Q&A: How to make moving into new home easier on your pet

Even days before, it is obvious that something is about to change. Boxes are everywhere, the atmosphere is tense and then strangers come and take the furniture away.

Then, instead of finally having peace and quiet in familiar surroundings in the evening, your dog ends up in a strange environment.

“For dogs who are anxious by nature, their world falls apart,” says Patricia Loesche, Chairwoman of Germany’s Professional Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and Trainers.

Of course, there are also dogs who don’t care where they are – the main thing is that the person they are fixed on is there.

However, dogs from shelters often have difficulty finding orientation anywhere they go – especially when they have only been with an owner for a short time.

“They can then have real problems with a move,” says Loesche. This can even start when packing boxes, because the entire environment changes relatively quickly. Some dogs can react to this with insecurity, even aggression.

Move a suffering dog to somewhere calmer

Animal behavior experts recommend keeping an eye on your dog from an early stage. “If the dog is already panting a lot while packing, is restless, tucks its tail or won’t leave you alone, it may be better to put it somewhere else for a while.” And not just on moving day itself, but preferably in the days before.

“If the dog gets into trouble, it makes sense to be considerate of that — otherwise you will get into trouble yourself,” says Patricia Loesche. For example, they might develop a pronounced separation anxiety and bark persistently in their new home or start destroying things.

Andre Papenberg, chairman of the professional association of certified dog trainers, also advises giving dogs that are suffering to a friend for a while – preferably to a trusted person, otherwise to a dog day-care center or animal boarding facility.

“If the dog has never been there before, you should practice with it first and put it there once or twice to see if it works.” The owner would also have to feel comfortable and agree with the solution in such a case.

Nonetheless, those who are moving should not only think about the animal’s well-being. “If you are a dog owner and hire a moving company, it would be good to address the issue directly and say that there will be a dog with you on moving day,” says Daniel Waldschik, spokesperson for the German Association of Moving Companies and Logistics (AMOe).

Some employees might be scared of dogs for instance. “As a rule, however, companies have experience with this,” Waldschik says. “If the boss knows something like that, he simply doesn’t use the person for such a move.”

Dogs needs familiarity

Loesche advises that the dog should find something familiar in the new flat as soon as it enters. For example, a furniture constellation with his bowls, toys and sleeping place.

“Of course, there are also familiar smells for it from the furniture, carpets and people themselves, but it would make sense not to clean the things that belong to the dog extensively beforehand.”

Dogs also settle into the new environment way more quickly if you do nice things with them there straight away – in other words, play with it or feed it. “That creates a positive atmosphere right from the start,” she says. If you then give the dog a treat after every walk in the new home, the issue is quickly history.

It is different, however, if you have a sensitive dog. In that case, it can help to take a few walks in the new environment before the move, so that the dog will find the environment familiar.

“Basically, you shouldn’t just think ‘the dog will get through it!’, but approach the matter with delicacy,” Loesche recommends. According to Andre Papenberg, where you move to also plays a role: “If I have a cultural change and move from the country to the city, many outside stimuli are completely foreign to him and I should ease him gently into the new situation.”

For safety reasons, it also doesn’t hurt to Google the nearest vet beforehand “so I know where to call if something ever happens,” says the dog trainer.

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