Moving to a new home can be stressful. Surveys have even shown that many people list it as more traumatic than a divorce. One family member that will howl-heartedly agree is your dog. Some dogs may be unfazed by boxes and a new den. All they need is you, right? Unfortunately for most dogs, anxiety raises its ugly head during the moving process. Are you preparing for a move? Moving with your dog can be a fun adventure when you take the time to plan ahead and offer your dog personal attention. Easier said than done. We’re not promising that moving with a dog will be stress-free, but we would like to provide some advice on how to help your dog remain calm during the moving process.
Why do Dogs Get Anxiety About Moving?
What’s not to hate? Noisy packing tape, boxes in their space, distracted family members who have no time to play, displaced toys, and a disruption of your dog’s regular routine. We get it – moving is all-consuming! But, for your dog, it’s overwhelming when the house is in chaos for a few weeks. Many dogs struggle with anxiety, and moving with your dog could introduce many triggers that could cause your fur baby to panic.
- Abandonment. Your dog may have a history of abandonment and fear neglect when they see you packing your things.
- Social Anxiety. Many dogs struggle with social anxiety, and moving may mean that you’re hosting yard sales and occasionally have strangers in your home.
- Territorial behavior. With social anxiety comes the fear of new, unknown spaces. Taking your dog to a new location may be their worst nightmare as dogs become territorial of their old house.
- Lack of exercise. Anxious dogs need exercise to ease their stress. When you’re busy packing and organizing, you may not spend time with your dog like you used to.
Signs Your Dog is Anxious
As a pet parent, it’s your responsibility to recognize dog anxiety symptoms and do what you can to help your four-legged family member relax. Since your doggo cannot express their disapproval of the situation, it’s essential to watch for signs that communicate their stress. Typical symptoms that signal your dog’s anxiety may include:
- Housetraining digression
- Hiding and withdrawal
- Disinterest in eating
- Lowered activity levels
- Attempts to escape – time for an ID tag!
- Overgrooming – licking, biting themselves
- Trembling, tucked tail.
Stress can harm your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Combine that with less exercise over a busy season, and you may be setting your dog up for serious health issues. In addition, stress can impact their immune system and gut health. Older dogs that already have health problems may find that the stress of a move further exaggerates their condition. Look out for symptoms of depression in your sensitive pet and avoid overfeeding.
How to Prevent Moving Anxiety
If you’re going to remember one thing from this article, let it be this, spending quality time with your pet will put them at ease when nothing else will, and it will ease your stress too! You may be rushing between things like a full-time job, social responsibilities, and packing up your home. It’s a lot to take on. Not only do you need breaks from the boxes and bubble wrap, but your stressed dog does too! So do yourselves a favor and make sure you take the time every day to go for a walk, sit and play together and stick to your normal routine. If you’re relocating to a new state or country, prevent moving anxiety for yourself by reading up on leash laws, breed bans, local laws on dog vaccination requirements, and off-leash areas. Also, do research relating to Emotional Support Animal laws (if your dog is an ESA) and apply for a new license with a licensed mental health professional if your dog will be traveling or living with you.
Before Moving Day
So, your new home contract is signed, and it’s time to get ready for the new house. Emotions are high – you’re excited about a change, but the idea of packing leaves you wondering where to start.
Show Your Dog Boxes and Tape
As someone who has moved plenty, I can tell you that sourcing boxes for a move can take some time. Whether you buy them from a packing company or recycle boxes from your local supermarket, gradually bring them into your home for your dog to sniff out. It’s not always possible to keep boxes out of sight, so instead, let your dog become accustomed to these unfamiliar items. Create a positive association with the boxes by playing hide-and-seek with your dog’s favorite toy amongst the unpacked boxes. Then, when it comes time to open and pack the boxes, your dog will want to join in on the fun or happily settle alongside you as you do all the hard work. Allocate a corner or room in your home for packed boxes. Set them neatly aside to not overtake your entire home. It will help you stay organized, and your dog won’t feel like the boxes are in their space. Packing tape can be noisy; if your dog is sensitive to loud noises, then rather seal boxes when your dog is out with a dog walker or in another room. Then, reward them for calm behavior.
Do a Home Visit
Of course, vising your new home is only possible if you’re moving into a nearby neighborhood. Taking your dog to visit the new neighborhood, seeing the sites and sounds, and even meeting future neighbors (both two and four-legged) will help your dog become familiar with their new space. Other dogs or new children may be one of your pet’s biggest fears. If you can enter your new home before moving day, then spend some time in the outdoor environment, playing in the yard, and letting your dog sniff around. By planning ahead and creating a positive association with your future home, your dog will acclimatize a lot quicker once you move.
Keep Your Dog Entertained
Your dog needs physical and mental stimulation. It’s good for your dog’s emotional health, immune system, and overall wellbeing. Plan ahead by scheduling a walk with your pet every day, no matter what. If you cannot get out due to the weather, or your pet’s health, or maybe you’re just too tired after a busy day, simply sitting on the floor and playing with your dog will still put them at ease. A tired dog will settle quicker and allow you to get on with your packing. There are many interactive toys that you can introduce to your dog to keep them busy while you pack. A snuffle mat, puzzle toy, robotic game, or ball launcher can also help keep your dog from chewing boxes or getting up to mischief. Many dogs with separation anxiety are simply responding to boredom.
