22 Tips for a Stress-Free House Move For Your Dog

We all know that moving house can be a stressful time, it is important to remember that it can be an equally stressful time for our four-legged family members too.  By doing some advanced planning, being organised on the day, and following a few simple steps once you are into your new pad, you can help to minimize any anxiety the move will cause your dog and, hopefully, before long they will be enjoying the comforts of their new home just as much as you are.

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The chaos of a house move can be stressful for us and for our dogs


On the Run-Up to the Move

Because we often know at least a month or more in advance when the actual move is going to be, it means that there are things that can be done in advance to help minimize any anxiety your dog may start to get with all the hubbub that comes with getting organized for a house move.

1. Consider Advanced Conditioning for Very Nervous Dogs

Often, especially if you have a dog that is already easily stressed, all the packing, additional boxes and removal of familiar items can be extremely unsettling and confusing for your dog.

It may sound odd, but if you start introducing boxes into the house, just one at a time, it can help to desensitize your dog to them before any major disruption starts.  This means that as more boxes are brought in on the run-up to move they will come as less of a shock and be less intimidating.

If your dog is very freaked by the boxes, you could start with just one small one and whenever your dog moves towards it to investigate they get rewarded with a treat.  Every time they move closer, another treat, until eventually, they may even be happy to take a treat from inside the box. You can then start introducing larger boxes and more of them. That way they will, hopefully, gradually, start to have positive rather than fearful reactions or wary reaction.

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If your dog is likely to be nervous of lots of boxes around the home, start getting them used to them gradually in advance

2. Try Not to Unsettle Their Routine Too Much

Where possible, stick to as many of your dog’s usual routines as possible.  Even if you are packing things away and moving things around, keeping their bedding and bowls in the same spot and having some familiar and reassuring items around is important.

If you are caught up in packing, don’t forget to take your dog out at their usual times and feed them at the same time.  Too much change in their routine can make all the other changes even more unsettling for them.

While, it can be a frantically busy time, especially on the few days just before the actual move, it is important to always make time for your dog.  Allow time to get out on a relaxing walk, continue to give them attention and affection and if they want comfort and reassurance, offer it to them.

3. Should I Get my Dog Looked After During the Move?

The advice is often to get your dog looked after by a familiar family member, their dog walker or a trusted pet sitter for the day or two before the move and during it.  While this can be the best option for a dog that would be severely stressed by the commotion that comes with a house move or for dogs that will be anxious with strange house movers etc, for some dogs they actually may find it more comforting to be with their family throughout.

At least when they are there, they will observe the packing, they will come on the journey and they will be there when you first arrive at the new house and will be able to explore it with you, be there when you open the box of their items etc.

If they leave the house one day and then are just suddenly taken to a new one it could be even more unsettling for them.

This is judgment you will have to make based on your dog’s individual temperament and how chaotic you think it will be on the day of the move.

4. Keep Them Secure on the Day of the Move

If your dog is going to be there on the day of the move, it is important that they are kept safe and secure.  If they are relaxed in a crate, perhaps they can be popped in there or maybe they can be restricted to one secure room or be kept behind a baby gate.  You don’t want them getting under your feet or those of the movers while you are lifting heavy boxes and furniture and, if the door is going to be open a lot, you don’t want them escaping.

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To reduce the risk of a nervous dog escaping while the house move is happening make sure they are in a secure room or crate or behind a baby gate

5. Try to Keep Calm

It is easier said than done, but the calmer and more relaxed you are on the run-up to the move, the more beneficial this will be for your dog too.  Dog’s pick up on our stress levels and if you are frantic and anxious, this can transfer to your dog too.

6. Can They Have an Advanced Visit to the New House?

If you are moving somewhere nearby and the house is empty and accessible in advance of your move, then it may be a good idea to take your dog along to visit before you move in.  Spend time giving them the opportunity to visit every room and explore any garden space. If they are familiar with it when you do actually move in then there is a chance it could be a little less intimidating.

7. Are They Ready for a Road Trip?

If you have a long journey to get to the new house, make sure that your dog will be comfortable.  Are they used to travelling in the car?  Will they settle in a crate?  Make sure the car is well ventilated, keep them hydrated and always allow time for potty stops en route too.

Once They Are In The New House

After you have arrived at the new house, getting your dog settled in should be a priority.

8. Make Sure They Have Familiar Items

When packing it is a good idea to keep all your dog’s items together and handy so that when you arrive at the new home you can get the items out straight away. Don’t be tempted to wash their bedding etc in advance of arrival, or rush out and buy a new fancy bed straight away; you want them to have their scents on them to make them comforting and familiar.

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Make sure your dog gets access to their familiar items straight away in the new home

9. Get Back Into Familiar Routines

While it can take a while, for you and your dog, to truly get settled into your new home, by adopting routines that are familiar to your dog, you can help them to feel more settled.  If they were walked at particular times, try to stick to this. The same with feeding and bedtime regimes.

