Tips for Moving with Your Dog to Limit Anxiety
If you’ve ever moved before, you know how stressful an endeavor it is. Add in a dog with separation anxiety, and it can be even more of an undertaking! Many dogs key in on the uncertainty and get nervous with all the boxes and activity. A dog with separation anxiety will often exhibit their usual symptoms sooner, more frequently, or for a longer duration. If you’ve been working on their separation anxiety, you might notice that moving causes a regression in any treatment or training. There are some things you can do before, during, and after your move to make it easier for your anxious dog, which will also make it less stressful for you and the rest of your family!
Re-implement Previous Anxiety Treatment
Prior to moving day, restart any previous anxiety treatment to help your dog prepare for the upcoming change. If you’ve been managing your dog’s separation anxiety successfully but are worried about your upcoming move, connect with a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, or veterinarian to discuss your pre-move treatment plan.
Start your dog on a Calmer Canine® treatment course 4 to 6 weeks before your move, as well as practicing counter conditioning and desensitization exercises. Calmer Canine treatment will help lessen the stressful effects of moving to a new home and make settling in an easier process. By working in these treatment options before an anxiety-inducing event such as moving, you’ll set you and your dog up for a more successful transition to your new home.
Keep a Routine
As you gear up for the move and as you settle into your new home, a predictable routine will help ease stress and encourage faster acclimation. Predictability is especially essential for dogs with anxiety. Try to keep their regular walks and other activities at the same time as usual throughout your move and establish a daily routine as soon as you can in your new home.
Make Packing Less Scary
A house full of boxes, packing tape, and bubble wrap can trigger a lot of uncertainty for your dog. Ease into the packing process by introducing moving supplies in advance. Not only does this help your dog get used to the boxes and other supplies, but it also means you can take your time packing things up. Less stress the day before moving day!
Desensitize your dog to the different items by creating either a neutral or positive association. For example, bring in the stack of flat boxes and leave them in a corner for a few days. Then open up just one and leave it out for a while — don’t worry about packing it up just yet. Give your dog a stuffed KONG or chew to work on while you pack one or two boxes each night. This way, your dog learns that boxes don’t predict anything that might make them anxious, such as your departure.
Introduce Your Dog to Their New Neighborhood
If you’re moving locally, you can take your dog to the new neighborhood for regular walks and exploration before your move. Obviously, this isn’t possible if you’re relocating long distance. However, if you can, these pre-move visits give your dog a chance to build some familiarity with the smells, sights, and sounds of what will soon be their home turf, as well as leave their own “calling card.”
If you aren’t able to visit the new area before the move, make sure to provide your dog with a few long, exploratory jaunts to take stock of their new surroundings. Not only does this introduce them to the neighborhood, but it is also a great way to burn off physical and mental energy. Sniffing is an excellent enrichment activity and can help relieve anxiety and stress for your dog. Taking a break from packing or unpacking to take a walk is also a fantastic way for people to recharge and to meet the new neighbors as well!
Use a Pet Sitter (or Trusted Friend) on Moving Day
The safest place for your anxious dog to be on moving day is with a trusted friend or their pet sitter. Not only does this keep them from stressing out from the constant activity, but it also prevents any door dashing through the constantly opening front door.
If your dog has to stay with you on moving day, set up a safe space for them to stay. You can close the door or set up a secure gate to keep them from escaping. Set up the area to be as calming as possible. Turn on a fan for white noise or turn on a radio to play calming music. You can plug-in dog appeasing pheromones and set up a comfortable dog bed with a piece of clothing that smells like you. Include interactive toys, like a stuffed KONG that will keep them busy and distracted with something positive while you unload the moving truck.
Settling into Your New Home
Every dog, not just those with anxiety, needs some time to acclimate to their new home. They might follow you around more or react to outside noises more readily than before. It’s important to make this transition period as calm and predictable as possible, especially for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. Consistency in routine goes a long way in helping a dog get used to their new surroundings.
Continue any previous treatment for their anxiety to help shorten the transition time. If your dog benefits from anxiety management tools, such as compression vests, supplements, or pheromones, use these when needed. Work on counter conditioning your dog to your departures and desensitize them to short periods of alone time before leaving them alone for longer durations. Start or continue using Calmer Canine if you started treatment prior to your move. Staying connected with your certified dog trainer about your dog’s behavior will give you an excellent resource in determining what behaviors are normal during this transition, and what should be immediately addressed.
“After my own recent move, my Cardigan Corgi began showing separation anxiety symptoms that had previously been treated and managed through behavior modification. She began shadowing me constantly through the house, practiced excessive greetings when I returned home and had a few house soiling incidents. Within a week of beginning Calmer Canine treatment, she stayed settled and relaxed upstairs even when I went downstairs, was less frantic in her greetings, and hasn’t had an accident inside. Her transition into our new home was easier than I’ve experienced with prior moves.” — Cathy Madson, MA, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA
Settling into a new home takes time for both people and pets. An anxious dog will need extra time after a move. Consistency and compassion will go a long way in helping them adjust.