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My Dogs and I Move House a LOT: Here's How We Stay Sane

Spot, Dolly, and I have moved quite a bit over the past decade. Here are our best tips for minimizing stress.

 |  Feb 26th 2013  |   2 Contributions


We tend to move a lot, my dogs and I. Career changes, family responsibilities, and both good and bad real estate purchases have resulted in seven new homes in the past 10 years. Needless to say, we are moving pros at this point.

Using our experiences, including one just this month, I pulled together the following list of pet-centric moving tips. These practices keep Spot and Dolly safe every time and help them adjust to our new home as quickly as possible. If you have a move coming up, I hope this advice comes in handy.

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I hire professionals to move my stuff, so I can concentrate on getting Spot and Dolly to their new home with as little stress as possible.

PRE-MOVE TIPS

1. Gather moving supplies and choose a room for packing

For our recent move from Phoenix to our home city of Houston, I designated the guest room as packing HQ. Having one central location allows me to contain the mess and keep the rest of the home relatively in order. Also, I never worry about Spot or Dolly getting into partially packed boxes because they are behind a closed door.

2. Set a packing schedule

I had just eight days to pack up everything for this last move, thanks to a  deal that was seriously discounted if we could be ready that quickly. No matter the timing, though, I count the number of days until the movers arrive and spread the work out evenly. Doing so keeps my stress level low, which in turns helps do the same for Spot and Dolly.

3. Stick to routines

It was tempting to skip the long afternoon walk I typically take with Spot and Dolly to power-pack for Houston, but I did not. I try to stick with our routines -- for feeding, walking, playing, and sleeping -- as much as possible during a move to limit disruption to their lives.

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We took our long afternoon walk every day despite the fast-approaching deadline.

4. Visit the vet if moving far away

The week before I moved, I called our Phoenix veterinarian to order copies of all records and to see if Spot and Dolly were due for any shots in the next few months. I find that visiting the vet they know one last time puts less stress on them than meeting a new one shortly after a move.

Bonus tips: If you have yet to get your dogs microchipped, please do so before moving. Even the best pet parents can have dogs go missing on the road or in a new neighborhood. I sleep better knowing my contact information sits on a little chip between my dogs' shoulders as well as on their tags. If you have pups who don't travel well, you may also want to ask about a prescribed sedative or herbal remedy for the trip.

5. Pack overnight bags for everyone

I always put everything needed for the first night at a new home in two bags. Bedding, pajamas, toiletries, chargers, and the like go into mine. In Spot and Dolly's bag, I pack their food, treats, medications, bottled water, dishes, toys, and leashes. Both bags go in the car with us, not the moving truck.

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Spot and Dolly spent move-in day with longtime friends, The Beams. Spot, right, loved catching up with his litterbro, Grover.

MOVING-DAY TIPS

1. Leave the dogs with a friend, neighbor, or family member

My parents took Spot and Dolly to their house for move-out day in Phoenix, and our friends had them on move-in day in Houston. Keeping them away from the moving action ensures they don't get underfoot or wander unnoticed out an open door. A bathroom with a "Keep Out" sign on the closed door works well, too, or you can board your dogs for the day.

2. Pack the car with the pups in mind

For the road trip to Houston, I placed pillows on the floor in front of the passenger seats because I knew Spot and Dolly would sleep there, per usual, waking only when the car stopped for bathroom breaks. (I do have seatbelt harnesses for my dogs, but a recent article by Carol Bryant left me doubting their effectiveness and safety.) I always pack the rest of the car fully but securely, with the exception of half of the back seat, to limit their movements when awake.

Bonus tip: Traveling with your dogs in crates may be the safest option if they remain active during road trips. When I moved from Texas to Connecticut as a teen with my parents, our family pup paced the backseat nonstop when she wasn't trying to jump into the front. The trip would have been less stressful and safer for everyone had we used a crate and doggie downers.

3. Be smart about where you stop as a solo driver if traveling long distances

I was strategic about where we fueled up along I-10. Because I was traveling alone with Spot and Dolly, I picked well-populated areas with a fast-food restaurant next to a gas station. I parked the car as close to the restaurant entrance as possible, locked the doors, and ran in -- literally, earning more than a few odd looks in west Texas -- to use the restroom. Once back at the car, I pulled the pups out for a walk and water break. For the most part, we ate and drank from supplies in a packed cooler so I could stick close to them during stops.

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My preferred stop on I-10 before leaving Arizona has a gas station, fast-food restaurant with convenient bathrooms, and a dinosaur, of course.

Bonus tip: If a move happens when weather makes it unsafe (and even illegal in some states) to leave your dogs in the car for even the quickest of bathroom breaks, ask a friend or family member to ride along, then pay for their plane ticket home. This ensures someone can be with the pups at all times during the trip. 

MOVE-IN TIPS

1. Inspect the yards

When I arrived at our new Houston home, I noticed that debris from its recent remodeling littered the yards. I picked up more than a few pieces of scrap tile and cigarette butts before our friends brought Spot and Dolly over. I also checked the fence for any missing slats or burrowed holes and looked for any shrubbery or mulch dangerous to dogs.

2. Check the house

I inspected the interior of the house before they arrived, as well. Making sure a new home has no obvious safety hazards -- insect or animal poison left behind, loose window screens, or exposed wiring or flames -- takes just a few minutes.

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Dolly performed her own inspection of the backyard and met one of our new neighbors.

3. Put away hazardous items

When I packed up our Phoenix home, I placed any items hazardous to Spot and Dolly in one box and labeled it as such. I tend to unpack gradually, pulling items from boxes bit by bit, as I need them. Knowing which box contains these items allows me to unpack and store them securely right away or leave the box taped shut until I get to it.

4. Set up your dog's space

I also pulled Spot and Dolly's bag from the car and unpacked their bowls, toys, and bed before my friends brought them over. Having their things in place let them know this was our new home and helped them to begin settling in right away.

5. Take time to enjoy the new home

Since I work from home, Spot and Dolly did not get left alone for an entire workday right after the move. I always take time off from work after a move, though, no matter where my office. Doing so allows us all to get into a groove much more quickly. It also gives me time to take care of the many to-do items relating to moving with dogs, such as:

  • Find new vet
  • Locate nearest emergency animal clinic
  • Find new trainer
  • Get licenses
  • Update address on tags and with microchip company
  • Place stickers on doors and windows letting emergency personnel know pets live inside

Let's hear from you, readers. What are your experiences moving with dogs? Please share any advice in the comments!

Looking for more dog-friendly moving tips? Check these out:

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