10. Offer comfort, reassurance and playtime

If your dog needs extra reassurance, make time to give it to them.  While it can be a busy time, if you normally have cuddle time every night on the sofa, make sure they still get this.  Make time for play too. If they are relaxed enough to join in a game this can build their confidence in their new environment

11. Work Up To Leaving Them On Their Own

While your dog adjusts to their new surroundings, if you can be around for them a bit more than normal this can be helpful.  If you have to go straight back to work the next day, while they are still learning to settle, this could be anxiety-inducing for them.  If you do have to go back to work straight away, if you have a familiar friend, family member or dog walker that can spend time with your dog, this would be helpful.

12. Make Sure They Have Plenty of Distractions and Enrichments

Giving them positive associations with their new home and keeping them stimulated and distracted can help a lot during the settling in period.  Providing they are not too stressed to enjoy them, having some interactive treat toys can be really useful.

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Stuffed treat toys like Kongs can be a great distraction to help them relax in their new home

13. Pet Proof the House and Garden

Make sure that the house is a safe environment for your dog.  Cover or remove any loose wires or cables, and if they are not used to slippery wooden flooring then consider getting some carpet runners. Baby gates can be useful to keep them safe and prevent any possibility of them managing to bolt out an open door during the move.  If they do escape, they will be frightened and in an unfamiliar environment.

If they have access to a garden make sure that it is fully secure.  Check for any hazards like plants that are toxic to dogs or ponds that may have stagnant water.

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Make sure that the new garden is fully secure and safe before giving your dog free access

14. Don’t Forget Potty Breaks

When you are caught up in the chaos of the house move it can be easy to forget the important things.  Make sure that your dog gets the opportunity to have more frequent potty breaks than normal. Changes to their routine and any potential stress could cause an upset tummy and they may need to go more than usual.

If they do go outside, make sure that you reward them for doing so.  Letting them know where you want them to potty is important and it will help to minimize the chances of accidents occurring in the house.

15. Consider if a Housewarming Party is the Right Thing For Your Dog

You may be tempted to throw a party in your new home in the early days of arrival and you will no doubt have lots of friends and family eager to visit you.  Remember that, if your dog is stressed by the move, having lots of people and noise descending while you are still trying to get them settled may not be the best idea.

16. Try Not to Do Things That You Know Stress Your Dog Out

If you know certain things stress your dog out, try to avoid these while your dog is adjusting to their new home.  So if they get anxious by being bathed, getting groomed, having their nails clipped or going to the vet, if you can avoid these in the first couple of weeks this would be sensible.

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Even if your dog is a bit whiffy, if they are not keen on baths, try to hold off giving them one until they are better settled in their new home

17. Consider On Leash Walks in the New Neighbourhood at First

While your dog is adjusting to their new home and neighborhood, it is a good idea to stick with on leash walks.  Not only do they need time to get to know the space, but they could also be more easily spooked. It is also sensible in terms of allowing you to manage any potential interactions with unfamiliar dogs roaming off leash.

18. Are There Any Local Laws or Regulations to Consider?

Some States have particular laws with regards to licenses, where dogs must be kept on a leash and they may also have Breed Specific Legislation that could require your dog to be muzzled when in public spaces.  It is good to do your research in advance.

19. Don’t Forget to Update Their Tag and Microchip

Make sure that your dog’s tag is updated and their microchip.  The sooner you can do this, the better as a lot of dogs that go missing are those that have just recently moved house.

20. Get to Know the Neighbours

As well as introducing yourself to the neighbors, it is a good idea to introduce your dog too.  If your dog is a little unsettled and perhaps more vocal than normal during the period of adjustment, if you have spoken to your new neighbors in advance, hopefully, they will be a bit more understanding.  They may also have dogs of their own and it is good to know if they like other dogs and whether sensible introductions may be appropriate.

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If your new neighbors have a dog/s then it is good to do careful introductions between the dogs to set them up for a successful future relationship

21. Additional Management Tools That May Help Reduce Any Stress

If your dog is particularly stressed there are some other tools that may help to alleviate some of the anxieties.  None of these will usually be a cure, but they can take the edge off and it can help if you are then doing further general training.

Adaptil or Other Calming Spray

Adaptil or DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) is a synthetic version of the scent that a mother produces to comfort her puppies.  It can sometimes help to take the edge of a dog’s anxiety levels. It comes in a collar, a plug-in diffuser or a spray version.  It may be a good idea to try the plug-in in the main room of the new home that your dog will be staying in.

Some herbal sprays also come well recommended, like the Relaxivet Natural Calming Spray for Dogs and Cats.  It contains both geranium and rosemary.

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A Thundershirt is a specifically tailored, snug fitting doggy t-shirt that is designed to help lessen a dog’s anxiety levels.  The way that the shirt swaddles your dog’s body can be comforting for them.

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Calming Treats or Supplements

There are a wide variety of calming treats and supplements on the market containing various ingredients that are designed to help to relax a dog.  These can have varying levels of success but, providing they do not have any harmful ingredients, it will usually not do any harm to let your dog try some of these.

The Zesty Paws Calming Bites are well reviewed and contain Hemp Oil, L-Trytophan, Valerian Root and Chamomile, all of which are meant to have stress relieving properties.

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22. Be Patient

Most of all remember to be patient with your dog.  Some dogs may settle in super quickly, but for others, it can takes days, weeks, even months for them to truly relax in their new home.

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