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Mellow moving day: how to keep your dog calm & safe during a big move

by Cindy Aldridge

Few events in life are as stressful as moving to a new home — and not just for us, but for our pets too. Dogs, for example, are particularly attached to the familiar — sights, sounds, smells, people and routines. Not only can they get stressed or anxious during a move, but also during all the days of preparation leading up to the big day. Helping ease their stress and worry will reduce not only physical symptoms of stress, like diarrhea and vomiting, but also behavioral issues like chewing or aggression.

Keep their Routine

Dogs are resilient animals, but they can smell change in the air. They’ve noticed the boxes piling in the house, the realtors coming and going and all of the extra organizing and cleaning from room to room. Even if they don’t immediately associate the new activities with something potentially negative, the change is enough to get them stressed and anxious. That’s why it is so important that you keep their routine on a regular schedule that meets their expectations.

Keeping their mealtimes the same can help reduce symptoms of stress like lack of appetite and vomiting. If you notice every time you start loading a box your dog starts pacing and whining, take a timeout for petting and play. A little one-on-one attention goes a long way to ease a worried dog’s mind both before and during a big move. Also try to walk your dog at the same time every day, which can help keep your dog from reverting to puppy-like behaviors, such as indoor bathroom accidents or chewing. Even if the time you have to devote to your dog is shorter, being consistent will be an anchor for them when everything else seems out-of-the-norm.

Inform Everyone On Moving Day

If you’re moving across the country, you’re among the 3 percent of Americans who moved more than 2,000 miles in 2018 -- that’s a long way to go for you and your pup. Whether you are moving across the nation or across the city, your dog may feel challenged by the frenzy of moving day. One way to make sure they stay calm and confident is to get your movers on board. Be sure to check in with them to understand their pet policies and procedures. Since your dog might be uncomfortable being around strangers on moving day, it’s important to know if the movers:

  • Are okay with interacting with dogs to help make them more comfortable.

  • Require dogs to stay away from the activity, locked in a room, which could result in excessive barking.

  • Have restrictions of packing and moving houses with animals.

If you have friends and family helping — especially ones your pets know and recognize — the stress may be more manageable. You can have your helpers rotate someone spending sometime with Fido, throwing a ball, offering treats or stopping by for some bellyrubs. As long as your dog hasn’t been reacting to stress with aggression, they might feel calm with check-ins from familiar faces.

Acclimating After Moving Day

Once you’ve unloaded the last box, you may feel like it’s time to kick your feet up, but before you do you might want to consider one more moving day activity — getting your pup comfortable with the rooms in your new home. While the stress of the chaos of moving day might be ending, the stress of being in an unknown environment is just beginning.

Some dog owners manage this anxiety by implementing the same rules created during those early puppy days, which can help re-establish boundaries. Believe it or not, having clear, familiar rules helps dogs manage symptoms of stress. You may not want to leave them alone in the house or the yard right away. Also, try to let them settle in for a few days or weeks before exposing them to situations they don’t enjoy, like a vet visit or a trip to the groomer. Show them where they are allowed to go by putting toys in rooms where you want them to feel comfortable.

Lastly, if your pet is feeling nervous about the move, they may leave accidents around the new home. Don’t fret; these situations can easily be handled by having a solution of vinegar and water on hand. This DIY formula should be enough to tackle stains and neutralize their odors, so that you can settle into your new place more easily.

Even with the best of plans and intentions, if your dog is already prone to anxiety, they may exhibit severe signs of stress. Your vet can prescribe an anti-anxiety medication to help put your dog at-ease. Either way, the more calm Fido is, the calmer you will be. Planning and preparing for your dog’s needs can help make moving day an exciting, adventurous time for the whole family.

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