Someone recently asked me if we were “chronic movers”. I never heard that term before, but I reluctantly answered yes. Six years is the longest we’ve lived in any one home.
In my 22 years of married life, we’ve moved 7 times. Yikes, that seems crazy as I write that! With the exception of our move from Illinois to Wisconsin, we have had dogs moving with us each time. So, am I an expert and moving with dogs? Maybe not, but I do have a lot of experience with dogs moving and adjusting to a new home.
This spring we found a house on 5 acres, a backyard of any dogs dreams! We decided it was time to downsize our house and upsize our backyard. So, I guess you can say we moved for our dogs. They now have their own personal dog park in our backyard! I always want to make sure to limit the anxiety of moving to a new home for our dogs.
I’ve put together this list of our experiences of moving with our dogs, experiences with a dog that is stressed from moving, a dog that exhibits anxiety when moving to new home and my personal tips of moving with our dogs. I hope this helps your next move go smoothly and as stress-free as possible… for you and your dog.
With my own stress level on high, I know our dogs picked up my anxiety. But I did make sure to keep their routine the same, breakfast and dinner was served at the same time every day, we still took our daily walks, and we made sure we gave them extra hugs and kisses.
Even with the routine staying the same, the dogs watched us as we moved our belongings into moving Pods all week long. They knew something was up, and wouldn’t let us out of their site. I wish I could read their minds, I wish they could understand when I told them we were moving for them, that they were going to have their very own dog park in their backyard. But I fear they feared the worst, that we were going to abandon them, and all I could do is reassure them that in a few days they’d understand.
After we moved into our new home, we continued to keep their routine the same. Breakfast and dinner at the same time, we walked at the same each night after dinner (although this time for us, it was in our backyard). We even added extra playtime and exercise.
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As I mentioned above, you and your dog are going to be stressed, honestly, there is no way around that. But there are ways you can reduce the anxiety level. With exercise, natural calming products and anxiety shirts for dogs can all be beneficial.
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Exercise releases endorphins for humans and dogs. Take long walks or go for a run anytime you start feeling overwhelmed. It will help you and your dog stay calm. Play an extra 10 minutes in the backyard, train some basic obedience for 5 minutes, or play your dog’s favorite game. The exercise part was huge because by the end of the day both dogs were exhausted… I don’t think they had time to be stressed.
Thundershirts, hemp oil, essential oils, this list can go on and on… enough for its own article. I’ve used the ComfortZone Calming Vests for our dogs and they seem to work. I’ve also used essential oils with success. Every dog is different, so you will need to make this decision for yourself. Research each product and decide which will be the best fit for you and your dogs’ needs.
If your dog has anxiety issues on a normal day, you may need to consider prescription drugs to help him stay calm during your move. Talk to your vet about the best solutions for you and your dog.
Moving day without any doubt is the most stressed day of the entire moving process for you and your dog. We’ve used just about every method of moving, from moving ourselves, to hiring professional movers, to using moving Pods.
The least stressful method of moving for me as a human was using professional movers. I didn’t have to lift any boxes or heavy furniture… just direct 4 strong men to do it for me. For our dogs, the act of having strangers in our house taking our stuff away was pretty stressful. But I was able to take some time out of my supervisory position to spend with the dogs calming them, reassuring them all was going to be okay.
The first time we had movers I kept our dogs in an empty room to ensure they didn’t escape the many open doors. They barked a lot and acted very stressed out with this process. The second time we had movers, I sent our dog JJ to doggy daycare (see Tip #4).
Moving by yourself may be the least expensive way to move, but you have to have a few strong men willing to help. We’ve moved ourselves more than any other moving option. I think it was the least stressful for our dogs, as it was only us and people they knew.
Again, keeping the dogs in an empty room so they don’t run away is important. Even though our dogs know to stay in their yard and would never run away, with all the anxiety, I wouldn’t want to take the chance of them freaking out and taking off.
On this last move, we decided to try the moving pods route. We knew we didn’t want to move all of our belongings into the new house since we have a lot of remodeling to do. It took two weeks to move our belongings into the Pods. Our dogs watched and the dog’s anxiety level increasingly grew over the two week time period.
Honestly, I’m not sure I would do this route again, it was a lot of work and seemed to stress our dogs out for a longer period of time. At least when moving all in one day, whether it’s by yourself or a moving company, it’s done and over in 10 hours or less.
If your dog already attends a doggy daycare or you have a trusted boarding facility, I’d highly recommend this route. Or even better, if you have a family member or friend that watches your dog when you are out of town or something, moving day would be a great time for your dog to take a little vacation.
The second time we had hired movers, I sent our dog JJ to doggy daycare. Even though doggy daycare in itself was stressful for him, I think it was less stress than watching the movers take our house apart. I was able to drop him off early on moving day and pick him up at the end of the day when we had all our stuff into the new home.
Alright, there are some basics to go over when moving with any pet.
When you first arrive at the new house, let him explore outside. On leash, bring him around the entire house, let him sniff, mark, whatever he wants. While your dog is exploring, you should also be exploring any hidden dangers in the yard. Check the fencing, gates, any poisonous plants or other dangers.
Once he calms down from the initial excitement, you can bring him inside, still on a leash. Restricting your dog’s access to the entire house is key to keeping him less stressed. Depending on the size of your new home, introduce your dog to one area of the home at a time. Show your dog his food and water bowls, his bed, crate, toys, everything that is familiar to him to let him know this is his home now.
Don’t be surprised if your dog does not want to eat, has diarrhea or has potty accidents. All these are normal for a dog under stress. Give him several days to calm down and adjust to his new home.
Now that we have been in our new house for almost two weeks, the dogs are settling in and becoming more and more comfortable. They absolutely love the 5 acres we have for them to play and run in. They have been exhausted by the end of every day… goal achieved!
Thinking back, would I have done anything differently? Maybe. The last time we moved, we hired movers and put our dog JJ in doggie daycare for moving day. Even though he was stressed watching us pack up, he didn’t experience the actual move, which I think really helped. Next time we move, hopefully not for a really long time, I think I would opt to do that instead of the Pods route. I feel it would be less stressful for the humans and dogs alike!
I want to hear your moving stories… comment below and I will be sure to respond as soon as possible.
Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, three dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.