Moving With Dogs

4 Tips for Moving With Dogs |

Where do I begin? Moving with dogs can be, well…stressful (for you and the dogs). Moving 860 miles with two dogs is no different. We recently moved to Colorado (January of 2015) from Minnesota and of course, hauled the two mutts and most of our stuff with us. The cheap Ikea furniture – yeah, that was either a. donated or b. given away. Ikea stuff, while I love some of it, is only good for about one move and quite frankly, I wasn’t about to pay $500 extra dollars to move a $69 TV stand. That may be a big of an exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

So among all of the packing for weeks (or months in my case), moving boxes down stairs, deep cleaning, and finally – hauling every last thing out of your house, are your pets who have no idea whatsoever about the situation. All they know is that it’s changing. Change can be scary, for some animals more than others.

Rio is typically our cool-headed, go with the flow kinda dog. He’s never really stressed out in situations and has handled everything we’ve thrown at him without batting an eye. I’m still uncertain if he doesn’t ever really know what’s going on, or he’s just that type of dog.

Lola on the other hand – she can be a bit of a (for lack of a better word)…spaz. She gets easily stressed, the suitcase comes out and she’s on guard. The keys get picked up and she is waiting at the top of the stairs, in attempt to block you from leaving. Or hoping she can come with. Probably the latter.

As you can imagine, the big move impacted them both. But I made sure to keep them both as comfortable as possible during the process and I have no doubt that it helped. Inevitably you’ll experience a move at some point in your life and hopefully, your dog(s) will be coming with, in that case – here are some tips from our experience that I hope will help you!

4 tips for moving with your dog: 

1. Keep their world as peaceful as you can, for as long as you can

As I mentioned, boxes were being packed months in advance in our circumstance. I was aware of the move and wanted as much time as possible to plan for it. Of course, this isn’t always the case with everyone, but I hate not being prepared.

Pack up their stuff at the last minute possible. For us, this was the night before we moved. We loaded the kennels in the car and had a box set aside for their toys. Okay, more like three boxes, but yeah.

2. If possible, introduce them to their new environment before moving

For us, we had been to Colorado several times with the dogs and they had stayed the night in my family’s house, who we are staying with until we are able to move into our new house. It was kind of like a vacation, we just never went “home”.

3. Keep familiar scents and  around once moved

Blankets, crates, toys, etc. Keep all of your dog’s belongings with your dog. This is another reason why I’m a believer in crating – it’s their ‘safe place’ and a familiar place that is their own little home, the only thing different about it is it’ll be in a new place, but it looks the same inside and smells the same, this should provide your dog with comfort.

4. Keep their schedule regular

Dogs rely on schedules. I don’t know about your pups, but if we forget a meal around here, Lola and Rio are sure to remind us. Keeping their potty schedule, walks, trip to the park, feeding schedule, etc. the same will mean less change for your dog.

I won’t lie though, even with all of the precautions we took, come move day, Lola and Rio were clearly stressed. We had to drive separate of course because we had two cars to take down to Colorado. Lola went with her dad for most of the way, and Rio with me. Surprisingly, Rio was pretty much freaking out. He was panting, unsettled, and didn’t even want his peanut butter filled Kong which we had made for him the night before (unheard of). He knew something was different and I think it really hit him the two nights before the drive when the house we were living it was literally emptied out and we stayed at my mom’s the night before the drive. I don’t think any of us slept for those 48 hours, but it’s over.

A week or so after settling in Colorado, the dogs were back to their normal selves. It was probably a little before that, but the couple days before the move was unsettling to them, the drive down, and of course once we arrived in Colorado they were a little unsettled for a couple of days.

A few signs your dog is stressed/worried:

  • panting
  • yawning
  • pacing
  • unsettled
  • acting out
  • not eating

Have you moved with your dog? What have you found to help them transition? Share in the comments below.

