Monday, September 2, 2013

Moving With My Dog

Here's a question I hear quite often:

"I'm getting ready to move to a new house (city/state/etc).  How should I handle this with my dogs?"

This is actually quite a loaded question, because it causes me to ask the following questions:

1) How many dogs do you have?
2) How old is your dog?
3) How long have you had your dog?
4) Do you ever travel with your dog?

Each dog is different.  Some can handle stressful situations with ease, while others go berserk at even the mention of a suitcase.  Here are some good rules for anyone to follow, though.

Step 1
Stick to a schedule. Your dog will see boxes and suitcases while you pack, and this may stress her out, so keeping her on a routine will be helpful.  Feed her at the same times each day, take her for walks at the same time, make the rest of her life as routine as possible.  It's particularly helpful if you start to do this a few weeks before you move.  That way, when life gets a little more hectic with the move, your dog won't be thrown off nearly as much.

Step 2
Exercise!  This is almost always part of my answer, but the truth is a tired dog is a happy dog.  Go for REALLY long walks, head out for a run, go for a bike ride, or, if all else fails, enroll in a doggy daycare.  This will make life much easier for both you and your dog.

Step 3
Board your dog.  On the day of the actual move, it may be best if your dog is not with you.  Think of it this way: Doors will be opening, people will be going in and out, chaos will reign.  Do you really want to have to worry about your dog?  See if a friend will take your dog for at least the day, put your dog in daycare for the day, or even consider boarding her overnight.  Plus, if you board overnight, or even for a few days, you'll be able to pack all the final things, move everything, and even unpack before having to bring your dog back into the mix.  It really takes the pressure off.

Step 4
Get comfortable.  This kind of goes along with step 3, but you really don't want your dog to come to the new house while you're still frazzled.  Take a little time to set up your bed and hang up some clothes.  You don't have to be completely unpacked, but having at least one room set up will give both you and your dog a bit of a retreat.  Trust me.  It comes in handy.

Step 5
Introduce your dog.  Take your dog to the new house.  Walk from room to room with her.  Introduce her to the back yard.  Make sure she sees that you're comfortable and happy.  Make sure you keep an eye on her, though, because sometimes the excitement can cause accidents or other behavior issues such as chewing or scratching.

Step 6
Settle down.  Once your dog has had ample time to see the new house and sniff the corners, try to settle down in one room.  If your dog knows a command such as "down" or "bed" use that.  Reward her for being calm with a chew toy or something to keep her occupied.

Step 7
Stick to a schedule.  I know this is also step 1, but it's so important it bares repeating.  The more of a routine your dog has, the easier things will be.

The last time Hans and I moved we had Cody.  Cody was almost 3, had a solid recall, and had traveled across country with us multiple times.  While we may have been a little more relaxed on these rules, we still followed them fairly well.  It made our lives easier, and more importantly it made Cody's life easier.  The next time we move we'll have both Cody and Lollie, and I can guarantee we'll be following the same rules again.

If you're planning a move, good luck.  It can be so very stressful.  Hopefully, though, with these simple guidelines, you'll have an easier time with things.

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