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Dear Inquisitive Canine: Moving to a New Home With Pets, Part I

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Pre-trip tips for easing anxiety and helping dogs adjust to changing conditions

Dear Inquisitive Canine:

My husband and I will be moving across country in a few months (California to Pennsylvania), and we have three dogs that didn’t adjusted well to our previous move to Northern California from Central California.

We are wondering what we can do to help ease their anxiety when packing up our home, spending two full days traveling and getting them accustomed to our new home. Do you have suggestions for making the transition easier on them? Thanks!

— Animal House on the Move

Dear Animal House:

Wow, exciting times for sure! As a dog guardian and certified professional dog trainer, I think it’s wonderful that you’ve taken the time to ask such great questions and are making an effort to plan ahead to make the transition as smooth as possible.

In the first installment of this two-part column, I will provide tips for helping you manage your dogs before the move. In the second part, I will offer my best training and management advice for you and your dogs on moving day to help ensure a safe and successful voyage east.

Before You Move — Plan, Prepare and Plan Some More

Planning ahead is key in making life easier for everyone. The months leading up to your move can be the time to strategize and begin your training program. As a certified professional dog trainer, I would recommend you begin these simple steps a few months prior to moving day.

  • Desensitize your dogs to suitcases, boxes and the task of packing, in case these were prior triggers for creating feelings of concern and uneasiness. You’ve stated that your dogs didn’t adjust well to your previous move. Suitcases and boxes can often end up becoming environmental “triggers” to dogs, from previous learning, if he or she had issues with moving before.
    • You’ll want to pack up a box or two of things that you don’t really need access to until you’ve actually relocated. Once packed up, leave the boxes sitting around your house. This way, your dogs will learn that all of the action of packing and various boxes and suitcases don’t really lead to anything in particular. No one is leaving, no one is moving, nothing else is changing. These packed up boxes don’t necessarily predict anything.
  • Get acclimated to new environmental conditions. Pennsylvania most likely has different environmental sounds, smells and conditions compared to what your dogs are accustomed to in California. Take the time to find out what these new changes might be and then re-enact the experience for your dogs before leaving. One example would be playing sound effects of thunderstorms at low volume, increasing the level as the dogs become accustomed to the noise. These dress rehearsals can help preclude surprises.
  • Be aware of environmental changes such as snow and ice, as well as different types of foliage, pollens, insects and wildlife your dogs are likely to encounter. If your dogs need additional vaccinations or topical preventive medications, you’ll want to speak with your vet before moving to determine whether specific vaccinations or preventive medications are recommended.
  • Get your kicks on Route 66, or whichever road you’re taking. Hopefully your dogs enjoy car rides, for long periods. If not, you’ll want to take the steps to desensitize each one not to just tolerate but to actually enjoy the voyage. You’ll want to allow plenty of time for conditioning your dogs to enjoying being chauffeured across the country.

For training tips on car safety for dogs, click here for an Inquisitive Canine blog post written by my car-loving sidekick, Poncho.

Pre-Move Tips

In addition to your training plan, here are a few additional things to keep in mind and start checking off your list as moving day approaches.

  • Every state, county and city may have different regulations when it comes to our pet dogs. You’ll want to investigate each jurisdiction regarding vaccinations, licensing, leash requirements and public zoning.
  • As a reminder, each of your dogs should always be wearing a collar with identification. Make sure his or her tag has your current contact phone number, and that you’ve updated your pet’s microchip information.
  • Arrange a check-up appointment for each dog with your veterinarian, just to make sure all are in “top paw” shape. You’ll also want to obtain a copy of his or her records to take with you in hand while on your journey east.
  • Wherever you choose to sleep during your expedition, you’ll want to make sure each and every place allows dogs — and all three of them! Many hotels allow dogs nowadays, but having three might limit your choices. Check and reserve ahead while finding out what each place requires for pets to stay.
  • Moving can be stressful on all animals — human and nonhuman. But with planning, you’re sure to make this exciting adventure more peaceful and less traumatic for everyone.

Stay tuned for our next installment of “Moving With your Pets” which focuses on useful training tips on moving day!

— 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.

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