Moving with a Dog: Shouldn’t a dog just “go with the flow” and adjust to a move?
Ideally, yes. But moving with a dog (or any pet) can be a very confusing and potentially scary. Most dogs are comfortable with a predictable daily routine and a move suddenly changes almost everything in their world. While we can’t explain to them what’s going on with our words, we are able to do some simple things to help them feel less stressed and scared during the big move.
The boxes…Oh, the boxes!
Moving with a dog always means boxes. And, lots of them! Some dogs may be more familiar with the sight of boxes than others. Yours could have a positive association with boxes if you have yummy treats or toys delivered to your home regularly. If so, consider yourself ahead of the game!
Other dogs may be scared of a box or the sheer number of boxes typically needed for a whole house move. Here are some fun, easy ways you can help your dog learn to love the sight of boxes:
101 Things To Do With A Box
An exercise in free shaping which encourages mental flexibility and helps to build a dog’s confidence. All you need is an empty box, some yummy treats and either a clicker or a verbal marker. Learn more at: http://www.clickertraining.com/node/167
K9 Nose Games
A fun scenting game that allows your dog to use his amazing nose to search for hidden food inside a box. You’ll need about six empty boxes of different sizes and some extra yummy food like hot dogs or cheese. Learn more at: http://www.clickertraining.com/harnessing-the-power-of-your-dogs-nose
Agility for Fun
Let’s face it, your house is pretty much an obstacle course during the packing phase anyway. So why not take this opportunity to have some fun with your dog and do a little indoor agility?! Whether it’s in your current home while you’re packing or your new house before you’ve settled in, you can use all those boxes and suitcases as makeshift agility equipment. Please remember, safety should be your number one priority. Do not do anything that could injure your dog. Here are some suggestions:
- Lure your dog with a piece of food to jump over a low box or suitcase laying on its side
- An open box (not taped up yet) on its side can be a perfect makeshift tunnel
- A large, sturdy taped box full of items can make a nice platform to have your dog jump up on and then sit or lie down
- You can even lure your dog back and forth through a row of boxes as if they were weave poles
How to help your dog love his new home:
Sometimes people think moving with a dog ends after moving day. Once you’ve arrived to your new abode, it’s important to remember that your dog may feel scared of where he is and if this new environment is safe. Taking some time to focus on helping him relax and realize your new home is a fun and safe place to be will go a long way in making you both feel better. Here are a few examples of simple activities you can do that will help your dog love his new home.
Allowing your dog to seek out yummy, hidden “treasure” in your new home is a great way to help him create a positive association with the new setting. Before you bring your dog into your new home, hide some extra special (& smelly) treats in several different places. You can also use food dispensing toys like Kongs and Squirrel Dudes stuffed with food. Then bring your dog in and let him explore. If your dog knows a “Find It!” cue, use it. Otherwise, you can point out the first one or two treats to give him the idea and then let him find the rest on his own. Imagine how amazing your new place will seem to your dog when he realizes there could be hidden food around any corner!
Lay a Scent Trail
This is another fun scenting game that allows your dog to use his nose (which works his brain, too). If your new place has a safely fenced yard, drop tiny pieces of food in a path every few inches leading towards the house. Continue this trail into the house until it reaches an extra special yummy treat (different than the others you dropped in the yard) somewhere in the middle or back of the home. Again, this is encouraging your dog to explore the new yard and go inside his new house where he finds something very special waiting for him.
Take “Sniff Walks” Around the New Neighborhood
Your dog recognizes every scent in his own yard or neighborhood and that helps him feel comfortable and secure. If possible, take your dog on a leisurely sniff walk in your new neighborhood or even just your new yard prior to your move. If you can’t do this beforehand, be sure to do it as soon as possible after you arrive. For a new home being built, go when there is no construction. Always remember to take food and a toy to pair these fun walks with their favorite game and/or treat.
It’s important to keep in mind that this walk is for and about the dog. You are not expecting an obedience “heel” or lots of focus on you. The point of the walk is to allow your dog to learn about his new environment in a relaxed and safe way, through his amazing scenting ability. It should be a fun and stress free activity for him because it’s a new experience.
Where should my dog be during the actual moving day?
When moving with a dog, we recommend having them stay somewhere safe and out of the chaos. Depending on your dog, this could be a fun afternoon at doggy daycare, a playdate with a favorite pet sitter or some one-on-one time with a family member or friend in their home. If none of these are viable options for you, you will want to make sure your dog is safely contained in a crate or confinement area with something fun to occupy him (perhaps a frozen, stuffed Kong).
There will be open doors, strange men carrying heavy furniture and weird noises. If your dog is not safely contained at all times, he could bolt out of fear. Always be sure your dog is wearing a secure collar with current identification (remember your phone number may have changed during a move). If your dog is microchipped, please prioritize updating your address and phone number by calling the company or visiting their website. A microchip is useless if your information is out-of-date and you can’t be reached.
Moving day is extremely stressful for everyone in the family. Your dog is no different. Setting aside a little time to include these fun activities will make a big difference for your dog. It also will give you a much needed break from all the pressures of the day. We hope you enjoyed our tips for moving with a dog! Contact us for more information and make sure to follow us on Facebook!
Tiffany Lovell, CSAT, CPDT-KA, AAI, operates Cold Nose College, Space Coast in Brevard County, Florida and offers force-free training and behavior consulting. She specializes in private in-home coaching & training, separation-anxiety training (local & remote to anywhere in the U.S. & internationally) and behavior consults. (321) 757-2059; coldnosecollege.com