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Pet Relocation 101: How to Move With a Dog

Posted in: I'm Moving, Kids & Pets

Tons of dogs and pets are moving across the country every day. Can you imagine it? Hopefully, their owners know that getting them to their new home safely involves a lot more than making sure they don’t pee in the car.

So today, in the spirit of keeping our dogs happy and our cars clean, we bring you our top tips for taking care of your pup before, during and even after your big move.

Before the Move

Inside the vehicle

Does Ruff usually ride shotgun? This might be okay for a quick trip to the 7-11, but in a packed car or truck – especially for any considerable amount of time – keeping them in a crate might be a good call. I know, it might seem mean, but this is the safest way to go for everyone involved.

If Ruff isn’t used to being in a crate, you will have to train them before your move! Here’s how: Leave the door open and add some treats, toys and familiar blankets. Allow your dog to come and go. Encourage eating, drinking and sleeping (but not peeing) in there.

When they’re comfortable with all that, put the crate in the car and leave the doors open. Give Ruff plenty of opportunity before moving day to go hang out in his new digs.

Even if your dog is okay in their crate inside an empty car, when it’s all packed up, Ruff might turn skittish. So put together a Puppy Moving Pack for dealing with canine contingencies:

    • Leash and collar
    • Dry food 
    • Bottled water – Because differences in the water from area to area can wreak havoc with Ruff’s system
    • Towels and blankets
    • Toys and treats
    • Puppy pads 
    • Folder with all health checks/rabies shots/vaccination records
    • Photo of your dog
    • Tags with your cell phone number
    • Microchip – A growing trend among animal owners

Protip: Worried this won’t be enough? Take a chill pillAcepromazine is one of the most common sedatives for dogs, not only for health procedures but to reduce stress in a variety of environments, including long car rides. However, some qualified people argue that this will only make Ruff worse. Make your own call here. Anxitane and Adaptil are two alternatives.

Some communities have restrictions on house pets, like breeds, sizes and numbers. Local and state governments will have animal ownership laws. Check into these as well before you arrive.

  • Keep your pup’s meds on hand throughout the trip. Have copies of any prescriptions. Do a quick search for vets along your route through, then find a few local vets in your new town.

During the Move

Inside the House

dogspotpieceWhile you are moving out and loading up, keep Ruff safely out of the way. Give them their own room or space, with toys and treats to keep your pup occupied. Provide attention. Keep the crate nearby.

It may be painful – excruciating – listening to your pup whining in his crate. And the longer the trip, the worse the whining. But this makes keeping Ruff secure in their crate even more important. If it’s too big to tuck in between the seats on the floor, that crate can go right on the back seat – with seatbelt threaded through the bars.

Keep the whining and the stress levels low by taking frequent breaks. And be careful anytime you let Ruff out. Not only may your friend be raring to take off running, but other dogs or cats in the area may set them off. (And if your dog “would never do such a thing”, consider what that other dog might do at the sight of your pup. Scan the area – and keep hold of that leash!)

Stopping for the night somewhere? Take Ruff for a good long walk. You’ll both benefit from the exercise after a long day in the car.

  • Pet-friendly motel info – All Motels don’t necessarily allow pets. Be prepared and scout that ahead of time if you need to make any stops. is one resource to find pet-friendly hotels. 

After The Move

Dog House

Give your dog their own space, complete with toys, treats, blankets and that crate – which they may be well-accustomed to by now! You will be plenty busy unpacking anyway. Having your pup running underfoot will only cause problems.

Once you’re all moved in, match your pup’s behaviors from their old home. If their water bowl was under the table in your old kitchen, put it under the table in your new one. If they slept next to the TV before, do the same. 

Before letting them out into the yard to explore, go check it out yourself. If there’s a fence, are there any holes or sharp edges? Do you see any trash or debris or dead animals? Do the neighbors have animals (or children) in their yard? Dogs are nosy, and yours is going to want to explore. Make sure this new environment is safe to avoid an early trip to the vet!

New state? Some states require a certificate of health from a vet in your previous state. Take Ruff in for a check-up, keep their shots and meds up to date, and keep those records with you in case your municipality has registration requirements.

Good Dog

Ruff may handle the move like a champ. But don’t leave his well-being to chance. Cover all your bases – and cover the bottom of that crate – to head off any major dog-tastrophes.

(Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Illustrations by Maddie Loftesnes

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