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Tis the season for…moving

Or thinking about moving. Or planning to move. Soon.

Your dog, of course, has no idea what cataclysm you are about to inflict on his safe, routine little life. This is tumult of the most alarming kind, in his humble view. He notices that you are distracted. You neglect to walk him. You let him out in the yard and forget to bring him in. His meals are delayed or served too early or once – OMG – missed entirely.

Suddenly, boxes appear in inconvenient and sometimes startling places. There may be long(er) periods of being left alone. Or maybe there is an unexpected and delightful trip to doggie day care. Or to grandma’s house.

Dogs don’t understand the stress we are under as we attend to the hundreds of details that moving house and home requires. Its no wonder, though, that their behavior changes along with our added anxiety. Dogs are, after all, excellent students of human nature.

What?! you say. I have no time to take my dog’s thoughts and feelings into consideration. I have to get my kids’ records copied and over to their new school, cancel the lawn service, return everyone’s library books. The dog is fine in the backyard, out of the way while we pack.

Think of this as insurance, that your dog will be safe during the move, and that her adjustment to your new home will be so much easier. Like less chance for housebreaking accidents, or worse, a runaway or lost dog.

  1. Reinforce basic obedience commands like Sit, Stay and Come with your dog. He’ll be more focused on you and have an easier time learning the boundaries of your new house and yard.

  2. Crating your dog along with some fun toys to occupy him will keep him safe while you are packing. Remember to take him for leash walks throughout the day.

  3. On moving day, consider boarding him at doggie day care, a kennel or with friends so he won’t be underfoot or possibly dash out the door during the moving process.

  4. When you arrive at your new home, take your dog for a leashed walk both inside and outside the home. Keep him confined in a room or his crate to ensure he doesn’t escape while you are busy unpacking.

  5. Replicate his old routine by placing his food and water bowls, toys and bed in the same rooms as in the old house. Now is not the time to get him a new bed that matches the decor. Continue to use the same bed he’s been using so he has a comfortable and familiar piece of his old life.

  6. It takes about three weeks for a dog to become accustomed to a new setting, so try to keep to the same routine your dog has been accustomed to.

  7. Plan to be home with your dog for the first few days after the move.  During these days, begin spending short periods of time away from the house to see how he will respond. That way, when you have to be away all day, your dog will be better adjusted to the home and will feel more comfortable when you’re not there.

  8. Be patient with your dog. Realize that accidents will happen. The more you are able to monitor him and, if necessary, restrict his movements, the less chance for mistakes. If there were pets in the house previously, there may be issues with your dog wanting to mark his territory. Be careful not to correct him excessively, and be sure to praise him profusely when he does something positive. For male dogs that insist on marking their new “territory,” consider having him wear a belly band for the first 3 weeks to a month.

  9. Observe your dog’s behavior. Watch for potential medical concerns such as not eating, diarrhea and coughing, which may be associated with stress. Other signs of stress are pacing, hiding, destroying things and separation anxiety.

  10. Fearful behavior is common when a big change has occurred in a dog’s life. Your dog may be uncharacteristically timid in his new surroundings. Needy or “clingy” behavior is also common. Your dog may be feeling unsure, and so he may try to follow you wherever you go. Remember, you are his most familiar anchor in the new home.

  11. If your dog shows signs of nervousness, try not to overly reassure him. By giving him an unusual amount of attention when he is worried, you can inadvertently communicate to him that there must be something to worry about. Just remain calm and confident. Toys like the Buster® Cube or Kong® may be a good way to entertain your dog and keep his mind focused on something fun.

  12. Check your new home’s surroundings for any dangerous items, such as rat poison, antifreeze, chewable objects or holes in a fenced area.

  13. Research a veterinarian, and plan to visit the clinic with your dog before an actual appointment or emergency visit. Provide the clinic with a copy of your dog’s veterinary records.

  14. License your dog according to local ordinances, update his identification tags, and contact your dog’s microchip or tattoo registry to update your contact information. Place new decals on the doors and windows around your house to alert emergency personnel that there are pets inside.

Understand that your dog will need time to adjust to his new living arrangement, as well as to possible time and climate changes. As he adapts to his new surroundings, he will begin to feel more comfortable and relaxed, especially if he sees that you yourself are calm and comfortable in the new environment.

Be patient with him as he adjusts to his new home. He may take days or even weeks to get comfortable there. Continue to provide an environment of love, comfort and trust, and your dog will soon settle in to his new home sweet home.

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