We’ve all been there. I hate being there. Moving sucks.
But what about your dog?
It’s bad enough when we struggle with the stress and angst of the moving process. Hopefully we get through it with the knowledge that the move will mean new opportunities, a new more appropriate home, or a myriad of other benefits a fresh start can bring. Our dogs however have none of that. All they know is that their world is about to change, drastically. They need our help to guide them through this process to make it as easy as possible.
Usually, hopefully, we have a bit of notice before making a move. This is the time to start getting the dog ready, don’t wait until AFTER you have moved in.
I am constantly talking about the importance of routine, structure, and stimulation. Dogs find the predictability of a daily routine much more comforting than cuddles and kisses. While our culture has embraced hyper emotional displays of lack of work ethic, mother nature has not. Always remember cuddles and kisses do more for you than your dog. If you do not currently have an established routine that your dog follows every day, and it includes a minimum of a 45 minute structured walk, at least one iNTENSE exercise session, and 3-5 brief behavior training sessions, START ONE NOW! If you wait until after your move you have made a mistake that will cause your dog more stress than it should have to deal with.
I need to stress the importance of the previous paragraph. Loving your dog is about giving them what THEY NEED, not what YOU WANT to give them. There is a huge difference and i find a disturbing number of people who practice willful ignorance when confronted with the truth and reality of the situation. If you want to help your dog, you need to understand the value of routine, structure, and stimulation.
As you implement a new more vigorous routine into the dog’s life prior to the move, be sure to have already established what you are going to do AFTER the move. A big part of the adjustment going as smoothly as possible is implementing a new routine immediately upon moving into the new residence.
Know BEFORE moving day, exactly where the dog’s crate or bed area will be in the new home. Have the logistics of your dog’s new life already planned out. Implementing the new routine as soon as possible after the move is complete is essential to minimizing the stress on your dog by quickly establishing routine again. This is far more important than any couch cuddling will ever be.
This is going to be a stressful day, for both 4 and 2 legged family.
There really isn’t much to get around that fact. The best thing you can do is wake up as early as possible and take the dog for a REALLY long walk. A bike ride would be even better. Get in the car and ride to a park, put a long line on the dog, and throw the ball for a bit. At this point the first order of business for the day is getting your dog as exhausted as possible. Remember you are going to be stressed and busy yourself for a majority of the day.
Take care of the dog FIRST before you find yourself making excuses however valid they might be, that ultimately leave your dog having to cope and deal with a lack of stimulation in conjunction with a ton of extra stress.
Once you are ready to get started there is a big decision that must be made before anything else gets started. Is the dog going to be brought to the new house right away, or will the dog be the last trip.
Make sure the dog is the last trip.
Think about this for a moment. Moving day will be hectic. People coming in and out, some of them possibly strangers to the dog. All humans involved are experiencing various levels of stress, frustration, annoyance, and anxeity. If your dog is going to have to smell all of this, let him do it in his OLD home, not the NEW home.
First impressions are so very important for dogs. When they walk into a new environment, like a home for example, they take a snapshot of the experience. That remains their impression of this environment. The last thing we want is for your dog to come into a new and strange place, THEN have to deal with stressed out people coming in and out. Not a good first impression at all.
Once your moving is complete for the day, and all the major in and outs over with, it is time for the dog. Head to the new place and when you get there do NOT go inside. Hopefully the dog’s bed area is all set up so you have one less thing to worry about. Now go for a nice walk. While you might be tired from the day’s work, so what. This is about what’s best for your dog, remember. Spending some quiet, quality time going for a brief journey with your dog will benefit you as well. You could use a lil one on one time with man’s best friend.
The goal here is to help the dog shake off that stress it has been building up throughout the day. The last thing we want is to take a hyper, anxious, and stressed dog into your new home. That would be setting the dog up to fail as all that energy could result in the dog making some mistakes. Then you spend the first 20 minutes of your dogs first impression running around stressed yelling at them.
This is what we DON’T want.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Remember, everything for the dog should be set up ahead of time. Now is not the time to be planning and coordinating logistics as it will only cause you frustration and chances are good you’ll make some bad decisions in the heat of the moment.
As the dog approaches the house and you head to the door, wait. Stand at the door, slowly open it and stand still. If the dog tries to barge into the house, close the door. The idea is to wait until the dog demonstrates the understanding that it cant simply bolt in there. When you have a calm dog politely waiting for permission to come inside feel free to walk in and encourage your dog to follow.
If you have a crate all set, which you should even if your dog is normally loose, head straight to the crate and toss some extra high value treats in there, close the door and walk away. It’s time to let the dog simmer down and get used to the smells. If you were to let your dog simply run all over the new home you are setting the dog up to begin to experience heightened arousal levels that could quickly undue all the work you just put in with walking and training!
Let the dog chill out.
You now have created a super chill and smooth first introduction for your dog in the new home. You also have navigated the most challenging part of moving and helped to significantly reduce the stress the process could potentially cause for your dog.
This was just an outline, a simple example designed not merely to walk you through step by step, but to give you a general idea of how to approach this common experience. Depending on your current routine with your dog, your dog’s personality, and the conditions of the move, adapt what you have learned from the article to your own unique situation.
What is key for success is being able to get from the article what the essential ideas are for making this experience as comfortable for the dog as possible. Having a consistent daily plan for your dog that is based on routinely structured stimulation is so incredibly important. If all you got from this article is that you haven’t been doing that, and now you are going to start, then i’m thrilled. Knowing your dog will be one step closer to feeling truly fulfilled is all I care about.