Moving house can be a hectic time for all members of the family, with adults taking care of paperwork and the relocation of furniture and children thinking about new schools and friendships.
However, it is important to also think about how non-human members of the family will handle the transition, particularly dogs, who will not be aware of what is happening.
Although you can speak to most children and prepare them for the transition, for dogs their house is very much their territory, and moving to a new one can be a stressful experience.
However, there are several things you can do to help ease the transition and make both the journey and the settling-in period as comfortable as possible for your four-legged friend.
Preparing for the move
Dogs are creatures of habit and like their daily routine, which is why they will respond to any variations in their normal daily lives. Many pet owners may be familiar with dogs sulking at the sight of the family packing suitcases, and the same thing will occur if you are loading up cardboard boxes with household items, so try to keep your dog’s routine as normal as possible leading up to the move.
If your dog is used to staying in boarding kennels or with family members, you may even want to consider relocating them for the entire duration of the packing and moving process - something the Dogs Trust says may help to ease the transition, as well as reducing the risk of them eating packing material or damaging something that is being boxed up for the move.
If possible, it may also be worthwhile taking your dog to see his or her new home once the formalities have been agreed. This should be easy with a new build home where there are no occupants and no animals have previously lived there. If you are buying an existing property, the current owners may allow you to bring your dog round to sniff around the house and garden and familiarise themselves with all the many scents so it is less of a shock to their system. Visiting the new property will also give you chance to identify any area of the garden that may need reinforcing to keep them inside, such as gates and fencing, and potential parts of the house where their bed can be located.
The actual day of the house move is generally the most hectic part of the entire moving process, and where possible your dog should be moved completely out of the way when furniture and other items are being relocated. Moving them to an area of the house where minimal disruption ill occur could help, or letting them into an enclosed garden where there is unlikely to be human traffic. Not only will this ensure they do not get in the way and become a hazard, but it will also calm their nerves so they don’t see all the activity and disruption. Again, the solution may also be to leave them with family or friends for a few hours or a day to totally avoid the upheaval. If you do not need to transport your pets on the day, the RSPCA advises that they are left until last.
The journey itself
Although most people don’t move hundreds of miles away, consideration still needs to be given to how your dog will be transported. If they are making the move on moving day itself, then leave their bed, toys and all other items until last before packing them so that the disruption to their status quo is minimised.
If they are travelling in the car with you, pack some familiar items such as toys and blankets in the boot or backseat to comfort them, and ensure they have been to the toilet and are fed and watered before the journey. Keep the car well ventilated and make sure they have room to shuffle and get comfortable during the journey, if required, or use a suitable harness where appropriate. If the journey takes more than half an hour then try to stop and give them time to stretch their legs and take on some water – many pet shops now sell portable dog drink containers and bowls for this exact purpose.
If possible, ensure all furniture is unpacked and located in its new place before you transport your dog to the new property, as this will again avoid stress and make sure they do not get in the way. When you arrive at the house, allow them to inspect the property for themselves, at their own pace. Try to treat it like a walk, where the dog is allowed to roam and sniff all the new areas and familiarise themselves. It may also be helpful to treat them so that they instantly associate the new property with happiness - the Kennel Club recommends giving your dog a new toy as soon as you arrive so they can head off and enjoy playing with it while you go about unpacking.
If there are still plenty of things that require unpacking, then try to move the dog to an area of the house where they will not get in the way while you unbox and move furniture and other household goods. To assist with the transition, it may also be worth locating your dog’s bed in a place that looks similar to where it was in the old house, whether this is by the back door, at the top of the stairs, in the utility room or elsewhere; it will all help them to better come to terms with their new surroundings, particularly during the first few days.
There are a few other things to consider when moving, with perhaps the most important being to ensure your dog’s contact details are updated. It is a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped, and so the company that stores the data must be informed of any changes in the address or primary contact number. New collar tags must also be bought bearing the new address, so that in the unlikely event your dog escapes or gets lost, you can be contacted and they can be returned home.
The Blue Cross recommends scoping out new areas to take your dog for a walk once you’re settled in, which can be a helpful way of familiarising both yourself and your dog with your new neighbourhood. Not only does it give you a great chance to explore your new surroundings, but taking your four-legged friend for enjoyable walks will make it easier for them to associate their new home with happiness and ease the transition for the whole family.