29 Replies to “Moving With Dogs”

  1. Great post!! We did a similar distance move back in October and while the girls weren’t that thrilled about it they did great. We did a lot of what you listed above. We also broke the trip up with a couple of motel 6 stays so they didn’t have to be in the car for so long.

    1. That’s a good idea. We did the blow-and-go and got it over with in one trip. It was hell but it was just 14 hours of my life (and theirs) :).

  2. Goodness, Nice to hear some other dog and moving stories! My girl Chloe simply rolls with it-I think she gets her security from me; as in if Mom is cool this must be ok! She is a German/Rottie mix, a rescue, and my best friend ever!

  3. I’ve certainly never moved as far as you but I did move across town with the dogs. The dogs had a very easy time settling into the new house but they love all new places so they were just psyched to check it out. The trouble was for Norman when we were packing & moving out of the old place. He was so traumatized by all the boxes & being a tiny studio he had nowhere to escape to. It was too sad. 🙁

  4. These are some great tips to keep things less stressful for the pups. The hard part about moving is you’re usually exhausted too, so spending time just hanging out and relaxing with the dogs is lower priority. Glad things are settling down for you as you settle into your new life in Colorado. 🙂

  5. My Lola and I moved to our new place 3 days ago and on top of that I got a full time job at the same time. She’s just now back to her playful self and finally ate and went potty normally. I gave her benadryl to calm her down on the big day

    1. Hi Karem,

      I’m glad the move went well and that she’s back to her normal self! We should’ve thought about the benadryl on the drive down…that probably would have helped Rio relax a bit. Thanks for the comment!

  6. So glad you are all settled now!

    We moved 2,000 miles from North Dakota to California, and the hardest part for me was finding pet friendly hotel rooms that were actually pet friendly to all our pets. So many had breed restrictions or wouldn’t allow cats! I never did find a place that took our cats, so I had to sneek them in to two “pet friendly” hotels that welcomed our dog but not the kitties. That was stressful for me.

    Also, figuring out how to handle our “pit stops” when it was 90 degrees. Like you guys, Josh and I were each driving a vehicle, so there wasn’t always an extra person to sit in the car with the pets. I ran into Subway a few times and was basically in a panic worrying that it was too hot for my pets in the car.

    Also, just some feedback that I’m having a really hard time reading my own comment right now. The font is so small, and I’m on a computer with a huge monitor. Maybe it’s just my settings. I can read the other comments, but mine is hard while I’m still drafting it.

    1. Hey Lindsay! Wow, 2K miles…800 would seem like a breeze, haha. I cannot even imagine. I bet you were glad when that was over, but it was probably well worth it to get out of N. Dakota, ha. Thanks for the note about the font size, I’ll check into that :).

  7. Great post and oh so welcomed by my:)We have moved a couple of times around the same city but in May we are moving with our golden retriever Hugo from Ireland to Poland so we will be sure taking our time stopping for nights in France and Germany, possibly Czech Republic. I am hopeful Hugo will just go with the flow:)

    1. We’re lucky that our dogs are so adaptable, aren’t we? Amazing creatures they are. Good luck with your move!

  8. We are moving from Michigan to mid-Florida in June. Your blog has given me some great information and the comments were helpful. I’ll keep the benedril in mind. We will also be driving separately and will split the drive into 3 days. I’m hoping all will go well. We are traveling with 2 Bernese mountain dogs, a Cocker Spaniel and 2 cats – sounds like fun – right! Lol

  9. In January 2013, I drove from South Carolina to Alaska. 4500 miles approx with my son and 2 dogs in a Jeep Compass. I packed calmly and shipped boxes as soon as they were ready. I brought the dogs toys, bed and food bowls so they always had their stuff with them. The hardest part was finding hotels that took Pets and of course driving the Alaska Canada highway in the dead of winter. It was an adventure. I never drove more than 500-600 miles a day so the dogs wouldn’t get cramped and made sure they got walked good before and after with some quick pitstops during the trip. Anyone that says they can’t move and take their dog is making excuses!

