33 Ways to Make Moving With Dogs Stress-Free

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Updated December 20, 2021
Dog in a Cardboard Box on Moving Day

Whether you're relocating across the street or across the globe, moving with dogs can seem stressful. Fortunately, there are many ways you can make this experience smoother for everyone. From pre-move preparation to tips for helping your dog adjust to their new environment, you'll never have to stress on moving day again.

Preparation Before You Move With Dogs

In most cases, you'll have a few weeks or months to prepare for your big move. Get a head start on planning things for your dog with these helpful measures.

  • Pick transportation: Decide on the least stressful and most appropriate way to travel for your dog. If you are driving yourself, it probably makes sense to drive your dog, as well. If you're moving internationally, flying would likely be the most practical route. Should you have trouble deciding, you can discuss this with your veterinarian.
  • Schedule a check-up: Visit your vet to ensure your dog is in good health and able to travel. Make sure they're up to date on vaccines and ask your vet if there are any special vaccinations needed for your new area of residence, as some diseases are more prevalent in specific locations or environments.
  • Consider medications: Ask your vet about any anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medications that might help your dog during the move. If your dog has never taken this medication, it's helpful to do a trial run before moving day to see how they react.
  • Find a new vet: You need to locate a veterinarian in your new area. Have your dog's medical records printed out so you can bring them with you during your first visit there or ask your current hospital to digitally transfer them.
  • Refill any prescriptions: Make sure to stock up on your dog's medications and food so you have enough in case you have a problem finding these where you are moving.
  • Secure your dog for travel: Determine if you'll be transporting your dog in a carrier or crash-tested car seat (if driving). Whichever method you choose, make sure your dog wears a leash, collar, and/or harness with identification.
  • Prep your pet: Get your dog used to packing boxes, their carrier, and the car (if that's how you'll be moving). Exposing them to these things little by little in the weeks leading up to the event can minimize stress during the actual event.

Planning and Tips Based on Mode of Transportation

Planes, cars, and carriers, oh my! Depending on how far you are traveling and the mode of transportation you've selected, there are different things to keep in mind.

Driving

  • Find pet-friendly lodging: If you're driving with your dog and have to spend a night or two on the road, find out which hotels and motels are dog-friendly. Do they charge extra or require a deposit for pets? Even if you don't anticipate an overnight stay, it's helpful to identify hotels along your route should you need to stop for the night.
  • Make a space for your dog: Load your pet's carrier into the vehicle last, and make sure there is plenty of air space around the carrier so your pet doesn't become overheated.
  • Install the car seat: If you elect to use a car seat instead of a carrier, have that in place and secured before clipping your dog in right before hitting the road.
  • Plan for meals on the road: Bring food and water from home to avoid digestive upsets while traveling.
  • Stop often: Take frequent breaks at rest stops every two to four hours to allow your dog to relieve themselves and stretch their legs. Always keep them on leash, as foreign sounds or smells can spook dogs.
  • Properly supervise your dog: If someone is making the move with you, one of you should always stay with your dog at the rest area while the other one goes in. Never leave your dog in a car alone.

Flying

  • Figure out the rules: Review the regulations for dog air travel well in advance of your move. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian.
  • Determine how your pet will fly: Find out whether your dog can ride in a carrier under your seat or if they will need to ride in the cargo hold. This typically depends on their size or whether they're an assistance dog.
  • Choose an appropriate enclosure: Make sure the carrier you use is airline-approved.
  • Check local regulations: For international moves, check with the American Consulate in the country you are moving to so that you can find out if they have any special regulations regarding your pet. For example, will your dog need to be quarantined? If so, for how long? Many countries require rabies titers and/or strict vaccination timelines.
  • Hire professional help: Consider using a bonded and licensed pet moving company to make the trip easier.

Tips for Moving Day

Young woman fastening the leash to her dog

Implement these helpful tricks on the day of your move to keep everyone safe.

  • Keep your dog out of the way: Even if you have a very friendly, outgoing dog and nothing stresses them out, you still want to err on the side of caution and keep them confined while your household items are being packed up and loaded. If you have a dog run or a roomy crate, let them stay in it. That way, your dog will be safe and unable to escape through an open door.
  • Drop your dog off: You could also elect to bring your pet to a doggy daycare or have them stay with a pet sitter or trusted friend. Make sure it's a familiar environment that won't stress them out further.
  • Work off their extra energy: Take your dog for a long walk before you hit the road or head to the airport to burn off any excess energy. This can also stimulate bowel movements, which means they're less likely to happen when you're traveling. You don't necessarily want them to exercise vigorously, because this can increase their body temperature, which could be dangerous during travel.
  • Limit meals just before the move: It can be wise to feed your dog half of their usual meal to prevent vomiting from stress or movement. If you know your dog suffers from motion sickness, ask your vet for something that can prevent nausea, such as Cerenia or even Benadryl, which has antiemetic properties.

How to Calm Dogs in Transit

Keeping everyone calm and comfortable is at top of mind while you're moving houses with dogs. These pointers can help.

  • Stay calm: Pets can react to your energy, so if you're anxious, they can easily become stressed as well.
  • Offer supportive words: Speak soothingly to your pet to reassure them.
  • Soothe them with touch: Stroke your dog's head and neck if you have a free hand and it's safe to do so.
  • Consider compression clothing: Try a ThunderShirt to help keep them calm.
  • Use calming pheromones: Products such as ADAPTIL may help your pet cope with the stress of moving.
  • Play classical music: Any music that has a tempo between 50 to 60 beats per minute has been shown to have relaxing effects on dogs.

Helping Your Dog Adjust to the New Home

Dog checking the Cardboard Boxes

As you likely know, the work isn't over once you've reached your destination. Your dog will need continued support as they adjust to the new home. Try these tips to help them get settled.

  • Set up a space for your pet: Unpack your dog's belongings so they can have something familiar in an area just for them. This could be a corner of the bedroom or even a bathroom. This location might not be where you'll keep these things indefinitely, but it will give them a comfortable space while you get unpacked.
  • Show them around: Make sure you promptly show your dog where their food and water bowls are, as well as where they should relieve themselves. This can help prevent any accidents. If you decide to move things as you get settled in, be sure to reintroduce them to the new locations.
  • Stick to a schedule: Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on routine. Even though you're in a new environment, it's important to maintain your dog's regular schedule. This will give them a sense of normalcy. Feed them the same food at the same time you normally would, go for walks at a set time, and maintain their bedtime.
  • Limit social activity: It might feel tempting to throw a housewarming party as soon as you move in, but this can be too stressful for your pet. Wait to have people over until your dog lets you know they are comfortable.
  • Practice patience: Your dog isn't going to feel at home right away. Give them the space to settle down, and pay attention to their behavior so you can identify any behavioral issues before they get out of control.

Make Moving With Your Dog Stress-Free

Set yourself and your dog up for success with adequate planning. By getting your dog used to the sounds, smells, and movements associated with moving long before moving day, you can help keep everyone stress-free.

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33 Ways to Make Moving With Dogs Stress-Free