How to Get Your Dog Through a Big Move

Moving is nerve-racking. Between coordinating with movers, packing up everything you own, and driving to your new home, it’s a confusing and stressful process from start to finish. And that’s just what it’s like for humans. Dogs don’t even understand what’s going on or why it’s happening, so imagine how they must feel when they’re taken from their homes, their familiar parks, and their favorite fire hydrants.

Moving can be especially hard for jittery dogs that hate car rides, like my mini pinscher, Cashew, shown here between nervous trembles:


Unfortunately, since most of us millennials are opting to raise dogs instead of kids, we occasionally need to subject our fur-babies to big moves. If you want to ensure your dog arrives at your new home with minimal trauma, follow these simple steps. 

Step 1: Keep Your Dog Safe and Secure on Moving Day

If your dog is anything like mine, then they probably take every opportunity to escape and they definitely hate strangers. Both of these traits can cause a lot of trouble on moving day. 

Whether you hire professional movers to help you pack up or you enlist your friends to lift your sectional, there will be unfamiliar people in the house, and your dog may be yipping around their heels and bravely trying to defend your home from these “intruders.” At best, this is a nuisance. At worst, it can be dangerous for your dog and the people carrying your stuff.

Your helpers will also be opening and closing your front door every couple of minutes as they pack the truck, and each breath of outside air might embolden your pooch to make a break for it. If this happens, you may end up chasing your dog up and down the street all afternoon instead of getting your truck loaded. 

There are several good solutions to these problems:

  1. Crate your dogs while you pack.
  2. Put them in a secluded room.
  3. Chain them up outside, far from the moving van (in the shade with water!).
  4. Take them to doggy daycare for the day.

Any of these solutions can prevent your dogs from escaping or tripping your helpers while they carry your boxes and furniture.

Step 2: Make the Trip as Comfortable as Possible

After you’ve finished loading the truck, it’s time to get your dog ready for the trip. If you don’t have too far to go and your dog enjoys a good car ride, this shouldn’t be a problem; you can just transport them the same way you always do.

But if your dog hates cars, you’ll need to keep them calm and comfortable to avoid car sickness, anxiety, and panic attacks. Bear in mind that even a dog who normally enjoys car rides will start to go a little stir-crazy after too long in a moving vehicle, so if you’re driving for several hours or a couple of days, you’ll need a game plan. 

The first thing you can try is a Thundershirt or a dog anxiety vest. These products apply gentle pressure to a dog’s torso to calm them during stressful times like the Fourth of July, thunderstorms, and long car rides. If you’ve tried an anxiety vest before and it didn’t work, you can also ask your veterinarian to prescribe some mild sedatives for your dog. These will probably make your pet a little loopy during the drive, but they will also prevent anxiety.

Whether you go with a vest or meds, you should also make frequent stops to let your dog get some fresh air and use the bathroom. Additionally, you should use a well-ventilated crate or carrier that’s large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down in. To make your dog extra comfy, place a blanket from the old house in the carrier with them.

Lastly, try to position the carrier so that your dog can look out the window if they want to. Being able to keep an eye on the road will help your dog resist motion sickness.

Whatever else you do, don’t put your dog in the cargo area of the moving truck. The confined space, temperature, and shifting objects can all be dangerous for your dog.

Step 3: Help Your Dog Adjust to the New Space

Once you reach your destination, it might take your dog a while to feel completely at home in the new apartment or house. Be patient and loving while your dog acquaints themselves with their surroundings. You should especially watch out for leg-lifting and squatting for the first week or two since even well-trained dogs tend to mark unfamiliar territory. 

I recommend taking your dog to the new place before the move so they can sniff around the yard and the different rooms. This will help the space feel less strange when it’s time to live there. I understand that this might be unfeasible for some moves, especially long-distance moves, but it makes a big difference if you can swing it. To help make the new space comfortable for your dog you’ve got to consider making the space more familiar for the dog.  And even after the big move, you may want to wait a while until you unpack everything, especially if your dog isn’t well-trained. If necessary, you could take advantage of storage units to put the vast majority of your stuff just while your dog gets used to the space. 

After you’ve moved in, your dog is going to want to patrol the space. Before letting them explore on their own, put your dog on a leash, but let them lead the way even if they want to wander aimlessly. This setup will allow your dog to safely investigate every nook and cranny, and it will let you watch out for common backyard hazards that your dog might run into, such as toxic mushrooms.

Finally, keep as much of your old furniture as possible. I know that it’s nice to replace an old sofa or mattress when you move, but these furnishings will still smell like your old place for a while, so keeping them for a few months after the move can help your dog adjust gradually into their new home.

About Joe Roberts

Joe is a professional copywriter and a lifelong lover of every dog in the world. He lives in Salt Lake City and writes moving-related content every day. He spends his free time reading, playing music with his band, traveling with his girlfriend, and walking his mini pinscher, Cashew. 

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