Moving can be hard on everyone involved. Adults, kids, and yes…even your pets! While your pet may not understand exactly what is going on, they can sense the stress (good or bad) that the whole family is experiencing. Add to the fact that animals are creatures of habit and do not like changes to their usual routine, and you can understand why they become so confused. They also become quite anxious when all of a sudden, they see their human family busily throwing everything around them into boxes. Naturally, we always want to keep our pets happy and healthy because we love them, but we also want to lessen the chances of their “acting-out.” Animals, just like people, can behave rather badly when under stress, and so we need to do all we can to help them feel secure throughout the moving process.
What we really need to know is: when faced with an upcoming move, how do we reduce the amount of stress that our pets are going to experience, and what can we do about the unavoidable disruption to their daily routine? We posed this very question to industry experts, took their invaluable input, and created the following list of tips.
1. Condition them to moving supplies before you start packing
Is there anything inherently scary about cardboard boxes and rolls of duct tape? No. Does that mean that your dog won’t be scared of them when they take over your house? Also no. This is especially true if you have a dog that gets nervous at the site of a suitcase, as mine does. A few days before you get into the nitty-gritty of packing, leave out a few boxes, a roll of packing tape, and other packing supplies for them to sniff and examine. When the time comes to get started, they’ll be less alarmed by all these weird new items taking over their space.
2. Stick to your normal routine as much as possible
Time has a way of losing meaning when you’re prepping for a move. Those of us generally in bed by 10pm might find ourselves still sorting through cabinets and packing boxes at two in the morning, or eating lunch at 4pm because it simply slipped by earlier in the day. And while a week or so of being off-schedule is fine for humans, our dogs are a bit more tied to structure. It helps them figure out what to expect from their people and their lives, in turn building trust in their environment. Thus, a set, recognizable routine is almost more important during a time of disruption than it is during their normal day-to-day.
To the best of your ability, take care during each stage of your move to keep your dog on their same schedule in terms of meals, potty breaks, and walks. If you normally spend 15 minutes tossing a ball around in the backyard right before dinner, don’t skip it just because you’re on a roll with packing. The more you can stick to your dog’s normal routine, the better you’ll set them up to view the move with curiosity, not fear.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise
Exercise is crucial not just for your dog’s physical health, but for their mental wellbeing. Plus, you know what they say: a tired dog is a good dog. Letting your pup expend some extra energy is a great way to keep their stress levels down and help them stay calm. So add some time onto your daily walk, stick around the dog park longer, and keep that game of fetch going until they get tired of it. If you know you just won’t have the time, ask a friend or trusted dog walker to come by and help you out. Just don’t skip exercise entirely, which can result in a frustrated dog with too much energy to chill out.
4. Keep them entertained
In addition to exercising your dog physically, you can also use brain games to exercise them mentally and keep them occupied while you’re busy with other things. Take advantage of the inevitable state of your home during a move and set up a game of “hide and seek,” placing their favorite toys or treats behind or under boxes for them to find. Or, pick up a treat puzzle and let them go to town figuring it out. For a simple DIY puzzle, place small treats or pieces of kibble in the cups of a muffin tin and cover each opening with a tennis ball. Your dog will love digging for treasure while you’re busy with something else.
5. Set up a quiet spot for retreat
Moves have a way of completely taking over your home. That’s why it’s important to make sure you always leave your dog a clean, quiet corner that’s all theirs, preferably in an area that doesn’t get a ton of foot traffic. This is important to do not just while packing up your old home, but while settling in to your new one as well. This area should have your pet’s bed and/or crate and some of their favorite things, be it blankets, bones, stuffed toys, etc. All of these items carry a familiar and comforting scent that will help ease your pup into relaxation during an otherwise stressful period. Particularly in your new place, they’ll signify that even with all of the changes, wherever they are is “home.”