Last month, our entire family relocated to Arizona, and I began to notice a significant change in our pups’ behavior. They became visibly anxious and started following me everywhere I went, whether it was during the cleaning and packing process or even a simple trip to the store. It was evident that they sensed something was happening. Unfortunately, many people fail to grasp that pets can be just as affected by a move as humans are, often misunderstanding the situation.
Seeing my beloved dogs in such a stressed state was difficult for me, knowing that stress could have a negative impact on their health, much like it does on people. Determined to alleviate their anxiety, I took it upon myself to research extensively on how to ensure a smooth transition for them. Below are some helpful tips to ensure your dog experiences minimal stress before, during, and after the move.
Familiar Toys/Beds. Even if you plan on giving your dog all new items in the new house, bring along a few of the old that smell familiar. Keep them in the car and have them already installed in the new place, so when your dog gets there, the house will at least have some familiar smells.
Like during the pre-move, make sure you take time to play and give your dog attention during the move. This will help your dog feel at ease and relieve stress.
Before the Move
Don’t fool yourself, dogs know something is up before you move. They are smart and in tune with your lives together. You start packing things up, getting rid of things, rearranging, and deep cleaning. Strange people come in and out as you talk with realtors, have repairs done, or let potential buyers/renters see the place. And, as our schedule gets crazy, your dog’s meal time might start to vary, they may get less exercise and attention, and spend more time in their kennel or a closed room as you try to get things done.
All of these contribute to your dog anxiety before you even leave your old home. Watch for signs of stress and anxiety, including not eating, listlessness, aloofness, whining, going to the bathroom in the house, etc. Here are some tips to help your dog stay at ease pre-move:
Try to keep meal times the same as before. If you worked your dog for their meals, make sure you are still doing that, even if the training session is shorter.
Play with your dog. Nothing stresses a dog out like suddenly being ignored. Make sure you are still giving them attention.
Take them out. Whenever possible, take your pup on outings to get them out of the craziness in the house. If you are having open houses, have your dog go to a daycare they like, to a friend’s, or take them with you when you leave the house so they are not subjected to all the coming and goings of strangers.
During the Move
This is such a hectic time. Whether you are moving across the country or down the street, your dog is going to be stressed. The following tips will help your dog get through the move:
Keep them with you. A lot of people think it’s better to leave their dog at a boarding facility while they move, but this can cause even more stress. Your dog knew something was up prior to the moving day, and now you are dropping them off somewhere and driving away. This can make the situation much worse, so make your plans to allow your dog to stay with you.
It is an absolute must that your dog have ID on them during the move. If they get loose during the move, you may never see them again. It’s best to have two forms of ID – a microchip and a collar and tag.
After the Move
Once you are in the new house, do not forget about your dog’s needs! A common mistake is letting a dog loose in a strange house. Why this is a mistake? Because your stressed and anxious dog is in a new house and they do not generalize rules, meaning it’s a prime opportunity for a bathroom accident of the worst kind – diarrhea and/or vomit. In addition, a loose dog can easily slip out the door and get lost in the new area.
Go back to “puppy rules.” For the first week or two, keep your dog on leash so you can watch them for accidents or chewing. If you are leaving them unattended, put them in a kennel.
Remember their routine and like before the move, stick to it. This will help your dog get comfortable quicker.
Make sure your dog is still getting attention and play even while you are busy unloading boxes. This will help alleviate stress.
Familiar smells. Keep your dog’s bed, toys, water bowls, etc., out there they can smell something familiar that’s “theirs.”
Give the time. Don’t have a house warming party with a bunch of people and your poor stressed dog the day after you move in. Give them time to acclimate to the new place before adding in more stressors. Same goes for getting a new pet, having some come visit/stay, etc.
Avoid added stressors. If your dog hates getting groomed, a bath, a nail trim, etc., don’t do this immediately in the new house. Do all this before the stress of pre-moving begins so you are not adding stress upon stress. Do not move during July 4th if your dog hates fireworks. Nothing like being anxious at a new place and then having loud noises that sound like the world is ending the first night you are there.
We are experiencing what we believe to be an after affect with our boy Misha who is 13. He started having aloof behavior a week ago, 3 weeks after arriving to our new home. Not sure if this is because we have been out of the house almost every weekend or if there is something else going on. We are taking him to the vet to exclude physical issues.
What To Do For Stress
If your dog stops eating, has diarrhea or vomiting, acts nervous, scared, or withdraws and acts aloof, she is suffering from stress and needs some help.
There are several items you can get at your local pet store like calming tablets (make sure they are a natural product), anxiety shirts, hormone sprays with Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP), that can help with stress. In addition, you should take your dog to the vet to get them checked out. Your vet can make sure there is nothing else going on, like giardia, and can prescribe stronger medicine if needed. Above all, watch your dog closely for any health signs (a stressed dog can get sick easily!) and take precautions to make sure they do not get lose in a strange neighborhood.
For more tips to keep your pets stress-free and comfortable during a move; click here.