Moving house can be stressful at the best of times. Whether you’re heading across the country or just around the corner, there’s a lot to consider, and always more to pack than you initially thought! Adding a dog into the mix can be a complicating factor, but with some careful planning, you can ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible for you and your dog.
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Understanding Dog Anxiety During Moving
Most dogs know their home like the back of their… paw. A new home means a whole lot of new sights, sounds, and smells to get accustomed to. All this sudden environmental change has a big impact on any dog, and for some, it can be an anxiety-provoking event. It’s important to understand and watch for signs of anxiety in your pooch in the leadup to the move, on the day, and as you’re getting settled in.
What are the Signs of Moving Stress in Dogs?
One of the hardest aspects of dog ownership has to be the fact that our beloved furry friends can’t tell us how they’re feeling. Well, not in words, anyway. Dogs have a range of behaviours they use to communicate how they’re feeling, especially when something’s not right. It’s up to us to look for and learn how to interpret them.
Below are some common signs of moving stress to watch for in your dog:
You may notice your dog is unable to sit or lie still and is instead constantly on the move. They may also be on high alert, constantly looking, sniffing and listening for perceived threats.
Shaking or Trembling
Your dog may shake or tremble, which are common signs of fear, anxiety, and stress in dogs. Please be careful though as your dog may also do this when they are excited – in this case, it’s all about what behaviours are typical – and atypical – for your dog and to deal with them as best you can.
Barking, Whining or Panting
When dogs are stressed, they often exhibit certain behaviours, including barking, whining, or panting, which are ways to vocalise their emotions. They are usually involuntary reactions but are ways in which they are telling you their discomfort, and that they’d like some help and reassurance.
When very distressed, your dog may lose interest in eating, experience diarrhoea or constipation, or lose control of their bowels. They may also lose control of their bladder or need to urinate more frequently.
Facial signs are not always obvious, so you need to know what to look for. If your dog pulls back their lips as if they’re smiling, it can be a signal that they are fearful and trying to express subservience. Yawning, lip-licking, averting their gaze, and pinned-back ears are other subtle signs to watch for.
A tucked tail or a low, quickly wagging tail are both signs of anxiety. Some dogs might find a corner to back themselves into. Raised hair along the back, and lifting a paw as if poised to move are other subtle signs to watch for.
In extreme cases, dogs can exhibit destructive behaviour when overwhelmed with anxiety. This could range from digging up the yard or tearing up a toy, to more concerning aggressive behaviours like growling and biting.
For some dogs, the ‘flight’ response to danger is strongly ingrained. They may try to avoid perceived danger by running away or looking for opportunities to escape.
How Can I Calm My Dog’s Anxiety When Moving?
The best way to calm your dog’s anxiety when moving is to get organised with an action plan ahead of time. There will be a lot to do on the day of the move, so if you can arrange for a trusted friend or pet sitter to look after your dog away from all the action, you should. Below, you’ll find advice on other steps you can take before, during, and just after the relocation to help your dog settle in as smoothly as possible.
Preparing Your Dog for the Move
Update Your Dog’s Microchip
Make sure your dog’s microchip details are updated with your new address before move day (and if your dog isn’t microchipped already, now would be a good time!) Before paying a visit to the vet, you should also check whether the area you’re moving to has any other vaccination requirements and ensure that your pooch is up to date with all of them.
Find a New Vet
Speaking of vets, plan to find a reputable one in your new neighbourhood. Life happens and you never know when you’ll need professional help. Having a vet’s address and number saved in your phone could quite literally be a lifesaver in an emergency.
Make Sure Your Dog Has ID
Update your dog’s collar ID with your new address, and ensure all other contact details (like your phone number) are still up to date. It will take some time before your neighbours recognise your pooch, and the hubbub of moving makes it a high-risk time for absconding behaviours, so you’ll want to have this ID secured ahead of time.
Familiarise Your Dog With the New Area
If your new neighbourhood is accessible to you, it’s a great idea to do a bit of exploring before you make the move. Take some walks, check out your soon-to-be-local dog park, and scope out your dog-friendly café and pub options. This can be a whole lot of fun for both you and your pet and will make the move less intimidating, as there will be at least some familiar sights and smells for your pup.
Socialise With New Neighbourhood Dogs
While you’re out and about in your new neighbourhood, why not make some friends? Meeting the local dog crew is beneficial for you and your dog – you might even be able to line up a puppy playdate for after your move-in date.
Working with Pet-Friendly Moving Companies
Since an estimated 30-50% of UK households have a pet, most moving companies are well-versed in navigating moving with furry companions in the mix. Most regular removal and relocation companies don’t specialise in moving animals, but they should be able to recommend a trusted specialist pet relocation service if needed. There are a handful of one-stop-shop moving services that will move your belongings and your furry companions, which can be convenient for longer-distance moves.
Working with a good, pet-friendly moving company will take a lot of the stress and risk out of moving with your dog. As with engaging any service, look for positive reviews and endorsements before making your selection. A recommendation from a friend or colleague is always worth heeding, but you can also find plenty of advice online via doggy forums and review sites.
Are There Pet Relocation Services in the UK?
There are many pet relocation services available in the UK. These companies specialise in pet courier services and will ensure that your dog – or other furry friend – is safely transported from point A to point B. Knowing that your pet is in safe hands can take a lot of stress out of moving day.
There are a plethora of companies offering pet relocation services in the UK – you might even be able to find one that’s local to your neighbourhood. While some companies only operate domestically, many also have international transport services available. Some larger, reputable options include petsabroad, which has 50 years of animal courier experience; Starwood, which provides domestic and international services; and Airpets, which is a great option for pets coming in and out of the UK via Heathrow.
