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Moving with a Dog

February 21st, 2019 - 12:59 PM

Tips for making moving easier on your dog

Where do you take your dog? On trips to the vet? To the local park on the weekends? On family vacations? Even if you regularly make quick trips, a big move can be very different. There’s travel considerations, like finding pet-friendly stops, and preparing your dog for the long drive. And what happens for your dog once you arrive in a new home? Take a look at the tips below to help ensure a smooth move for both you and your pup. 

moving with a dog

Preparing to travel with a dog

Here are some things you can do help your dog handle the journey to a new home like a champ:

Decide on a restraint 

Before you put a dog in the car, decide how to keep them restrained — having them roam around can be dangerous for them and distracting for you! You can choose to use a dog seatbelt or a crate, but moving day shouldn’t be their first time with it. Start using any new restraint several weeks before the move so they can get used it.

Keep them active

Plan to step up exercise a few days before the move. The extra activity should help reduce stress and lessen the potential for acting out — for both of you! Most dogs require between 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise each day, so try to find ways to incorporate at least that much playtime into your schedule. 

Pack a doggy bag

Make a list of all the things a pup will need during the trip. This should include:

  • Dog carrier/restraint
  • Collar and leash
  • A familiar blanket and bed
  • Favorite toys
  • Something to chew on (rawhide, chew stick or chew toy)
  • Food and water (bottled water is best for easy access)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Treats
  • Plastic bags
  • Wet wipes
  • First aid kit
  • Extra towels
  • A clear photo of your dog (in case he gets lost)
  • Medications
  • Paperwork/medical records

Tip: Put all of these items inside the car ahead of time so they won’t be forgotten.

Consider a change of scenery on moving day 

On the day (or days) that you load the moving equipment, the safest and least stressful option for dogs is to be somewhere else. There are lots of doors left open, heavy furniture being lifted, and moving feet that can step on tails and paws. The perfect place is a safe backyard where he can stay until all of the belongings and helpers are gone. If that’s not an option, have a friend or family member take him somewhere else for the day or consider doggy daycare. Bonus: All that playtime may also wear him out for the drive.

Stay consistent during travel
Make every attempt to maintain your dog’s regular schedule for meals, potty breaks, walks and playtime. While humans can handle extended periods of disruption, dogs thrive on structure. It helps them to figure out expectations and build trust. The more you can keep your dog on his regular schedule, the less fear he’ll have about the move. Check your route for parks, dog-friendly restaurants and other places to stop so everyone gets a break (try mobile apps like Dog Park Finder Plus or BarkHappy for ideas). And since dogs are known for the ability to pick up on and respond to their owner’s mood, try to calmly and regularly interact with them during the trip, to reinforce that everything is fine. 

Pro tip: Keep your pet leashed at all times so they don’t run off, unless you’re in a secured dog park or hotel off-leash area. 

Regulate the temperature in the car

It’s easy for dogs to become overheated in a vehicle on a warm day, so put them on the side of the car that isn’t in direct sunlight. This will change during the course of the day, so re-adjust as needed during potty breaks. 

You’ll also want to adjust air conditioner/heater vents so they aren’t blowing directly into a dog’s face, but enough that he can still feel the air in order to stay cool or warm. If you crack the windows, don’t roll them down far enough for them to stick their head out. While your dog may enjoy this, it’s an easy way for debris to enter their eyes or for them to jump out.

Check out more helpful tips, including talking with your vet and exploring other transportation options, in this step-by-step guide to moving with pets

Settling in after the move

One of the biggest things to keep in mind after the move is that your dog won’t understand what’s going on or what’s expected in the new environment. Don’t be surprised by excessive barking, whining, neediness, and other undesirable behaviors, and try not to let their confusion and anxiety turn your own stress into anger. Instead, be calm and consistent, show empathy and use positive reinforcement (immediately praise and reward with treats and affection) to counter negative behavior. Remember, he’s trying to adapt just like you!

Here are some ideas for helping them adjust:

  • Designate a space for his stuff. Just as we have locations for our belongings, dogs need the same consideration. Decide as fast as possible where the dog bed, toys, food and water will be kept so they can begin to feel at home. It’s even better if you can set things up as close to your old home as possible to create a familiar space.
  • Give them a familiar scent. Dogs need familiar smells to find comfort with a new place, so wait a while to wash his bedding. Putting a shirt or another piece of clothing that smells like you in his new space also will help with the transition. Within no time, your fur baby should understand that this his new home, and he’ll be back to his normal self! 
  • Provide mental stimulation. Make your dog’s new home interesting and fun by feeding them from food-dispensing toys and by hiding food around the house (only where you want the dog to be). 
  • Explore safely. Remember that new sights, smells, sounds and people can overwhelm dogs. Ease into the process of getting to know the new neighborhood. And always keep him on a leash when venturing out.
  • Find dog-friendly destinations nearby. If your previous routine involved a trip to the park or a walk to the local café or coffee shop, try to keep that going in your new neighborhood. You’ll both appreciate it.

Want to know more?   

Have more questions about moving with a dog? Just leave us a comment or question below and we’ll be glad to help.