Getting Your Dog Ready for a Move to a New Home

How best to prepare your dog for traveling to and settling into a new home.

If you are moving your dog to a new house, here are a few important tips for making the transition as easy as possible for your four-legged friend.

Pack With Your Dog in Mind

Keep your pet’s immediate physical needs in mind as you prepare for a move, making sure food, a water bowl, leash, and favorite toys are accessible. Try to keep things as normal as possible—now’s not the time to try out a new dog food or crate.

Arrange Transport for Your Dog

Moving companies don’t take pets, so plan ahead.

Moving Dogs by Plane

Talk with your vet about how to make the flight as stress-free as possible. Depending on the size of your dog, you may be able to keep your dog with you in the passenger cabin. If you’re moving a long distance, some dogs can be shipped as cargo on airplanes, in a pressurized (though dark) cabin. You may have to be the one to transfer your dog between planes, if you have a stopover. Check with your airline well in advance of your trip for details, including rules and prices for dogs traveling by plane.

Moving Dogs by Car

If driving, make sure your car is equipped to handle your pet comfortably. Have food, water, treats, toys, and anything else that will comfort your dog (such as a favorite blanket) at hand. Make sure your dog is familiar with any pet carrier you plan to use during the move. If your dog is not used to driving in the car, take your dog out a few times before moving day.

If you’re driving a long distance, plan regular stops to walk your dog. And make reservations in advance, as needed, at dog-friendly hotels along the way. The AAA book Traveling With Your Pet includes AAA-approved lodgings and campgrounds, pet-friendly attractions, dog parks, and animal clinics. It includes useful advice on preparing pets for car and air travel and packing suggestions.

As with air travel, ask your vet for tips on moving your dog by car, especially if you know your dog is not happy on car trips and you have a long distance to drive.

Get All Necessary Vet Records

Pull together copies of your dog’s medical records, if you’ll be seeing a new animal-care provider. And take your time to find a new vet before you move—rather than scramble to find someone when your dog is having stomach problems the night you settle into your new home.

Make Sure Your Dog’s ID Tag and Licenses Are Up to Date

Get your dog a new identification tag—many pet stores have engraving machines. Also get a current animal license (if applicable), or update the current license to reflect your new address. If your dog is found wandering, authorities will be able to contact you in your new location. Finally, if your dog has an identifying microchip, update your contact information with the microchip company.

Set Up Your Dog’s New Space—And Stay Close at Hand

Here are some tips for making your new home pet-friendly:

  • Make sure the new house has been cleaned of old pet odors. Otherwise, your dog’s territorial instincts may be aroused—and he or she may start marking the space.
  • Be sure your dog is in a secure place (maybe at a friend’s home), and not underfoot when the movers arrive. People will be in and out of the house, making it all too easy for your dog to escape your new home. If your new house has an enclosed area like a fenced yard where the dog will stay, make sure there are no escape routes or hazards. You can check this out when touring the property with your home inspector.
  • Try not to leave your dog alone the first few days in your new home. Unlike humans, animals don’t understand why you packed up and shipped out. Leaving dogs alone in a new environment can cause them anxiety. Plan to be home as much as possible when you first move in, and take your dog for frequent walks around the new neighborhood (in fact, try to take some walks near your new home before you even move).

Know the Rules If You’re Moving Out of State

If you’re moving to a new state, check its laws on bringing in dogs. Some states require you to obtain entry permits, or to undergo inspection at the border, at which time you may be asked to present a health certificate from a veterinarian. Dogs traveling to Hawaii must spend time in quarantine.

Check Out Resources About Moving Your Dog

Two good websites on the subject are:

And be sure to check out the Nolo book Every Dog’s Legal Guide, by Mary Randolph, which includes a useful chapter on traveling with your dog and lots of other valuable advice for dog owners, including state and local regulations that affect dogs.

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