How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Adjust to a Move?

by Ann Compton
    Take steps to make your dog's adjustment to moving easier.

    Take steps to make your dog's adjustment to moving easier.

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    Moving is stressful for dogs. Your dog's security is his environment and his people, and a move can be confusing and upsetting to him. Each dog is different, so depending on your dog's temperament, it can take as briefly as a few days or as long as several weeks for your dog to feel at home in his new surroundings. Plan ahead to ease the stress and help your dog adjust more quickly.

    Most dogs don't like change. They may enjoy a walk in a new park, but watch what happens if you move their food bowl from its normal spot. Some will appear confused but will dine; others won't eat at all. Expect a similar result when you move your pup out of his familiar surroundings. Senior dogs, dogs with health issues and dogs who are fearful will have more trouble and will take longer to adjust. You can help your dog with a gradual transition to your new home.

    If your dog is normally reserved or cautious, extra effort on your part before you move will help him make the adjustment faster. He will sense change once he sees moving boxes, just as he knows when your suitcase comes out that you're going away. Start packing boxes as early as possible once you know you're moving, so you aren't filling your house with boxes all at once. Let your dog sniff and examine them as you pack. Set aside a few boxes for your dog's belongings, and let him watch as you place some inside. Take your dog for several walks on leash in your new neighborhood if it's close enough, where he can explore new scents and sounds in advance of the move.

    Senior dogs will take longer to adjust to moving than young dogs or puppies, who are normally more curious and eager to explore new things. Having spent more time in your home, a senior dog is less likely to understand change. If you're moving your belongings gradually, take your dog along on trips to your new home. Bring one of his dog beds and some toys, and place them in the room that will be his primary location. Allow him lots of time to sniff and explore there. Confine him to that room with a baby gate so he can see you while you move other items into the house. Be sure he's secure and can't get out while you're opening doors. He will begin making the adjustment to "his" room and feel secure there more quickly once you move.

    Moving day will be the most stressful time for you and your dog. Consider leaving him with a friend for the day. If you can't, confine him to an empty room in your home that the movers will not enter. Put his bed, some toys and an item or two with your scent on it in the room. Check on him frequently, so he knows you haven't left him. Once the move is complete, take him around your new house to explore. He will recognize furnishings from your old house and this will help him feel more comfortable.

    Give your dog extra attention once you've moved to help him adjust to his new home. An older dog or one who is nervous by nature will need more time and attention to adapt to new surroundings. He may exhibit behaviors such as separation anxiety barking, marking or elimination. These are signs of stress. Spend as much time at home with your dog as possible for the first few days. Your presence is his security and will help him make the transition. Keep his regular schedule of feeding, walks and sleeping to help him acclimate. Unless the yard at your new house is fenced, don't let him off leash until he's familiar with the area. In a day or two, you'll see your dog begin to relax in his new surroundings.

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    About the Author

    With more than 25 years in journalism, Ann Compton has written for national newspapers, magazines and websites. She has covered the equestrian events in five Olympics as well as the Westminster Dog Show and specializes in animal topics. She breeds, trains and shows Shetland Sheepdogs.

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