Just over a week ago Mr C & I moved from Cumbria to the Scottish Island of Lismore. A pretty stressful time for us humans. But it’s very easy to forget the impact of such a big change as moving house for our dogs, and it begins much sooner than moving day.
Things got weird weeks beforehand, as we started packing boxes, dismantling furniture and addressing home improvements for our new tenants. (Yes, we could have done some of those during the 14 years we lived in the house, but it’s best not to rush these things…😉)
Minor changes in furniture layout and stacks of boxes were especially difficult for Pip, as he has very little useful vision now, and we had to manage things carefully to ensure we kept his familiar route through the house clear. But the general upheaval seemed to put all the dogs on edge. As we got closer to our moving date, the daily training and exercise routines went a bit AWOL and we just couldn’t be as ‘available’ for the dogs as usual. Thank goodness for Kongs and pizzle sticks!
On moving day, I travelled separately with the dogs (and the emergency chocolate), so that we could get in a couple of reasonable off lead walks en route, to break up the 5-hour road trip followed by a ferry ride. Even Millie, who normally loves being in her crate in the van, was fed up at the end of that and was a bit reluctant to jump in for several days afterwards, just in case it happened again!
So for quite a while before we arrived at the new house, the dogs were experiencing upheaval. Add to that the new sights, sounds and smells, a different house and garden layout, the scent of the previous occupiers’ pets, the unfamiliar dog next door and the continued weirdness of the frazzled humans. I doubt any of the dogs were concerned about the next date for bin collection or where to order coal, but even so very few dogs would be in a calm inner state of ‘emotional equilibrium’ in those circumstances. I found I was followed everywhere by all 3 dogs for the first few days, which made unpacking and organising a bit harder, especially as Pip can’t see to move himself out of the way too quickly.
Everyone’s just about settled now, although the sound of snow sliding off the roof yesterday morning did worry Loki more than I would have expected. Here are a few of the things we did to keep the upset to a minimum and get the dogs back on an even keel as quickly as possible:
- On arrival, take the dogs straight out to the garden for a wee – to encourage and reward them going where we wanted, right from the start.
- Let them explore the new house a little before moving any furniture in. We scattered some of their dinner so the dogs could wander, sniff and eat to build a positive association.
- Keep dogs out of the way while furniture is being unloaded if possible, particularly if you have herdy dogs who like to nip at strange moving objects to control them. Doesn’t go down too well with removal people or helpful friends and can get some dogs ‘wired’ (Millie springs to mind!)
- We didn’t wash dog beds, sofa throws etc before moving day, so that they had a familiar scent and we could place them where we wanted the dogs to settle down. (Nothing to do with slovenly housekeeping – all for the benefit of the dogs obviously 😊)
- We tried to replicate routines such as bedtime as much as we could. (aka: act normal! We can always change things once everyone is settled.)
- Plenty of Kongs and long-lasting chews on hand to give the dogs a calming occupation whilst we unpacked boxes and to build positive association with their sleeping places.
- We have been especially careful to ensure Pip has time to ‘map out’ the decking and garden without the other two charging about. For him this includes giving a few guiding verbal cues, and moving torchlight in the dark – but it’s only now when we see how hard he has to work to find a safe passage between plants and structures that we realise how much he relied on familiar patterns and his internal map of the garden in Cumbria.
- And on that note, we tried to ensure everyone (including humans) got plenty of REST to give everyone chance to retain their emotional balance. We have lots of time to explore all the best dog walks. As it was, Pip, Loki and Millie slept almost all of the day after we moved, and we just left them to it!
We’re pretty much unpacked, until our final move in the summer. Come and see us 😊
And if you have any other tips for helping house moves run more smoothly for pets – please share!
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