Show Them Lots of Love
Purging old stuff, selling furniture, organizing, packing, and cleaning takes time and effort. It’s easy to neglect your relationships in this time as you focus on your to-do list. However, spending time with your pet is not only good for them, but it’s good for you too. A dog who is showered with love is more likely to have good behavior. When you notice your dog exhibit symptoms of anxiety, take a moment to reassure them. A loving scratch behind the ears (or a little treat) will also reinforce good behavior.
On Moving Day
It’s the big day! Now is the time to cash in those favors offered by family members and friends. Rather than getting your friends to move boxes, ask them to take care of your anxious dog for the day. Removing your dog from the hustle and bustle of moving day is first prize. Until now, your dog may have been relatively calm, but the activity of a moving company may overwhelm them. If moving your dog to a stress-free environment for the day isn’t possible, here are some other ways to keep your dog calm on moving day:
Keep Them Calm
It is possible. Rather than having your dog underfoot on moving day, settle them in a bathroom or area that’s clear of items. Put your dog’s bed and favorite toys in the room with them, along with some fresh water and their food. Only place your dog’s goods in a crate at the last minute. When you have a moment, take some time to sit and play with your dog for ten minutes, or get them out of the house for a toilet break and a quick power walk. Hiring your pet’s favorite dog walker is also a great solution to let them walk off some nervous energy.
Try a Calm Vest
A calm vest is a jacket for dogs that provides gentle pressure (like a hug). It may help your dog by relieving anxiety on moving days. Your dog can wear the jacket all day, but make sure the fit is comfortable. Allow your dog to wear the anxiety jacket before the actual move so that they are used to it for the big day.
Use CBD Oil
CBD oil from hemp is a natural product with numerous benefits. Research by The Brightfield Group has shown that over 64% of pet parents give their dogs CBD to reduce overall stress and dog anxiety. In addition, giving your dog a CBD product for a few days before the moving day will help your dog settle, improve their sleep and promote relaxation.
Give Them Something Familiar
Moving is an excellent opportunity to get some new stuff. While the dog bed may need an upgrade, hold off buying new items until you’ve had a few months in the new environment. Keep familiar things, even if they are rugged and old, as they will provide a comforting scent for your anxious dog.
In Your New Home
Congratulations, the hard part is over! Now for the unpacking and getting to know your new neighborhood. But, first, help your dog adjust to your new house with these tips:
Keep Your Old Routine
Be sensitive to your dog by sticking to your dog’s routine. If your dog’s expecting to go for a walk first thing in the morning or they know that your Netflix-and-chill time is their snuggle time, stick to these habits to provide familiarity. Relocating for a new job might mean that your schedule has to adjust, but where possible, keep some old routines in place and gradually adjust them later.If your new home has more space, let your dog adjust before adopting a new dog or welcoming new family members. Introducing anyone too soon will only exasperate their anxiety.
Give Them a Spot in the House
If your dog is used to being in your bedroom or on their dog bed in the lounge, give them a similar spot that they can retreat to when they need to feel safe and secure. Placing your dog’s house in the new outdoor environment can encourage them to go outside and explore.
Bring Out Their Toys
In the chaos of the actual move, make sure you place your dog’s items in your car or a marked box. Let it be the first thing you unpack in the new home. Your dog’s anxiety can be significantly eased by the presence of their favorite fluff pal or chew toy. Add some fun, new toys to the mix to reward positive behavior.
Show Them Patience
If your fur baby is looking scared or anxious, get onto your dog’s level and reassure them. Your anxious dog will grow to love the new space at its own speed. Even dogs take time to adjust, and you cannot hurry them. Some dogs will be happy in their new home within days, while others may need weeks or months to settle.
Ease into Separation
The world has seen a significant shift to remote working. If possible, work at home for a period until your dog seems settled. You want to avoid separation anxiety, so if you’re able to take your dog to the shops, the office, or pet-friendly restaurants, then do so.After some time, you can ease into separation. Make time at the new house fun for your dog so that they’re desensitized to the isolation when they’re left alone. Proving them with new toys, calming music, doggy TV or interactive dog devices can keep them distracted while you’re out of sight.
Use Calming Devices as Needed
There is no harm in providing emotional comforts for your dog when they need it. Just because the move is over, it doesn’t mean they’re anxiety-free. Your dog can utilize CBD products and an anxiety jacket on an ongoing basis. If you’re meeting new people at the park or adjusting to a loud neighborhood or a country with storms, your fur baby will need their calming devices to desensitize them to the change.
Moving With A Dog, Our Final Thoughts
Researchers have shown time and time again that dog owners are happier and healthier than those without dogs. The bond between humans and dogs leads to less stress, emotional support, improved health, and companionship. By taking mental health breaks with your dog amongst the packing and getting the endorphins and oxytocin flowing, you and your dog will feel happier and at ease. While you show some love to your anxious dog, they’ll, in turn, be your emotional support animal during your relocation. When pet owners are at relaxed, dogs are too. With time, patience, and some tender loving care, your dog should settle into the new environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for a dog to adjust to a new home?
Your anxious dog will grow to love the new home at its own speed. Some dogs will be happy in their new home within days, while others may take weeks or months to settle.
How can I help my dog with anxiety when moving?
First, get your dog a calm vest that provides gentle pressure (like a hug). It may assist your dog by relieving stress during moving days. CBD calm bites, familiar toys, and affirmation can also help to keep them calm.
How do you settle a dog into a new home?
First, be sensitive to your dog by sticking to your dog’s routine. Allocating them a space in the new house and providing them with familiar items will also help them settle.