How to help a dog adjust to your new home

They may not be ready to beat you in a game of chess, but these brainy dogs are easy to train and generally anxious to please you. Here are 15 breeds with notable smarts.

Moving is terrible but thankfully there are lots of proactive things you can do to help your dog stay stress-free throughout the process.

Moving is ruff. The packing, the heavy lifting, the cleaning … and then you get to do it all over again once you are actually in your new home. It’s stressful, time consuming, and can be full of not-so-fun surprises. We hate it. And so does your dog.

Moving to a new home, locally, out of state, or internationally, requires significant planning and preparation. Not only do you need to decide how you are going to get all your stuff from point A to point B, it’s really important that you prepare your dog for the process, and help them to transition to your new home. These tips for moving with your dog will (hopefully) help the transition into your new home go more smoothly for both you and your furry friend.

Before You Move With Your Dog

If only you could just snap your fingers and be in your new home, all settled. Sadly, moving is never that easy … or magical. And before you hit that phase of just literally throwing stuff into boxes and hoping it makes it to the next location, you need to give your dog time to adjust to all the new things needed to move—like boxes, tape, bubble wrap, and your silent screams (Kidding. But not really).

1. Allow Your Dog Time to Get Familiar with Moving Supplies

Purchase your moving materials at least two weeks (or more) before you start packing and leave them in a room of the house like a spare bedroom or the corner of the living room. Be sure to avoid loading up a room your dog uses for rest and relaxation, and make sure the items don’t impede your dog’s ability to play in that space, take a nap, or eat and drink.

2. Create a Positive Association with Moving Supplies

Never allow your dog to be unsupervised near these materials. But when they do investigate them, give them lots of treats and praise. Play with your dog near the items and even add them to your play sessions. For example, toss treats into a box and let you dog sniff them out. Treat your dog constantly when in the presence of the supplies.

3. Prepare for the Trip

Consider where you are moving to and how you will get there with your dog. Whether you are road tripping with your dog in the car or moving internationally to a place where you must fly on a plane like Europe or Australia, your dog needs to be comfortable and safe. Purchase a well-fitted car harness for your dog so that the time spent in the car is safer, or make a good investment and buy a travel crate that can be used on planes or in cars.  If you’re traveling a long distance and won’t be able to make the trip in one day, make sure to book a dog-friendly hotel or Airbnb well in advance. Make sure your dog’s microchip is updated with your new address.

While You Pack

If you can, it’s best if your dog can stay at a trusted friend or family member’s home on heavy packing days. If this isn’t possible, sticking to your dog’s schedule as much as you can is helpful. And try to avoid leaving your dog to just watch as the chaos of packing ensues. 

1. Maintain Enrichment

Take breaks to take your dog for walks or hikes and offer lots of chances for both mental and physical enrichment. Play with their favorite toys and do short training sessions, treating them for skills and tricks like roll over or stay. Invite your dog’s best friend for a play session in the backyard or take daily trips to their favorite play area.

2. Give Your Dog Alone Time in Their Favorite Space

Leave the room that your dog loves the most as the last room you pack. Allow them to rest there comfortably, away from the hustle and bustle. Turn on a fan or other soothing sounds to help your dog become more relaxed, and offer them a treat-filled toy or treat dispenser to alleviate boredom.

3. Do Your Best to Keep the Home Looking “Normal”

Once you start packing it seems nearly impossible to prevent the place from suddenly looking like a tornado ripped through it. Try hard to pick up after yourself, making sure you throw away trash, used bubble wrap and tape dispensers, and organizing your boxes and cleaning supplies. The less chaotic the home feels and looks the better for your dog. Plus, you don’t want your curious doggo risking a bad incident with items that could be dangerous to them.

young Black couple with yellow labrador dog resting on sofa

CREDIT: LIGHTFIELDSTUDIOS / GETTY

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How to Help Your Dog Adjust After Moving Into a New Home

What you do after you are moved is of vital importance to your dog’s acclimation—it’s critical that you allow ample time for your dog to adjust to the new home. It will take weeks (not days!), or more likely months, before your dog is fully comfortable in their new environment. Don’t rush the process! Enabling your dog to get comfortable with their new life is a crucial step in ensuring the new house or apartment is a place of happiness and reprieve for them.

1. Keep Up Regular Routines and Schedules

Don’t get lax about walks or play times. If your dog normally goes for walkies at 5 p.m., then be sure to take them at that time. If your dog always likes to play tug or fetch after dinner, make sure you offer up those games. Their feeding schedule should also stay the same, and the location that you feed them should be similar to what they have known in the past. For instance, if you always feed your dog dinner in your kitchen at the same time you ate dinner in your previous home, do that in this new home. Also, now is not the time to try new dog foods or test out a new collar or harness. Keep things the same as much as you can.

2. Set up a New Comfortable Space Just for Your Dog

A space for your dog to retreat to should be the first thing you set up in your new home. If your dog loved your old living room couch or found a spare bedroom bed to be their favorite retreat spot, create that same scenario in the new house. Place rugs, blankets, and toys that smell like your dog, your old home, and you in the new space you are dedicating to them. As well, always allow your dog to choose whether or not they want to engage with the world around them. When dogs feel stressed, like they do during a move, they need lots of space and places they can withdraw to.

3. Keep Familiar Furniture for Now

It’s really tempting to want to decorate and re-design your decor for a new home, and if you are a smart mover, you likely threw out that old chair you had since college dormitory days. But be sure you don’t get rid of every piece of furniture you have. Keep pieces of furniture your dog has an affinity for and wait a few weeks before buying a whole new living room set. Initially, place your pieces in a similar set-up as your old home. Your dog will thank you and so will your wallet.

4. Don’t Have Visitors Over Just Yet

You love your new home and are excited to share it with your loved ones. But pandemic aside, inviting over lots of people the first few months in your new place is a big stress-inducer for your dog. Keep visitors to a minimum, such as your parents or your best friend. Don’t invite over your neighbors just yet, and don’t force your dog to go over to the neighbor’s house for a play date. Any introductions with new people should be slow and ideally take place over several months. Even if your dog normally loves greeting strangers, the process of moving combined with adjusting to a new location is very stressful for dogs and the added pressure of meeting anyone new can be overwhelming for even the most amiable dog. Just ask Major Biden.

5. Be Patient and Understanding

The whole moving process is full of stress and anxiety-producing events for both you and your dog. As dog parents, we need to understand that it takes time for our dogs to feel like themselves in any new environment. You may notice changes in behavior that result from changes in your dog’s life. Your dog may want to follow you around, they may experience separation anxiety, they may not eat or play like normal, or they might engage in behaviors like barks or growls when they hear noises or see unfamiliar people. These can all be signs of a dog that is experiencing a lot of stress and should be addressed immediately. Work with a certified positive reinforcement-based trainer or canine behavior consultant to help your dog adjust to these changes, building comfort and alleviating those worrisome feelings—and ensuring they are living their best doggie life.

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Moving is one of the most stressful endeavors you will take on, and your dog thinks so too. Being prepared, taking your time, and keeping things as familiar as you can will go a long way in ensuring your dog adjusts to and feels comfortable in their new surroundings. 

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