Moving can be an exciting time. Usually, it ends up being a pretty stressful time. There is so much to do and think about. And what about your dog? Have you any idea what you are going to do to help them? A change of environment and all the stress associated with a move can negatively impact your dog. Preparing ahead and having a game plan with make things easier for both you and your dog.
The very first thing I would suggest doing is thinking about how your dog’s environment and lifestyle may differ in your new home.
Will there be things your dog hasn’t experienced before?
- hardwood floors
- an elevator
- a yard
- a shared fence with a dog
- a busy street
- a new type of appliance
Your goal is to actively prepare and condition your dog for as many of these new things as possible.
Preparation – The Environment
Look at your list of things that will be new. If you can gently expose and build a positive association with those things ahead of time, that is ideal. Whether you can do that with the actual thing that will be part of your new home or you need to practice in some other context, practicing ahead of time is ideal.
Let’s consider moving into a building with an elevator, for example. Setting up an opportunity to gently expose AND build a positive association to an elevator before you move and need to use one, is an awesome idea.
The more time you allow yourself to do this the easier and more relaxed you can be about it. This will allow your dog the time to gain the confidence needed with the new things he or she will need to adjust to.
Another consideration is the actual size of your new home. If it is larger than where you live presently, then it is best to have a plan of how you will introduce your dog to the new space.
Even though they may have free-run where you live now, it is usually best to restrict their freedom to some degree in the beginning. A typical mistake people make initially is that they provide way too much freedom in the new home. This should be something that is offered as the dog shows they are capable of handling it. Even though they may have great habits in your present home, the anxiety and novelty of the change in the environment often lead to atypical and unexpected behaviour.
Too much freedom can lead to bad habits developing, as it is just as easy for bad habits to be formed as good ones. Too much freedom leaves the dog with too many choices in the beginning and can lead to confusion on the dog’s part. It will also put you into the position of reacting to behaviours that you don’t like or want. Being proactive and focusing on helping your dog make good choices and rewarding them will not only be less confusing to your dog. It will also set them up for success and allow a positive and kind dynamic for your relationship through the transition.
Choose the areas where you will spend time together, such as the kitchen, family room and bedroom (at night only), and keep all other areas off-limits to start. It is the same idea as starting a new puppy in your home.
You should be present with your dog so that you can monitor them and assist them in developing or continuing good habits. When you are not able to actively watch or support them, then they should be managed in some way. These are great times to give them an entertainment puzzle or activity in their safe space.
Your presence and supervision will also help them feel more at ease in the new environment.
Create a Safe Place
In addition to not leaving your dog alone, it is a good idea to set up a special place that your dog can call their own. If you have such a place in your existing home, then be sure to have it set up and ready to use right away in the new home. Consistency is important, so be sure to use the same mat, bed or blankets. Ideally do not wash them right before first use in the new home. Place their bed, pen or crate similarly if possible and be sure it is near where you will be hanging out.
If your dog doesn’t have a safe place already, then you should consider getting them set up to use one before you move.
In addition, think about where you will feed them and where they will sleep. Keep these consistent with what they have been doing so that they have some assurance because these routines have not changed.
Preparation – Lifestyle
Routines provide a sense of predictability and security to your dog. As much as you are able, keep things similar through the transition period. Timing of meals, walks, naps and bedtime should remain the same.
If you know there will be some changes in routine, then ideally begin planning for that before the move. Gently begin making adjustments so by the time you are in the new home, the new schedule has already been in place. Making small shifts from the present routine towards the anticipated one will help you and your dog experience less stress and hassle.
Planning and preparation are such a huge part of setting your dog up for success when you are about to make a lifestyle change. The more time you allow for this, the smoother and less stressful the transition will be for both you and your dog. Moving is already stressful enough, right?
Stayed tuned for part two, for important things to consider for moving day.