June 3, 2011
In our last column, “On the Move with Pets, Part I,” we addressed behavioral concerns from an inquisitive dog guardian who is on the move and relocating across the country with her husband and three dogs.
We shared our management and dog training tips for preparing for the move, easing any associated anxiety and traveling across country. We wanted to devote this installment to ways to make the transition as smooth as possible during the moving day itself.
As a dog guardian and certified professional dog trainer, I know how important it is to plan ahead and am happy to offer my best training and management advice to help ensure a safe and successful transition for everyone.
- Minimizing stress: During the time when your household is being relocated, consider ways to make it less stressful for everyone — including your dogs. Ask a friend to help by watching your dogs when you’re doing last-minute packing or loading of the moving truck or while movers are trekking in and out of the home. Another option is setting up a doggy playdate with friends’ dogs. Alternately, you could hire a dog walker or pet sitter. If your dogs spend time at a doggy daycare, then that could be another option to keep your inquisitive canines busy while still having fun.
- Taking the comforts of home with you: Remember to pack items that are part of your dogs’ normal everyday lives. Consider the bare necessities such as water, food and treats, his or her favorite blanket (or bed/towel), a crate if this is what you use for transportation, medical records and medications (if any) and a leash. A favorite toy and/or chewies for times when at hotels or rest stops could be helpful, too.
Another “comfort” can be a sweaty T-shirt that you or other family members have worn that you place in his or her crate or bed. The “smell of home” can help provide reassurance through sensory memory that he or she is still with family. As a reminder, all of your dogs should be wearing collars with current IDs and rabies tags at all times. Also, having extra towels, sheets or blankets can be quite handy for a variety of reasons.
Movin’ and Shakin’: Heading Out on Your Journey!
- Safety in the car: Although there are no current laws for pet safety in cars, I am a huge proponent of safety belts for dogs. They’re inexpensive, work really well and help protect everyone. For smaller dogs, car seats with safety belts are available. If you choose to go another route such as a crate, make sure all safety latches are working well, and that each has a comfy mat/bed that doesn’t slide around. You’ll also want to ensure that each has ventilation and enough room to move about.
If your dogs haven’t been crate-trained, you can find out more about the benefits and get some basic training tips on my dog training blog. Choosing a form of safety restraint is ideal, as allowing dogs to roam free in a moving car is dangerous for everyone.
- Taking time for breaks: As much as you want to get to your new home ASAP, you’ll want to take the time to make frequent stops, giving yourself and your dogs the opportunity to potty, move around a little, stretch and get some fresh air. Finding an area to play a little fetch or run around will help reduce the energy factor, which in turn can help your dogs want to nap — but only if it’s safe to do so! Remember to abide by leash laws and be aware of your surroundings to help prevent your dogs from running off.
- Eating on the road: If either of your dogs has a sensitive tummy, you’ll want to limit food and excessive water intake. Light meals and a few treats here and there are usually adequate during the drive. You can check with your vet to make sure, though, since health conditions can factor into eating schedules.
- Fresh air can help with reducing tummy upset. Air controls turned on in the car or having windows down a few inches is fine, but allowing dogs to hang out windows while driving can lead to disaster, so that is something you’ll want to be aware of. Make sure the safety locks are on, too, to prevent heads or paws from getting caught in windows.
- Never leave your dogs alone in the car for prolonged periods: Short periods such as when you’ve stopped for a restaurant meal would be an exception, as long as you remember to leave them with plenty of air and water. You’ll also want to park where you can keep a watchful eye on the car. Another suggestion would be to offer your dogs a potty and stretch break before getting back on the road.
Home Sweet Home: The Big Arrival!
- Settling into your new home: This can be painless, provided you take a few extra steps to ensure it. Similar to humans, canines are homeostatic creatures. They like stability and the routines they’ve established as much as we do. This means you’ll want to do all you can to ensure your dogs keep within their routines as much as possible.
- Initially, you’ll want to keep him or her on leash even indoors, and especially outside when you first arrive. Walk your dogs around the entire home within each room so he or she has the chance to sniff and explore. If there were previous owners who had pets, various scents might trigger your dogs to mark his or her territory. Keep a watchful eye on this and interrupt gently with your happy voice to redirect away from the area. Reward your dog for ignoring, while making a note to yourself which areas will need to be cleaned.
- If you have a fenced yard, check each inch of the perimeter to ensure it is safe from your dogs getting out or other animals getting in. And unless you’re actively playing with your dogs outside in your fenced yard, you might want to consider keeping them inside until each one has made the adjustment and settled in comfortably.
- Feeding schedules, exercise routines and sleeping timetables are all routines you’ll want to maintain as much as possible. Taking walks together in your new neighborhood will give everyone a chance to check out your new location and maybe even meet your new neighbors. Who knows? You might even find some other doggies in the area for possible playdates. Remember to bring treats with you to reward behaviors you like!
Moving can be stressful on all animals, human and nonhuman. But with planning, a little legwork before you head out and management along the way, you’re sure to make this exciting adventure more peaceful and less traumatic for everyone. We’ll miss you in California, but we wish you all the best for a safe, stress-free and successful journey!
— Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about canine and human behavior. Their column is known for its simple common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog. Joan is also the founder of The Inquisitive Canine, where her love-of-dog training approach highlights the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog have questions about behavior, training or life with each other, e-mail them directly.