Giving animals (like Loki pictured above) time and space to explore their new surroundings on their own time is key to reducing pet anxiety. Photo by Charanjeet Jugdev / For CREB®Now

Take a bite out of stress

How to make moving easier on your four-legged family members

For Erika Lagyjanszki, a 25-year-old wedding photographer, moving out of her basement apartment was a stressful ordeal for both her and her pets.

Finding a new rental that would allow her two dogs – Bailey, a four-year-old husky border collie cross, and Diesel, a two-year-old shepherd husky cross – while trying to time the logistics of the move added to her exasperation.

And, while Lagyjanszki had moved before and knew what to expect, she wasn’t prepared for the affect the experience had on her pets.

“They did not do well with the move at all,” she said. “We had to stay at a friend’s house for a month in between moving and the dogs kept getting into fights. That had never happened before, and it got to the point where I had to get in between them. I’d also come back after a day at work and the place would be trashed.”

Moving is a very stressful event, as any homeowner or renter can attest. But, what we don’t often think about is the effect it has on our furry friends. Both cats and dogs can suffer stress when their world is suddenly changed.

“Moving can be stressful for pets because their whole routine is being uprooted, and you can’t explain to them what’s going on,” said Ashley Barton, certified trainer and general manager of Chasin’ Tails Dog Care Center and boarding facility in Calgary. “Pets rely on the regular flow of their everyday, so now when all their belongings are being packed up and moved somewhere else, it can be extremely stressful on them.”


Boarding can help

When you move, the front doors are usually propped open, and the last thing you need to worry about is your pet escaping while you are packing everything into the truck.

That’s why Barton says sending your pooch or kitty to pet daycare, or boarding them for a couple of days while you move can help with the transition.

“Boarding your pet while you move is a great idea to relieve stress for not only your pet, but for you as well,” she said. “When your pet is used to going to a boarding facility, or staying with a friend, it’s still a regular event for them to go to the sitter. They can be happy on their pet vacation, and you don’t have to stress about them being around for the big day.”

When your pet is used to going to a boarding facility, or staying with a friend, it’s still a regular event for them to go to the sitter. They can be happy on their pet vacation, and you don’t have to stress about them being around for the big day.

For dogs, a doggy daycare is like one big play date for your pooch – one that leaves them tired at the end of the day, which is ideal when you’re introducing them to a new space.

“Moving is taxing on you as much as it is on your dog, so knowing that you are bringing a happy, tired dog into the new home can help lessen anxiety or unwanted behaviours in the new house,” said Barton.

For cats, a vet clinic or friend’s house is ideal, so that when they are brought to the new home they can settle into their new environment without all the commotion typical of a move. Leaving a few moving boxes around will give your feline friend a place to take shelter.


Signs of Stress

While our pets can’t tell us if they are stressed in words, they do give us signs to relay the message that they are feeling anxious, says Tyson Hainsworth, master dog trainer at Dog Squad in Calgary.

Hainsworth says some signs to look for in dogs include panting, whining and drooling. For cats, a lack of appetite can be a sign that your pet may be stressed.

What to do

Dogs present a special case. Hainsworth says if a dog knows he doesn’t need to be the protector of the pack, he will be pretty calm anywhere you take him.

How to show him you’re the top dog? Only give him attention on your terms, says Hainsworth. “Don’t give Fido attention when he demands it through things like pawing, jumping, barking, nipping, etc.”

In addition, Hainsworth also says to teach the dog that you are the leader on walks.

“When it comes to the new neighbourhood, if your dog will walk a half step behind you (on the right), they respect you as the leader and will see that you keep them safe from any new threats in the neighbourhood. It sets everything in motion and gives you the chance for a blank slate at the new residence.”

And once you’re all settled in, make sure to create a safe space for your cat or dog, adds Barton.

“When you bring them into the new house, make sure you have their new area set up with their bedding, so they can begin to feel more comfortable with their familiar scents faster.”

 

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