Please read our overview before you read this part.

Moving with Your Pets: Challenges for Dogs

Photo by Tim Mason

Dogs are a bit more amenable to change than cats are. They routinely leave home with us, whether just for walks, vet visits, grooming, training, or for longer, more involved trips. They often enjoy car rides and exploring new places, too. Moving is stressful, but they typically adapt more quickly than their feline counterparts.

That is, if they are stable to begin with.

If your dog is skittish, fearful, cautious or timid, his acclimation to this new place is going to take longer. If he hasn’t had much training, it’s also going to be more work for you*. If he’s rarely confined (by a crate, gates, or other tools that keep him from freely wandering the home and yard), he will have other challenges relating to the new space and how he fits into it. If he has separation-related distress or anxiety, the jury is out on whether a new environment will help or hinder. It may get better for a short time, and it may not.

NOTE: Make sure your dog is wearing a securely-fitted collar that he cannot slip out of, and which has an I.D. tag with multiple contact points for you and a friend. Is he microchipped? If not, have that done. If he is, he still needs the collar and tag.

In short, dogs who are stable, confident, obedience trained, and crate trained will acclimate more easily into a new space (smaller or larger) than dogs without these qualities. The more you are seen as a benevolent leader by your dog, the easier the process will be for both of you.

So it’s best to have training in place as much prior to the move as possible. If your dog isn’t crazy about his crate, teach him to love it. Teach or brush up on basic commands now, and stick to routine.

Know that packing may cause him some consternation. The routine will help here, too. Dogs are very attuned to our emotions and energy, but they don’t understand what they are picking up on—just that we are “off,” somehow. When we are off, they can be, too.

Resist the urge to try to baby or console your dog through this. Stick to routine and be upbeat and confident. Ignore super-clingy behaviors, practice obedience and tricks, and exercise his body and mind.


You need to confine Fido when the moving of items is going on to prevent him escaping, acting out at the movers (strange people in his space, coming and going and coming and going—it can be stressful), or trying to get them to play with him. Crate him in an out-of the way place at either location if he’s crate trained. Try to exercise his body and mind before that if you can.

It may be best to send your pup to doggy daycare on the day of your in-town move if he’s been before and liked it. Even just a place he’s been boarded previously may be better than keeping him with you, especially if he doesn’t deal well with being crated or otherwise confined, or if he doesn’t like strangers.

Or you may consider leaving him with a trusted friend or family member, especially someone in your network who has “babysat” him before. A long day at “Grandma’s” house playing with her dogs could be just the ticket.

Moving with Your Pets: Challenges for Dogs

Photo by Heather White

If your move is cross-country, all the above applies until it’s time to get in the car and ride off. Prepare for a typical car trip with your dog, and keep with those customs: frequent leashed potty breaks, and proper car confinement (crate or harness for safety).

Once you are settled in the new place, take him out of the box and remove his bubble wrap establish a place for his crate and bed and food/water bowls. Take him for a walk in his new neighborhood or space; it need not be long. NOTE: does your new place have a fenced yard? Sounds great! But don’t assume it’s completely escape-proof until you have time to walk it and check, and don’t assume your dog won’t look for holes. Walk him on leash in the yard the first day, at least.

Offer food and water, but don’t be concerned if he passes on it. Get a good night’s sleep, both of you.

The next day, get him on a schedule and proceed accordingly. I’d avoid parading him all over town just yet; save the outdoor cafes for later and explore close to home for now. Find a veterinarian (and the location of the nearest emergency veterinary clinic) you can trust, and training or boarding places for future use. It takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for dogs to settle into a new home. Since you and your belongings are familiar, that will help a bit. He will likely benefit from a bit more confinement than normal these first few days.

Keep up with his training, be consistent, and enjoy your new residence!

*Fearful dogs should be kept on a secure leash at all times during the moving process. From the moment you pick her up from daycare, Grandma’s, or go to remove her from her crate, keep her leashed—even if you have a fenced yard. Going cross-country? Definitely confine in the car with a crate or harness, and put the leash on before you let her out of confinement. Fearful dogs are easily spooked and you don’t want to be trying to find a lost dog or trying to coax a scared one back into your car. In short, take extra precautions during all stages of the move–even if you believe 100% that you don’t need them. Use a slip lead that has a moveable stopper if she might slip out of her collar. If her regular collar (not a training collar) is snug enough, use a 6-foot leash of nylon, leather, or cotton–not a retractable. A martingale-style collar is also a nice safety backup as long as it is fitted correctly.