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Moving house with your dog

Moving house can be an exciting but stressful time for both us and our dogs. It can be a huge upheaval, and whilst some dogs cope extremely well, other dogs really struggle. Some dogs revert back to old behaviours, and for others new behaviours might crop us as a result.

I have moved house several times with my current dogs and so I have learnt over time how they both respond to the change. Harley copes extremely well and settles into his new home very easily, whereas Oliver, who is naturally more of a nervous dog, really struggles. For example, Harley usually struggles to settle for the first night or two in a new place, but I can easily address this by letting him sleep in a crate. After this, he easily settles and I don't have to worry about him at all. On the other hand, whilst Oliver generally settles fine inside the home, his behaviour often regresses slightly in that he becomes a lot more anxious outside and in the car.

If you know how your dog will respond then you will be able to pre-empt any issues and prepare your dog to deal with them. If you don't know how your dog will react then it is always better to be prepared, and here are our top tips for doing so.

Start to get your dog into a routine before the move

In daily life we don't usually recommend sticking to the same routine with your dog because we want them to be able to cope with changes in schedule without their world ending. However, when you are preparing to move house a lot will be changing, and so if you can keep something constant in your dog's life then it will give them some certainty and predictability. So, start to get into a routine that you can continue in your new house, whether that be a walk at a certain time of day, followed by being fed, followed by rest time.

Up your place training

In line with getting your dog into a more predictable routine, increasing structure can help. For most dogs this will look like increasing place/bed training. When you teach your dog a "bed" or "place" command, it is important that your dog understands that their bed is a place of calmness. This means that whenever you send them to their bed, they are pre-programmed to settle, whatever the environment. In this way, we can move their bed from one house to another and know that they will be able to relax there. This is also a helpful tool for dogs that are particularly sensitive, and that get stressed when you start packing your belongings.

Introduce/increase your crate training

If you don't use a crate, have a think about whether it will benefit your dog during your house move. They are excellent for keeping your dog safe, particularly when you are going in and out of the house with removals. They are also a great way of ensuring that your dog is able to settle when you are unable to watch them to ensure that they stay on their bed.

Tire your dog out

If your dog is tired then they are more likely to settle. This means both mentally and physically. So, when your move date approaches consider taking your dog on a nice long walk to tire them out before the big day. If you don't have time for this because you are busy packing, then be sure to work their brains instead.

Give them time!

Our final tip is to give your dog time to settle into their new home environment. Acknowledge that they may be feeling unsettled and be aware that some areas of their training may go backwards, but be consistent and everything will fall into place. For some dogs this may take a couple of weeks, and for other more sensitive dogs this could take a couple of months.

The thing to remember when helping your dog through your house move is to give them clarity and certainty, which can be made possible through added structure and routine. The more certainty your dog has, the more settled they will feel. These rules also apply for most life changes - your dogs can be equally as affected by other significant life events, whether that be a break-up or bereavement. So, if you find that your dog is struggling for any of these reasons, go back to basics and use these tips to guide them through, making the experience less stressful for both you and your dog.


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