Moving to a New Home With Your Dog? Avoid These Mistakes

dog new home adjustments

Story at-a-glance -

  • A move to a new home can be stressful for dogs; if you don’t look out for your dog’s well-being during this major life, it’s possible he could develop behavior issues that weren’t there before
  • Do your best to keep his routine as close to usual as possible; from morning meals to walks to bedtime, try not to vary your dog’s schedule, especially during the first two weeks
  • Resist the urge to toss your dog’s old bed in favor of a new one; he’ll be happy to find his familiar bed and other gear (toys, crate, blankets) in the new home
  • Set up your dog’s area first, adding in a familiar crate, bed, toys and blankets; you may want to keep your dog in this safe space until you’ve finished some of the initial unpacking and your dog starts to relax in the new space
  • Keep an eye on your dog’s mood and seek professional help if he seems overly anxious, stressed or depressed

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Moving to a new home can be a stressful time for most people — even if you're excited about the move — and dogs are no different. While you'll have time to prepare for and adjust to the idea of moving, your dog will wake up in his familiar home one day and end up in a strange environment the next. Some dogs will make the transition with seemingly no effect, but others can be traumatized by the loss of their old home and routine.

No matter what your dog's personality, simple steps can make the move much easier on your dog and, in turn, the entire family. In fact, if you don't look out for your dog's well-being during a major life change like a move, it's possible he could develop behavior issues that weren't there before.

If the move has you on edge, your dog may sense it and feel especially jumpy and anxious as well. Or, if not properly introduced to the new environment, your dog may feel compelled to mark his new territory or, on the other end of the spectrum, hide in his crate.

Some dogs, when presented with a stressful and unfamiliar situation, may develop separation anxiety, leading to destruction of property or excessive barking. While such behavioral issues can usually be resolved with proper positive reinforcement training, it's far easier to prevent them from occurring in the first place — and doing the following when you move will go a long way toward that end.

Protect Your Dog's Routine

Since your dog will be facing an entirely new environment, do your best to keep his routine as close to usual as possible. From morning meals to walks to bedtime, try not to vary your dog's schedule, especially during the first two weeks. If you can feed him at the same time as before, and keep his exercise schedule and potty breaks the same, so much the better.

After he's had a chance to adjust, you can slowly tweak the routine as needed, but avoid doing so in the first days and weeks after the move. Also avoid making any other unnecessary changes during this time, such as to his diet. Use this time to allow your dog to adjust to the new home — not a new brand of food or training technique.

Keep Your Dog's Old Bed, Crate and Toys

Often, a new home calls for new things to go along with it, but resist the urge to toss your dog's old bed in favor of a new one. He'll be happy to find his familiar bed and other gear — toys, leash, blankets, crate and food bowl, for example — have made the move to the new home along with you.

Give Your Dog the Grand Tour

Many dogs will become overwhelmed by the piles of boxes and unfamiliar people coming and going during the moving process, so it's a good idea to keep your dog safely in a gated room, or with a trusted friend or neighbor, while the actual move is taking place. After the movers have left, take your dog on a leash to give him the grand tour of his new abode.

Letting your dog run free may cause anxiety in an unfamiliar location, and some dogs may be tempted to chew or mark their new territory. Be sure to set up your dog's area first, adding in a familiar crate, bed, toys and blankets. You may want to keep your dog in this safe space until you've finished some of the initial unpacking and your dog starts to relax in the new space.

Shower Your Dog With Attention

Your dog is looking to you to give him cues that this new move is a positive one, so give him plenty of reassurance in the form of belly rubs, playtime and regular walks. It's easy to get distracted while trying to settle into a new home, but your dog will still demand just as much attention as before — if not more. 

You can even try getting down on the floor with your dog for some one-on-one bonding. "One of the things that helps dogs to feel at home someplace new is familiar smells. You can add those familiar smells to your house faster by spending time on the floor with your dog," says Karen B. London, Ph.D., a certified applied animal behaviorist and certified professional dog trainer. "Being on the floor together also adds to the time you spend giving him the loving that he needs during this stressful time."1

If possible, try to schedule some time off work during the first week or two so you can avoid leaving your dog home alone for long periods. Then, when you do leave, start with short trips away and give your dog a pleasant distraction while you're away, like a food toy.

Use Consistency in Your Dog's Sleeping and Eating Areas

In the beginning, set up a safe place for your dog to sleep and eat, and be sure to keep this area as calm as possible for your pet. Some dogs may want to stay in this safe space for days until they feel ready to explore, and if this is the case don't try to force your dog to come out sooner than he's ready. I recommend the area be quiet, devoid of LED lighting and wireless WiFi routers, and provide a cozy place to rest.

Pay Attention to Your Dog's Mood

If your dog is acting like his happy, affectionate self, you've probably passed any emotional hurdles, but some dogs may become anxious, depressed or stressed after a move.

If you have a sensitive dog, I recommend beginning emotional support, proactively, before the move begins. When you begin packing in your current house, adding Changing Times to the water can be very beneficial to help reduce tension, and continue supplementation for as many weeks as it takes in your new home for your dog to feel relaxed. Adaptogenic herbs, such as rhodiola and ashwagandha, can also be very beneficial.

You can also pipe in some soothing doggy music and diffuse the essential oil of lavender, which many dogs enjoy. Dogs vary in how long it takes them to adjust to a new environment. Some will be fine the moment they walk through the door while others will take days, weeks or months. If you're moving your pet to a new home that also has additional family members or pets, you can expect the transition to take longer.

In general, most dogs should start to feel more at ease after a few days, but if you feel your pet is not adjusting to your new environment as he should or the minute you see behaviors get worse, consult with a positive trainer or behaviorist to prevent the situation from escalating. In most cases, however, as long as you give your dog a safe place to retreat to, time to adjust and plenty of love and attention, your dog will settle in and love your new home — just like you will!

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