senior woman smiles at her small white dog in the foreground

How to Prepare A Dog for Moving into Senior Living

Moving into a pet-friendly senior living community and starting a brand-new lifestyle can be exciting, stressful and perhaps a little overwhelming. It’s safe to say that if there’s a dog in the house, it’s probably picking up on its owner’s feelings and responding to the changes in the daily routine. Just like humans, dogs can sense emotions and show signs of stress. Here’s a step-by-step guide to keep furry ears perked and tail wagging when moving a dog to a new home!

Months Before

Be alert for signs for stress in a dog, such as digestive issues, irritability, poor appetite or a change in sleeping habits. A dog may also not be as playful as usual. Months before moving with a dog, the solution can be as simple as lavishing more attention on a pensive pooch, taking it on extra walks, or providing comfort with a favorite blanket or toy.
If this is a long-distance move, make a final appointment with the vet and ask for copies of medical records, and prescriptions if any. Before moving with a dog, check that its microchip is working and it’s up to date on vaccinations. Find out if any region-specific shots are recommended for the area you’re moving to. And if the journey will involve car or plane travel, ask the vet how to manage the dog’s possible motion sickness.

Even though you’re moving to a pet-friendly senior living community, it’s wise to work on training a dog not to bark. When a dog barks, wait for it to stop, and then offer praise and a treat. Over time, increase the amount of time that the dog is expected to be quiet before giving a treat. When the dog understands the connection, use a clicker or a word such as “quiet” to reinforce the command.

Weeks Before

Start the packing and decluttering process early so there’s no need to rush through it all at once. This reduces stress and allows more energy to continue a pet’s normal routines. Moving a dog to a new home may mean it will spend some time in a pet crate during the transition. If a dog isn’t used to being in a crate, get it slowly accustomed to the experience. Encourage it to sleep in the crate by placing its blanket and toys inside. Reward it with treats when it’s in the crate so it builds a pleasant association with the crate. Once the dog is used to the crate, take it on short drives around the neighborhood while it’s in the crate. Doing this gradually will be more effective, and kinder, than forcing it into a crate at the last minute.

Moving Day

No matter how well organized, moving day is unlikely to be stress-free. The chaos and loud noises of moving day can be very upsetting for an animal, and there are countless stories of pets panicking, getting out and going missing. Save yourself worry by having the dog stay with a neighbor, friend, family member, or a trusted resource such as the veterinarian or dog day care facility that day. If this isn’t possible, place the dog in a crate, a spare bedroom or a fenced backyard — wherever it would be most comfortable and cause the least amount of disruption. Check on it regularly, and try to feed and walk it at its regular times.

Leave the packing of the dog’s bed, toys and other items to the last. But before you do, ensure that dog food, food and water bowls, medications, grooming tools, and favorite toys are set aside for the first few days in your new home. And don’t wash the dog blankets or pillows you’re taking with you. Everything should smell familiar and comforting.

Travel Day

When moving a dog to a new home that isn’t nearby, it’s wise to prepare it for a longer car journey than it’s used to. Try taking it for short drives and slowly increasing the duration each time. Teach it to expect the leash to be attached before the door opens, and only take the leash off after the dog is safely back inside the car. Be prepared to restrain the dog with a harness if it becomes a distraction during the drive.

You’ll need to add extra time to the journey for bathroom breaks and to stretch your legs — probably every two to three hours. Check ahead for parks or dog-friendly restaurants along the route. And look for pet-friendly accommodations if travel will take more than a day.

Before traveling by air, check with the airline regarding the regulations and cost of pet travel. Find out if the dog meets the size restrictions to ride under your seat in the cabin, or whether it has to travel in cargo. Try to schedule the dog’s flight during milder weather, as very hot or very cold temperature variations in the cargo hold can be an issue for animals.

Move-In Day

It’s ideal if furniture is moved in and the bulk of unpacking done before bringing a dog into a new home. If that’s not possible, try to set up the area where the dog will be sleeping so it has a safe and quiet place to call its own. Confine the dog to one section while it adjusts to all the new sights, smells and sounds. Give it lots of attention, and make sure it’s surrounded by familiar blankets and toys. You may want to keep more anxious animals in their crates to prevent accidents from happening if you leave the house. And extra affection, especially cuddles and praise, go a long way toward helping a dog feel at ease in its new surroundings.

Helping a Dog Settle Into a New Home

As you and the dog get used to the new environment, stay as close as possible to the previous routine of feeding, walks and treats. Even if you’re in a new time zone, if you went for a walk at 8 a.m., go for a walk at 8 a.m. in your new time zone. It will help everyone adjust. Remember to update the dog’s tags with the new address and any changes to contact information. Explore the new neighborhood together, and make a point of stopping to meet other dogs and strike up a conversation with the owners. You’ll soon be chatting with these new friends about the best vets and groomers nearby, and the dog-friendly parks and trails around you.

Animal companionship is important to health and happiness, and that’s why The Heritage at Brentwood is a pet-friendly senior living community. After all, pets are part of the family too. Contact us for a current copy of the pet policy, and learn how you, and your furry friend, can find a forever home at The Heritage at Brentwood.