Moving With a Dog: Tips and Tricks

By: Orvis Staff


The stress of modern life can be amplified when a dog’s world is upended by a move
Photo by Phil Monahan

Moving is one of life’s top stressors, and dogs are known stress reducers. Put the two together, and it should be a wash, right? Unfortunately, no. Moving with a dog complicates relocating, and the process is as tough for your furry best friend as it is for you. Dog anxiety during and after moving is common. But you can make moving with a dog easier on every family member, whether they’ve got two legs or four. Here are things to keep in mind and concrete steps to take:

Your Dog Knows Something’s Up

You may think your dog is happily oblivious to the impending move, as you fret about the umpteen things you have to accomplish to make it happen. In reality, he’s probably noticing the changes—whether pronounced or subtle—occurring around him. Suddenly, there are strangers parading through his home on weekends for open houses. There are boxes appearing in every room. His person is distracted and feeding him dinner later than usual. This can be distressing for dogs, and particularly for those who are sensitive or anxious.

Size Up Your Dog

Some dogs are laid back and can handle a fair amount of hubbub. Others get anxious when new people enter their house, or their owner is distracted. You know your dog best. Think back on how he has handled previous unfamiliar situations and what steps you took to keep the peace. If he becomes anxious when there’s a lot of activity, your dog may need to spend time with a family member when the movers are in the house. If he’s easygoing, spending time in his dog crate with a puzzle toy may be enough to keep him happy on moving day.

Maintain Your Dog’s Schedule

It’s unrealistic to keep your schedule exactly as it was before deciding to move, but try your best to sustain your dog’s routine. Focus on mealtimes and walks, which are usually the most consistent parts of a dog’s day. By keeping those at the same time throughout the move, you’ll provide consistency, reduce his anxiety, and you won’t need to re-establish a routine at your new house or apartment.

Few people find moving fun, so they rush through the unpleasant process—spending entire days packing and purging—and put day-to-day living on the back burner during the move. Instead, consider scheduling time each day to focus on moving and commit to stopping when the scheduled time is up. This is easier said than done, but it will help minimize stress for your dog and for you. (Psst. This is good moving advice even if you don’t have a dog.)

Make Time for Playtime and Snuggles

Sure, this is doubling down on the above advice, but it’s important! Stop packing. Take some deep breaths. Go for a walk with your dog. Relax in the backyard and play a few rounds of fetch. Watch a movie while giving your dog a tummy rub or scratching behind his ears.

If your move has to happen fast, or if you are doing most of the heavy lifting alone, enlist help. Ask a family member or a friend your dog loves to come and spend some quality time with him during the move. This will keep him happy and out from underfoot.

Don’t Toss Your Dog’s Stuff

Before moving, many people feel inspired to jettison a lot of the things they’ve accumulated in their current home over the years. This is a good instinct when it comes to yourself. All that stuff taking up space in the back of the closet that you haven’t looked at for a decade? You probably don’t need it, and heading to the donation center is wise. But now is not the time to throw away your best pal’s favorite dog toys, even the ones that have seen better days. If he plays with them regularly, carries them to his dog bed, or collects them in his dog crate, they matter to him and will comfort him in your new home. Smell is one way your dog recognizes familiar things, so don’t throw his stuff into the washer when it’s almost moving day, either. If you’re committed to a fresh start—one without your dog’s malodorous accessories in tow—get the new dog bed and toys as soon as you know you’re moving so they have time to smell like home.

Relocate Safely

Any move, whether it’s a few towns away or across the globe, brings up safety issues for your dog. Here are important safety considerations for the transition:

  • Update your information — Before moving to your new home, make sure to update the contact information on your dog’s personalized collar or on his dog tags. If he is microchipped, you must also update your new address in the database. Your dog will be unfamiliar with his new neighborhood and more nervous than usual, and you’ll be distracted. There’s an elevated risk your dog will run off during this transition period.
  • Mode of transportation — Plane travel is unsafe and even prohibited for some dog breeds, such as those with short snouts. Contact airlines to make sure your dog is able to fly safely. If you are driving with your dog, be sure to bring water in the car and never leave him in the car alone.
  • Beware of boxes — Clearly label any moving boxes containing cleaning supplies or foods that can be dangerous for dogs. This way you won’t accidentally leave one of them on the floor where your dog may chew through the cardboard.

Take Time to Settle In

If feasible, take a few days off after the move to unpack boxes and spend time with your dog in your new digs. Ease into having him spend time alone, to minimize the risk of separation anxiety. Take long walks with your dog to get to know your new neighborhood and neighbors, and find local parks, dog parks, and hiking trails. Give your dog plenty of time to follow his nose and explore his new surroundings, both inside the house and outdoors. Establish your dog’s den within your home. Set up a cozy spot for his dog crate, bed, and toys, preferably in a common area where the family gathers. Spend time together, playing in the yard, and relaxing in your new home.

Moving is a disruptive event in the life of humans and dogs. But when you are conscious of the biggest problem areas, you can ease the transition to your new digs for both of you. It’s also helpful to remember through the whole process that no matter where you and your dog go together, or how you get there—you’re home.

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