Moving to a New Home

Major life changes can cause regressions in dogs’ behaviour, so it’s no wonder that moving is one of the biggest triggers in a new presentation of home-alone issues. Years ago, I moved fairly frequently – every couple of years or so. Every time I brought in the moving boxes, Parker would immediately tense up, wide-eyed, panting and pacing. Within an hour, he would be at the door, begging to go out. For the next couple of days he would have diarrhoea. Needless to say, moving was a big trigger for him. 

If you’re moving, here are a few tips to make that process go much smoother and hopefully prevent a regression in your dog.

A small dog sitting inside a moving box being carried by a person.

Plan Ahead

Plan to take some time off when you move so that you can help your dog get acclimated to this new home. 

Moving Boxes

Make moving boxes predict fun things before you need them. Play games involving cardboard boxes, like: 

  • 101 Things to do with a box
  • Scenting games – using 5-6 boxes, turn each box upside down over a few treats under one and let your dog find which box contains the treats! You can also use a newspaper, crumple up a dozen or so pages, toss the crumpled paper loosely in the box and sprinkle kibbles throughout, letting your dog find them. 
  • Shaping games – teach your dog to jump over small boxes, make a tunnel from another box, teach your dog to jump onto a packed box, create a box-maze and have a prize at the end.
Getting comfortable in their new neighbourhood

If you have an opportunity to bring your dog to their new ‘hood prior to the move, do it! Do it a few times. When you are there, let your dog really investigate the neighbourhood. Do a nice, relaxed leash-walk and let your dog sniff to their heart’s content. Lots of sniffing and yummy treats to associate great things with this place, is key! I wouldn’t suggest a formal walk or “heel” – that’s not enjoyable for a dog, and you really need this place to be familiar and fun. 

Drop into the local pet shops and banks to have the employees feed your dog treats (if your dog is human-social), visit the local dog park (if your dog is a dog-social dog and it’s a safe environment), using a 50ft lead, let your dog run around a wide-open space if there is a safe one nearby, etc… 

Where should my dog be during the actual move?

Moving day is an extremely stressful day for everyone in the family. Your dog is no different, in fact, they might find it even more stressful because you can’t explain to them what is happening. Moving time is also a time where many dogs get loose and run away, because we have doors propped open, movers coming in and out, and general chaos. If at all possible, set your dog up with their favourite auntie or uncle, a trusted friend or family member, doggy daycare, or your trusted pet sitter.  If none of these are viable options for you, you will want to make sure your dog is safely contained in a crate or other confinement area with something like a frozen, stuffed Kong to keep them busy. Be sure your dog is wearing a collar and/or harness with current identification and an up to date phone number. 

Getting comfortable in their new home  

Ideally you have some of the main furniture and items in before you bring the dog in – the old scents will be comforting. Set up the dog area ASAP so that they have access to their bed, crate, toys, water, and food right away. Build a treasure hunt! Before you bring your dog into your new home, hide some extra special , stinky treats in several different places. You can also use food dispensing toys like stuffed Kongs. Then bring your dog in and let them explore. Keep things low-key without too much social pressure and excitement. 

Start practicing absences! 

You’ll need a few days at least to get settled, so you’re going to plan ahead and do some work. 

A great way to start is to work through the easiest steps in our Happy Home-Alone course!