Last week Milo had to endure yet another house move. He changed countries three times during the seven and half years of his life, and this move was his fifth house move. Despite being used to it, Milo hates moving. It seems that it isn’t the prospect of a new place that annoys him (after all, I don’t think he actually knows about our plans for a new home), but rather the whole process of packing, moving and disassembling furniture, things disappearing from their usual places and, no doubt, our stress. Milo’s way of expressing anxiety and frustration is stealing and guarding various things. In addition, his allergy always flares up when he is stressed.
Milo’s reaction is not unusual and rather typical of dogs. They are not very flexible creatures, who would much prefer to follow a military-like conservative routine: waking up at the same hour, getting a usual walk, performing a breakfast dance before eating it, doing the “sleep-in-every-corner-of-the-house” round… You know it. Their feeling of safety depends on stability of their environment. A while ago I came across a theory that dogs tend to perceive things as a whole rather than as being composed of different parts. In other words, they perceive a person’s clothing or things he or she holds (such as an umbrella) as parts or extensions of this person. Same goes for furniture: if you had a sofa in your living room for a while, you dog will perceive it as an integral part of the room. So, imagine your dog’s terror, when his environment starts to fall apart in the most literal sense. Add to that less attention from you, suspicious strangers coming into the house and disruptions to the routine and you will see why your dog is not happy about the move. So how do you make the move as comfortable for your dog as possible?
Before the move
First, make sure you spend time with your dog. More exercise, more training, more play time and more cuddle time will keep your dog stimulated and tired. In addition, it will show him that he is not being neglected by you. Try hard to keep the amount of attention you give your dog at least at the same level as before the preparations for the move began.
Second, start packing as early as you can. This way all changes will be more gradual, and your dog will have a chance to get used to boxes. Alternatively, hire movers to pack your things just before you move and take your dog for a walk while they do it.
Third, try to keep it a secret from your dog for as long as possible. Have someone take him for a walk while you pack, or do most of the packing during your dog’s downtime. Milo is generally calmer and quitter in the first half of the day, but your dog may have his own schedule.
On the day
Your best option is to take the dog out for a walk, so that he won’t see the movers and won’t witness them loading the truck with your possessions. You can do that yourself if convenient (I took Milo for a 4-hour walk on the day of our move), or you can hire a dog walker, or even leave your dog at the kennels for a day. Whichever option you choose, you goal is to minimize your dog’s exposure to the stressful events of the day.
Bad news. Your dog will urinate in your new house during the first week or even the first few weeks. You may be lucky, and your dog will spare you the pleasures of cleaning up, but most dogs do wee shortly after moving. The reason for this is not as much marking the territory for others to recognize it as theirs. Dogs do this to feel more secure in new surroundings with unfamiliar smells.
It is important that you spend at least a day or two at home with your dog. Sacrifice a bank holiday weekend or take a day off, but don’t leave your dog alone in the new house next day after the move. This is a short way to separation anxiety and angry neighbours, who won’t be happy with your dog howling the whole day. Show the house to your dog and explore the neighbourhood. Pay attention to how your dog likes the new placement of his bed. Take time to help your in settling in, and I hope you’ll enjoy your new home together!
And if you feel too overwhelmed by everything you have to take care of before the move, read this post and I guarantee it will make you laugh 🙂