Joan Merriam: Moving day with your dog
The end of May usually signals the beginning of the summer season, and with summer often comes relocation. The kids are out of school, the weather is good, and for most people, it’s an ideal time to plan a move.
Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, the transition to a new place can be tough on everyone — including your dogs. Dogs are creatures of habit: when their routine is interrupted, especially with something as significant as moving to a new home, it can be highly stressful.
But there are things you can do to make the process easier on both you and your dog.
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First, if you’re moving to a different town or area, you’ll need to find a new veterinarian. The best place to start is with your current vet: ask if they have any contacts or references to vets in your new region. Ask friends, relatives, or work associates in your new city for their recommendations.
If you’ve already found a new veterinarian, have your current vet transfer all your pet’s records to the new doctor.
Fill your dog’s prescriptions in advance — and if you’re moving to a new part of the country (or somewhere outside the U.S.), ask your vet how the conditions there could affect the need for preventatives for fleas, heartworm, Lyme, and other pests and diseases. If you’re moving internationally, talk to your veterinarian about what tests, vaccinations, paperwork or inspections will be required by your new country. You can also go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website for information about international pet regulations.
Make sure your dogs are microchipped and have ID tags with your new address on them. That way, if they escape during the move, they can easily be traced back to you.
If you’re driving and your move will take more than a day, make reservations at pet-friendly hotels. Scout out dog parks or dog-friendly places to walk along the route so both of you can get some exercise and work out the kinks of being cooped up inside a car.
Just Before You Leave…
Dogs are quite sensitive to circumstances in their environments, including their owner’s emotions. If you’re stressed and anxious, chances are your dog will be too. The AKC says that the best way to keep your dog calm when moving is to keep yourself calm—or at the very least, avoid freaking out in front of your furry friend.
If your dog will be in a carrier for the trip, be sure he’s comfortable with it and doesn’t see it as punishment. Leave the carrier out and open so he can smell and inspect it before moving day, and put his favorite blanket and treats inside to make it a more positive experience.
If possible, take your dog to a friend’s house or even a kennel or doggie day-care on the day of the move. There will likely be people — some of them strangers — coming in and out, slamming doors and carting off your pup’s favorite furniture, and all of this can be unsettling. Plus, you need to think about people leaving doors and gates open where your dog could escape.
When it’s finally time to leave for your new home, put your dog into the car last. Make sure he has easy access to water, along with some of his favorite toys, blankets or bedding.
Along the way, take plenty of breaks to relieve the monotony and allow for potty-time. (And whenever you stop, be SURE to pick up after your dog!)
When You Arrive
Put your dog in a separate room with either the door closed or with a sturdy baby-gate while movers are bringing in boxes and furniture. Once things have quieted down, give her the freedom to explore her new home. Show her the dog-door if there is one, and take her outside into the yard. If the yard is fenced, make sure you’ve checked carefully for holes or spots for escape.
Inside, create a familiar space by arranging beds, food and water dishes, and toys as close as possible to where they were in your previous home. Try to stick to your dog’s previous feeding and walking schedules.
Finally, at Your New Vet’s Office
Schedule a “get acquainted” meeting so both you and your dog can meet your new veterinarian. This is a perfect opportunity to ask about things like the practice’s policies, hours of operation, and emergency care. Meet the staff, and watch how they interact with your dog. All of this will help you see if the practice and its people are the right “fit” for both you and your dog. Remember: open communication is the basis of a good veterinarian-owner-pet relationship.
There’s no doubt that moving can be challenging for us all, but taking these steps can make it a lot less traumatic for your dog — and for you!
Joan Merriam lives in Nevada County with her Golden Retriever Joey, her Maine Coon cat Indy, and the abiding spirit of her beloved Golden Retriever Casey in whose memory this column is named. You can reach Joan at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re looking for a Golden, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue .
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