A year ago I moved out from my family home and bought a house with my other half. The Rack Pack were just 3 at the time and we decided that Tizzy would remain living with my mum (who now has Lottie living with her too). Bertie and Lulu were to come with us to the new home as they were more attached to me and my partner. Bertie and Lulu had never known another home beside so moving to a new environment would be as stressful a transition for them as it would be for us.
It’s a whole new (scary) environment that they don’t know the smells, sights or sounds of. It’s common for dogs in homes that have moved to bark more, toilet inside, act subdued, or even over excited and stressed. Even though my dogs are used to going and staying in new places as they always come on holiday with us, this was a whole new kettle of fish.
We were lucky to be able to move into this new property gradually and at the same time desensitise, familiarise and build positive experiences with the dogs. I started with bringing them to visit the house to explore and scope it out. I left the house open for them to wander freely and left them to it while I decorated. Surprisingly they soon found themselves sun bathing in the garden. Not even barking at all the new sounds, including barking dogs!
These short visits extended to longer all day ones and I brought over their toys and puzzle feeders. I did some trick training and generally played with them while having a break from my painting. We went for walks during the day to explore the surrounding area as well. I wanted to leave them to it, to be able to settle themselves and come to me if they needed reassurance. They rarely did at this point.
The big test was when we finally moved them over permanently. They’d yet to sleep in the house. They were restless the first night and it took a week of routine to start to settle themselves in. They had their happy place in the conservatory and garden, that I made sure they always had access to. Lulu went back to sleeping between my partner and myself, we allowed this as she needed the security and reassurance and knew she’d eventually return to sleeping in her own bed once she felt secure enough, which she now does. Bertie’s main display of unsettlement was humping Lulu, something he rarely did in our last house.
Here are some hints and tips for ways to ease the transition for your dogs when moving to a new home.
- Plan ahead. Where in your new home is your dog going to sleep and spend their time in? Setting up and safe place for your dog to retreat, with all their familiar things like bed and toys, should be done the first day.
- Teach your dog to settle on a mat, then take that training to lots of places and encourage the settled behaviour in many settings, indoor place like pubs, cafes, friends and family houses. You’ve got a ready made settle place for your dog in the new home by the time you move.
- If it’s feasible, bring your dog over to the new home several times before you actually move. Let them familiarise themselves to it over time.
- Reinforce the right behaviours. Go back to basics and reward heavily for toileting outside, indoor manners and calm behaviour. You’re in a new place so you want to make sure your dog generalises their training to the new home.
- If your dog reacts to noise and barks, calm them or distract them from the noise and then reward quiet calm behaviour when the dog doesn’t react anymore. Go out into the back garden and chill with your dog, let them take it all in.
- Occupy their time with mentally puzzle feeders, interactive play and fun training sessions. Turn your home into a positive and safe place to enjoy spending time in.
- Take your dog on a walk in the area, let them get used to the sights, sounds and smell of the new environment you’ve moved to. Let them establish themselves with a bit of doggy ‘pee post’ communication with the other local canines.
Above all, my advice to anyone moving home with their pets is to have patience, you need to go at their pace. Don’t punish them for accidents, destructive behaviour or barking. Make them feel safe and loved at all times.