How do I Find a Pet-friendly Moving Company?
The fastest way to ensure your moving company is pet-friendly is to get in touch with them – and ask them lots of questions! They should be able to provide testimonials and have clear guidelines on how they handle animals on move day.
While many people choose to engage a specialist pet relocation service in addition to a regular moving company for their home contents, some one-stop shops can transport both your belongings and your dog. Arrowpak International and Brycelands both provide domestic UK and international services.
Moving Day Tips for Dogs – What to Do With Your Dog on Moving Day
You’re packed and ready, with your new house keys in hand – moving day is here!
Packing up and relocating an entire household is hard enough, but having a dog in tow lends a whole other layer of complication. Your main priority should be keeping your dog safe and as calm as possible amidst all the hustle and bustle.
If you can, consider leaving your dog with a trusted friend or hiring a pet sitter or boarding house to mind them on the day of the move. This will reduce the risk of accidental escapes, and shield your pooch from the worst of the commotion of packing up the house. If you can’t keep your dog away from the house on move day, consider keeping them on a leash, or setting up a closed-off ‘safe room’ where they can rest away from the hustle and bustle.
Remember to keep your dog’s creature comforts separate from the rest of your packing – they’ll need access to their food, bowls, bedding, leash, favourite toys, and medical records. Having some familiar smells can help to settle your dog into their new environment. Keep your pooch hydrated and fed throughout the move, but consider opting for lighter meals if your dog is feeling unsettled, which can be easier on a nervous digestive system.
If your move involves any long-distance travel, either in a car or via plane, you should consult your vet ahead of time to determine whether anti-nausea and/or anti-anxiety medication is right for your pet.
Addressing Dog Behaviour During Relocation
Moving can be an unsettling time for some dogs, and you may notice behavioural changes as your pooch adapts to the sudden change in environment and routine. The best thing you can do is create a calm and nurturing environment for your dog as they settle in, and give them plenty of attention and patience while they get used to their new way of life. Read on for tips to ease the transition during the early days. If your dog’s behavioural changes are prolonged, serious or escalating, you may consider talking to a vet.
What to Budget When Moving Home With a Dog
We know that moving home with a dog can be a big deal emotionally and logistically, but it can also be costly, too. Pet insurance company Manypets worked out how much it would cost to move with a dog – they worked out on average, including removals company, it would cost £1,632.92.
We don’t recommend including the cost of a removal company in the calculations as many of us would be paying that anyway, so excluding the removal company, using the Manypets calculations, it would cost £252.92. This would include a vet checkup, anxiety coat, Adaptil transport spray, the cost to update the microchip, one week at a kennel, and a collapsible bowl. Of course, if you exclude the kennel cost, what you may already have, and the vet checkup (as many of us now use vet payment plans), there are still a few things to buy or pay for as part of the moving costs.
Making the New Home Dog-Friendly
Before introducing your dog to their new home, there are several steps you can take to make the space as dog-friendly as possible:
Make a Gradual Introduction
It’s not always possible, but if your move is local and you have access to your new home ahead of time, take your dog along with you to check out the space, take in all the new smells, and get acquainted with the layout. That way, you’re not throwing your pooch in the deep end with a whole night in a completely foreign location. When you do eventually make the move, it won’t feel so daunting.
Pet-proof the Property
Ensure your garden is properly fenced and gates are functioning. Check for possible routes of escape, keeping in mind that sudden changes in the environment can trigger a ‘flight’ response for some dogs.
Create Safe Spaces
If you’re planning to have your dog with you on move day, consider setting up ‘safe rooms’ in both the house you’re moving from and the one you’re moving to. This should be a quiet room that you can fill with familiar bedding and toys, then close off from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house. Safe rooms minimise the risk of your pooch escaping while people are coming and going, and it also means that your new home won’t be associated with the chaos of strangers lifting heavy furniture in the mind of your little furry friend.
Tips for Settling Your Dog into Their New Home
The hard work is over, now it’s time to settle in! Once the chaos of moving and unpacking is out of the way, you can focus on making your new house feel like home for you and your pet. Read on for our top tips:
Spend Some Quality Time Together
Plan to have a few days at home to stay close to your dog. You don’t want to overwhelm them with constant attention if that’s not what they’re used to, but your presence will be a welcome reassurance in the early days.
Bring in Familiarity
Give your dog access to as many creature comforts from their old home as possible – this could be a favourite blanket, bed, or toy, or even a tasty treat. This will help to set up positive associations with the new environment and ease some of the stress of unfamiliarity.
Establish a New Routine
Dogs love to know what’s coming next. If you’ve just moved, chances are their familiar routine has all but gone out the window. After moving, try to re-establish a consistent routine as quickly as possible. This could look like keeping to regular mealtimes, having scheduled play sessions and rest times, and bookending the days with neighbourhood walks.
Explore the Area
Speaking of walks now is the perfect time for you and your pooch to explore your new neighbourhood. Make it fun and social by seeking out dog parks and dog-friendly cafes and pubs – that way, you can both make new friends!
Remember to go easy on yourself and your pooch. Moving is a stressful process for everyone involved, and there are likely to be slip-ups along the way. Focus on keeping you and your dog calm and safe, and don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll be back into the usual swing of things in no time!
There are no two ways about it – moving house takes a lot of work, and throwing a dog into the mix certainly doesn’t make it any more straightforward. While moving can be a stressful experience, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With some careful planning and preparation, following your vet’s advice, and enlisting the right help in the form of a good relocation service, you can ensure the move goes as smoothly as possible. Before you know it, the packing boxes will be a distant memory.