Last month we moved. After over a decade in our previous home, it was time for a change. For us, it wasn’t just a move but also a renovation (the home we purchased is nearly 100 years old and much needed to be brought up to code before we could even move in) and getting our existing home ready to go on the market. This all meant about 4 months of change and disruption for the dogs.
We needed a strategy and plan to help them cope and ease the transition. Here’s what we did:
1. Exercise: we tried as much as we could to get the dogs on their regular walks. Some days we had to miss but for the most part we were able to keep up this part of their routine.
2. Rest: our dogs love their beds. They are very particular about having access to their dog beds. Tom especially. So dog beds stayed out, period. During times the house was being shown we would hide the beds and then get them back out ASAP. For our dogs, this matters in their comfort, relaxing and routine. Especially when I started to take apart the couch. And our furniture started to move around. The dog beds being there were stability for them that mattered because of their prior training and positive relaxed association with their dog beds.
3. A positive history with novelty and enrichment: during this time we relied heavily on years of built positive association with novelty, and an enriched environment being a good thing. While everyone’s stress level was higher, because our dogs are more accustomed to novel changes working out rather well for them, they were really adaptable during this time. We also incorporated their other enrichment activities (food puzzles, training games, find it, etc) as we were packing, when we took them to the new house as it was under renovation and when we had to pack the dogs up and spend the day in the car during house showings.
4. Environmental modification of the hew house: we are in the incredible position where we could intentionally budget and plan for the dogs in the new house. We knew the old fence wasn’t going to meet our needs, and within a month of moving in had a new solid wood fence installed. This visual barrier is wonderful for reducing Zora’s interest in the active walking neighborhood where we now live. We also installed window film and curtains before we moved the dogs in. Moving from a ranch to a colonial means now a flight of stairs. With a senior dog, we decided to carpet the stairs. While carpet install hasn’t yet occurred, it will hopefully in the next couple of weeks, making the stairs safer and easier on Tom (and me). Overall these modifications have helped the dogs relax and settle in nicely at our new home.
5. Gradual introduction to the new neighborhood: as we hope to be in this new home for many years, we wanted the dogs to enjoy the new neighborhood as much as we do! So we’ve taken a very gradual introduction to the neighborhood for them. This neighborhood is very high dog and people traffic. Lots of great smells. Many different routes. The train is nearby with different sounds. For the first couple of weeks after we moved, Tom and Zora went on short sniffy walks only. We didn’t want to overwhelm them or rush them, trying to experience everything all at once. Especially not after 4 months of higher stress and then the actual transition and move. With Zora we’re doing lots of classical conditioning to associate the new neighborhood dogs positively with food. As the weeks have gone by the walks have increased to their prior length and the dogs seem to be enjoying them. Breezie and I began exploring the new neighborhood during our home training and continued to expand our routes during the 4 months of renovations. We love walking and working together where we live now.
Now that we have lived in the new home for over a month, I think this move has been a really great one for our little family. The dogs are all adjusting well and we are all enjoying our new home and neighborhood. The strategies we were able to use worked well for the dogs we have right now and our situation, helping to make the transition less stressful for us all. While the plan we had would not work for everyone for many different reasons, a key to moving success for us was taking the time to thinking things through, strategize and make a plan.