Natasha Ashton: Movin’ On Up: How to Prepare Pets for Relocation

While it may take time to adjust, showing your pet that your love is consistent will go a long way toward making a new house — or office! — feel like home.

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.”

It seems I remind myself of his wise words constantly these days while overseeing everything from final construction to furniture assembly to wall covering applications in preparation for our move to Petplan’s new headquarters next week. Moving is a huge task no matter how you slice it, and it takes a great leap of faith to believe that what looks now like the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwreck is eventually going to come together to form our new home.

As we box up belongings and set our sights on a new nest, our canine and feline officemates can tell something is up (though they are not quite sure what), and we are doing our best to mitigate their stress. We know that pets — particularly dogs — are attuned to tension around them, and that major anxiety can often be prompted by a change in the environment. Here’s how we’re making sure the four-footed members of Petplan’s family will weather the transition safely — and how you can protect your own pets from move-related maladies at home.

Keep Calm and Carry Boxes
Once you decide to get moving, do yourself and your pets a big favor by setting yourself up for success from the start — have a move plan, stay organized, expect challenges and above all, keep your sense of humor! Pets pick up cues on how to behave from their owners, so if the move begins to feel frustrating, it is best to stop and take a breath before your emotions get the best of you. If you need to freak out, step away from your pets, and return to them only after you’ve calmed down.

Work It Out
Because it is likely that tensions will run high during this time of transition, take the time to schedule a little extra exercise with your pet. Not only will the workout help keep your own stress in check, but it will help your pet burn excess energy and ease any anxiety he may be experiencing. The bonus is that blowing off steam together provides a great opportunity for you and your pet to bond, which will help him not feel lost in the shuffle. Sure, adding an extra walk or game of fetch takes commitment, but the effort will help keep everyone happy and healthy.

Avert Their Eyes
During the days leading up to the physical move, you may want to think about boarding your pet or asking a friend to look after him while you do your dirty work. It can be very upsetting to a pet to see their environment disrupted, and a little pet “vacation” while you pack up the premises can save him from the stress of seeing his home change so dramatically. Removing your pet from the situation will also ensure that he is not underfoot while you are moving large items, will avoid the possibility of him slipping out the door and taking off on his own, and will keep curious noses out of boxes and away from potentially dangerous items.

Unpack Your Pet First
Once you get to your new place, set up all of your pet’s “stuff” before bringing him home. When you introduce him to the new space, it will help greatly to be able to show him where to eat, sleep and play. In the beginning, try arranging his things in a similar layout to what he is used to; if his toy box was always next to the TV, put it there in the new house. If his bed was at the foot of your own, place it there again. Even if you ultimately want to rearrange where his things go, try to be consistent in the beginning and make changes once he is more comfortable in his new environment.

Reward the Good; Ignore the Bad
The first few weeks in your new home will be an adjustment period for your pet, and as such, you may find your pet acting out some of his stress. Be patient with the occasional puddle or chewed shoe; yelling at your pet will only make matters worse and add to his anxiety. Keep praise high and reward him for things like going to his bed, using his crate and going to the bathroom outside. You may want to pick out a few special new toys to give him during times when he is relaxed and happy, to help forge positive associations with the new space.

While it may take time to adjust, showing your pet that your love is consistent will go a long way toward making a new house — or office! — feel like home.

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