    1. Amen, Joni! Yes, making sure they are tired or at least have a good walk in before taking off is a great tip. And you’re not the only one who has mentioned difficulties of finding pet-friendly hotels along the way. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I grew up as a military brat and we had a toy poodle. He moved where we moved including Japan! I’m about to haul myself and my puppy (8 months) from VA to Ok, so I like to think Heidi has an easy trip compared to all the travels my childhood pet endured!


  12. My husband and I are moving to a new house in a month’s time, within the same city butfar from where we live now.
    The extra difficulty we have is that our 12 year old Jack Russell went blind about a year or two ago from diabetes, but she’s managd to ‘navigate’ her way around our current home because she has lived here all her life.
    Now she’s going to be in a completely different house. A friend suggested not washing her blankets or soft basket, so she’ll still have her familiar ‘bed’ smell on the other side. She will also have familiar ‘smells’ from our furniture, but I want to know if anyone out there knows of added ideas to help her find her way around our new home, the lay-out being very different to where she is now. Any additional ideas would be very much appreciated!!

    1. On the TV show Pit Bulls and Parolees they had a blind dog on an episode. They had one of their workers take him into his home (since he couldn’t be in a kennel) while he recovered (he had been in a fight). When he was taken to the home, they confined him to one small room in the house and let him get used to that room. They also put up baby bumpers on furniture to protect his head and a baby gate in a doorway. Once he got used to that room they started to show him other parts of the house with him on the leash. I think it’s just about taking it slowly and letting her learn her surroundings, but always having that room/crate where they feel safe and comfortable.
      Hopefully that gives you some ideas. 🙂

  13. Great post! I am thinking to move from California to Houston in about 6 months so I am trying to decide what is best for my dog (Cocker Spaniel). She is really calm but really attached to us. She traveled by air plain once 7 years ago. Now she is 13 years old. Should I fly with her? She will be in crate and in a dark place alone and with strangers for about 6-7 hours, or should I drive with her in a crate (with several stops)? It is about 20 hours of crate. She is not used to a crate at all. Any suggestion is welcome!

    1. Personally, I would never fly my dogs. I’ve heard one too many horror stories. The crate and being with you would probably be more comfortable anyways :). Take your time driving, stop every 3-5 hours to let her out and take a stretch/potty break and maybe stay overnight to break it up. That’s what I would do, but of course ultimately you know what is best for your dog and you. Best of luck with the move!

  14. Hello from my Lola to yours! Thank you so much for posting this, I’m moving about an hour and a half away for nursing school, and a big part of my stress is worrying about my poor pup. Your tips are greatly appreciated!

  15. Hello, everyone! I found amazing job in another city and I am going to move there with my two dogs. I already found a nice apartment, big enough for the three of us but I am still worried about the dogs because I am sure that they are going to be stressed by the new environment. Thank you for the advices and I hope that they are going to get used quickly!

  16. If you have a menagerie of pets, large dogs, or pets with special needs, consider hiring a professional pet mover. My husband and I own and operate The Waggin Trail Express, an eleven-year USDA certified company. We stop every 4 to 5 hours to walk dogs and overnight in pet friendly motels. We have made pet moving a stress-free experience for lots of people and pets over the years. We can pick up the pets before the movers arrive and deliver on your timeline rather than the airline’s schedule. We even supply the carriers.

  17. Hello Sarah,

    Thank-you for your moving story! I cannot tell you enough how similar our dogs are…especially when it comes to moving. I have two Shepherds, Kajah and Luna, and they are absolutely wonderful girls. Thanks for sharing nad wonderful website you have:)


  18. Any thoughts on natural alternatives to sedatives? I’ve read that massaging lavender oil on your pup’s head and/or spine can work wonders in quelling anxiety during a stressful situation, such as moving 🙂

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