Sunday, June 6, 2010

Moving with Your Dog: My "Tail" of Doing Just That

I wish I had had my camera during the moving process! When I packed a large red suitcase and turned my back for a few seconds, Milly climbed right in to make sure I didn't forget her!

I haven't been the best about posting the past few weeks, because I was busy moving! There are a lot of reasons I decided to move from Arlington, VA (two stop lights to DC) to Falls Church, VA (entirely too many stop lights to DC). I knew it was time to move from the house I've lived in for the past 3 years when a large tree fell in my yard about four months ago, and my landlord left it there for weeks, and then left my roommates and I to do the clean up. The house I was living in also had a mold problem, which the landlord denied, and I did not want to bring my puppy into a home with mold. Finally, the last reason for the move was a desire to have more space and a spacious yard for Milly - at the old house, the "fenced in yard" was more like a fenced in patio with a grassy patch.

Milly has always been great at adjusting to new locations and is an excellent traveler, but she gets very anxious at the idea of moving. If she so much as sees me packing my Vera Bradley duffel bag she instantly becomes velcroed to my side. With this in mind, I took some precautions to make the move as easy and as stress free as possible on her.

Moving is always chaotic, and my move was no exception, because I have entirely too much stuff. Since Milly gets stressed just when I pack a suitcase, I worried packing an entire house would really take her over the edge. She notices even the smallest changes around the house, as many dogs do. My solution to this was to start packing early and pack slowly overtime, long before the big changes like furniture moving would take place. I started packing boxes about 6 weeks before the move, and let Milly sniff and watch the process. By making subtle changes, I was able to reduce the stress of moving on Milly.

Milly is on a strict schedule - she eats at a certain time, she goes out at a specific time, and she is walked at a set time. Throughout this schedule, I always mix in some car rides and trips to the park, as well as daily training that I incorporate into our everyday routine. I really believe in keeping animals on schedules and putting consistency into their lives, and throughout the moving process I made sure to keep Milly on her schedule. About 5 days before the big move I packed Milly's box of stuff, but left out her favorite toys, her leash, her dishes and place mats, and a few other accessories we use on a daily basis. Milly had a blast helping me pack her toys (she has entirely too many), because she got to rediscover some she didn't even know she had! Even though I had packed most of her belongings, I made sure throughout the moving process that I always stuck to her routine - even on the day of the move!

I would hate to ever lose Milly, she is microchipped, but I knew with the move people would be coming in and out of the house, and I didn't want to risk anything so I kept her ID tags on her at all times. She actually wears three ID tags - one with my parents address and phone number, one with my old address and cell phone number, and one with the new address and cell number. Up-to-date ID tags are critical when moving.

On the day of the move, I had a friend bring over her dog to play with Milly. We kept Evan (friend's dog) and Milly in my sunroom with the door propped open to the back yard, plenty of Kongs, toys, beds and water. I put a sign on the door in English and Spanish so movers, roommates, and friends would know not to open the door to the sunroom. This way, there was no risk of Milly slipping out while people were moving boxes and furniture.

I like to always be prepared, so I mapped out pet-friendly hotels near my new house in case for whatever reason, I could not move in on the scheduled move-in date. I also packed Milly's food and supplements in ziplock bags for about 4 days of meals - this way, they would be easy to get to with unpacking. To be on the safe side, I put Milly's medical records in my glove box. This was a great way to do it, and I'll make sure to use the same system in the future, especially if moving long distances.

I decided to keep Milly and Evan in the sunroom at the old house until everything was moved in to the new house. This way, I just had to fill a duffle bag with their supplies and go over to the new house. Naturally, I wanted to show Milly her new house and let her explore, but I fought this instinct to keep her safe. I found not having her there while the movers unloaded boxes and furniture really kept her safest. It wasn't until everyone stopped going in and out of the new house that Milly got to come over, and then I kept her in a room with the door closed and some toys while we unpacked. If she had gotten anxious in the room alone, I would have had someone sit with her and keep her company.

When I unpacked, I set everything up for Milly to maintain consistency. At the old house, she had her bed on the floor of my bedroom, and this is the same at the new house. She kept her toys in the living room at the old house, and this remains in the new house. Meals are served in the kitchen at the new house, just like they were at the old house. I even put her crate in the same place. This seemed to make the adjustment much easier for Milly.

Unpacking can be a long process, I'm still in that process, but I didn't let Milly explore the new house until everything was safely dog proofed. Half empty boxes can contain items that are dangerous to dogs (like cleaning supplies or baking chocolate), and might lead a dog to display destructive behavior. I also walked the perimeter of our new yard to ensure there were no holes in the new fence.

On our first morning in the new house, we were already back to the same routine. Having the ziplocked baggies of meals for the first few days really helped. I made sure we had the same yard play time schedule, and the same walking schedule. Milly seems to really enjoy walks through our new neighborhood, and I'm hoping to meet some of my new neighbors on our walks!

Moving is a huge change for everyone involved, dogs included! Until we are fully adjusted, Milly will remain on a leash, or supervised in our fenced in yard. Dogs have been known to try and find their way back to their old house after moving, because they don't understand what is going on.

I hope my moving experience teaches you something. It went much smoother than moves in the past, and Milly is loving the new house. We are now on 1/2 acre, and our back yard is ginormous! We have a beauitiful solarium attached to the kitchen, and this is Milly's favorite room - it overlooks the backyard, and she just sits there for hours watching the bunnies, squirrels, birds, and chipmunks out the large solarium windows.


  1. Congratulations on your new house. The move impressed me as would a military maneuver. You really have your sh*t together and all for the sake of Milly. A luckier dog I've never known. Hope you guys are happy and enjoying your new digs.


  2. Dogs are smart. They can even lessen our stress in packing up when we see them doing tricks or doing fun things for us to entertain.

    Joseph @ furniture removal Sydney