, and give them plenty of time and space to sniff around and get familiar.

For this reason, it’s a really good idea to take your dog for a visit to the new house before you move in. Bring some of their favourite toys, treats, blankets and beds on your first visit, and lay them around the house. This helps our four-legged friends make sense of the smells, and gets their scent embedded in the house. We’re also letting them know that this is a non-threatening space that they can take ownership of.

Ideally, you’ll want to take your dog on a few visits to the new house before you move in – muck around with a ball in the backyard, let them gnaw on a bone, maybe even take a nap in the living room. It’s also a good idea to take your dog for a quick walk around the new neighbourhood, to give them a better sense of the surrounding environment.

Remember, the key here is getting your dog comfortable in the new house, creating positive associations and letting them take ownership of the space.

A big mistake people often make when moving their dogs into a new home is buying them a bunch of new toys and bedding as bribes. We want to maintain as much of our dog’s smell as possible in the new house, so hold off on the presents until your dog has well and truly settled in.

Needs tips for moving house with kids too? »

moving house pet planning

Security

In addition to making sure your pup stays comfy, we’ll also want to ensure their safety. The first to look for is that the property is completely secured. Block off any holes in the fences or possible escape routes. Even if your dog is generally well behaved, and even used to having the door left open, security is very important when moving into a new home. Particularly in the first few weeks in the new house, no matter how much we make an effort to make our pup feel at home, they are likely to still feel a bit out of place. It’s not uncommon at all for dogs to make a run from their new houses, and find their way back to what they still consider their home.

Check out our article on coping with the stress and anxiety of moving (for humans) »

Child has to deal with anxiety, stress and being emotional when moving into a new home and meeting new people

Moving day

Make plans to keep your dog occupied on moving day. If you can swing it, get someone they know to take them on a long walk or to the park. Get them to run around and burn some energy so they aren’t bouncing around when they arrive. Exercising your dogs before stressful situations – like going to the vet, for instance – can actually help them process the situation and hold their composure.

Try to get as much of your furniture in place in the new house before bringing in your pup. It’s also a good idea to get your moving helpers and anybody else your dog isn’t familiar with to leave before you bring them in. If you can’t have anyone look after your dog while you’re moving, try your best to at least keep them occupied with a bone or chew toy. Pay them lots of attention too – if your dog is feeling uneasy in the new space, they’re likely to be extra clingy, staying close to your side. Give them plenty of pats and make sure they have easy access to water (in their own bowl) and a familiar bed.

The first night may be tough too. It may take a while for your dog to settle and figure out that we’re not returning ‘home’ tonight. If your dog is crate trained, and used to sleeping in a crate, setting it up should help signal to them that it’s nearing bedtime. Try to keep your nightly routine as consistent as possible, feed them the same food they’re used to at their regular feeding time, let them outside to use the restroom before bed, and reassure them with soothing tones and pats frequently.

If your dog appears especially uncomfortable staying in the new house, you may want to consider taking a couple days off work to stay with them. Some dogs do well when left alone, and others suffer from extreme separation anxiety. You should already be quite familiar with your dog’s temperament, which means you’ll be able to gauge how they’ll go in the new house alone. Staying with them for the first couple days can go a long way in communicating that this is their new home, and that they can let their guard down.

If you’re really worried about your dog’s anxiety, or if they have a history of behavioural control issues, get in touch with your vet – they’ll be happy to provide you with more specific suggestions for your particular pup, and in extreme cases, they may be able to prescribe your dog anti-anxiety medication to help with the transition.

Final thoughts

All in all, our main focus is ensuring the comfort and safety of our pups. If you can familiarise them with the environment early, and get them relaxed in the new home, you’re already on your way to a much easier move. Follow these steps closely, and your dog will be settled into their new home in no time.

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Image credit: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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