Smooth Moves: Tips for Relocating With your Dog
Whether you’re moving into a bustling metropolis or out of one, changing homes can be tough on our dogs. New places bring a host of new sights, sounds, smells and feelings which often lead to some sensory overload. Helping your dog adjust to a new place takes patience and consistency. Check out these tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
Take a trip
Once you know what city or neighborhood you’re moving into, if you can, take your dog for a visit. Let your dog experience the sights, sounds and smells of the new place before you fully immerse them in it with a move. Make the visit short, sweet and full of positive reinforcement. If you live close and can visit more than once before you move, do it! The more familiar your dog is with the new place, the less daunting the move will be for them. If you have the freedom to schedule your visit around a quiet time of day with the least amount of foot traffic possible, you can avoid sensory overload and ensure that the visit(s) will be pleasant and positive for your pup.
Consistency is key
With so many changes going on during a move, trying to keep your routine as consistent as possible is a great way to keep stress levels low for you and your dog. If you and your pup typically start your day at 6:30am, eat breakfast at 7am and go for a walk at 7:15am doing your best to maintain routines like these will help your dog feel stable and less unsure of their surroundings no matter where they are or what’s going on around them. Remember that a tired dog is much more likely to relax in new or unfamiliar places. Adding an extra mile or two to your daily walk is a great idea.
Create a safe space
Putting your dog’s bed or crate in a similar place with similar vantage points to where it previously was will help your dog feel safe in unfamiliar territory. Remember to cover the top and at least two sides of the crate with a blanket or towel. This eliminates the feeling of potential ambush and creates a cozy, dim, den that acts as a safe space to get away from the chaos of the move or take a nap.
Leave a little bit of you behind
A new home is chock full of new smells. Take an old t-shirt or towel and sleep with it for a few nights. Once the cloth is full of your scent, leave it in your dog’s bed or crate. Creating a space that smells like you and feels safe will let your dog relax when you’re not home or when you’re busy unpacking boxes. Refresh the scent item every week or so and your dog will thank you.
Eyes on me
Teaching your dog to look up at you when out on walks is a great way to distract them from the hustle and bustle of city streets. Take a bag of delicious treats. When out on your walk, put a treat between your fingers and bring it to your dog's nose. When your dog catches the scent and shows interest, bring the hand with the treat up and next to your eye. When your dog looks up to follow the treat, make eye contact, say “good look!” and reward your dog with the treat. Continue this training and make use of your new command to keep your dog’s attention on you instead of on the crowded and overwhelming city streets.
Short and sweet
If your dog is hesitant to take walks in a new place or is showing signs of a sensory overload (sitting down in the street and refusing to move or making a bee-line for home whenever possible) shorten your walks. Instead of going out for your typical mile long jaunts, take your dog for a very short, positive walk around the block or even just to the end of the street. Use your “look” command to keep their focus on you and make sure to end the walk before your dog starts to show signs of a meltdown. Frequent positive experiences will build your dog’s confidence and you’ll be back up to speed in no time.
New place, new pee spot
Whether you’re relocating to the city or to the suburbs, teaching a dog that’s used to going on grass to go on concrete or vice versa can be a challenging task. If you haven’t done so already, attaching a word or phrase to the act of going to the bathroom is a great way to help your dog understand what you’re asking them to do. Pick a spot in the grass, on a pee pad or on the street that is not in a traffic path. Once you’re at the spot, pick a phrase like “go potty” or “hurry up” and repeat it. By repeating the same phrase over and over again while your dog is relieving him/herself, you are actually teaching your dog to go to the bathroom when they hear the phrase. It may take several days before your dog fully grasps the concept of going on command but once they do, asking your dog to go in a new place will be much easier.
Have a stubborn pup whose willing to hold their bladder until you find them a familiar patch of grass or concrete? Try this: take a napkin or pee pad and an extra plastic bag on your next walk. Take your dog to a spot that they will relieve themselves and use your “go potty” command. Once they go, rub the pee pad or napkin in your dog’s pee and seal it in the plastic bag. Go back to the place where you would like them to pee, open the bag and rub the pee into the concrete or grass. Let your dog sniff the spot and head back inside. Next time you take them out to pee, take your dog directly to the new pee spot and repeat your “go potty” command. If your dog does not go, walk a circle around the block, head back to the pee spot and start your “go potty” chant. Continue this method until your dog uses the new area. If this takes several days, continually refresh the desired pee spot with fresh pee. Be patient and expect this to take some time, a new bathroom spot is a big change for a dog.
Pro Tip: First thing in the morning is the best time for success when asking your dog to adjust to a new bathroom spot. A full morning bladder is hard to hold!
If your dog is weary about leaving the house or apartment building, reward them with a treat on their way out. Do not give a treat on the way back in. Rewarding leaving and ignoring coming back in makes an outdoor adventure something to look forward to for your dog.