So we've now officially been 'in' now for 8 days. The house is great - the garden is quite a bit bigger and we are surrounded by farmland and fields. It sounds like a doggy dream - but with moving house being one of the most stressful life events for humans, how stressful is it for our canine family members, and more importantly, how can we reduce the stress for them?
I consider myself very lucky. I have four beautiful dogs, from varying backgrounds, who get along beautifully 99% of the time. I am a bit of a stickler for basic routine, which I believe has contributed to their contentment overall (mealtimes, walk times etc) but what effect does uprooting them from their environment and placing them somewhere completely different have on them?
Well, psychologically it's always difficult to be sure. It would be wonderful thing to look inside their little heads and see their thoughts and feelings on any given situation, and it would certainly make my job as a behaviourist an absolute breeze by comparison, but we can't. What we can do though is try and gauge this by their behaviour generally and how it differs form their 'norm'.
Just as bit of background; I have two French Bulldogs, Vinny who is 5 and Flo, 4 and then I have my two Zante rescues, Aayden (Pointer Cross) who is about 2 and a half and teeny Inka (Kokoni) who will be a very grown up 2 in just a couple of weeks. Aayden has been with us for 15 months and Inka just 4. So our previous home is all the Frenchies have ever known and the rescues are slightly more well 'travelled', bless them.
I have never moved with my dogs before and so I was really winging it - trying to minimilise any impact on them as best I could. I was very fortunate in that I had no real time limit to move out of the old property and there was no sale, so I could make the transition, for myself and my daughter, at any rate, over a few days.
It became apparent that anxiety levels in my older rescue particularly, started to rise once the boxes came out and things started to be packed up. Aayden is like my shadow, still now after over a year, and doesn't like to be away from me. He is very aware of the signals of me going our for an evening, or even to go and walk other dogs (I know - shameful!).
Having four dogs can be something of a trip hazard at the best of times so I made sure that when the loading of the van was in full swing, they were safely shut in the kitchen with a biscuit. It was important that if tempers were going to get frayed they were not going to be at the brunt of it - it's never their choice what us humans do and they should not suffer as a consequence.
I was very conscious of keeping their usual walking schedule even though it wasn't always the most convenient thing to do - I moved in over three days before taking them with me. I remained at the old house until the new one was in such a condition that I could take them with me.
Prior to that, as the new house had been completely refurbished and re-painted, I took some of the blankets from their bed and scattered them around the house with some of their toys which would hopefully allay any attempts to 'mark' the new paintwork or carpet. I'm pleased to say that this seemed to work.
When the time came, and the new place was habitable I took them, and their beds and bedding to their new home. I would recommend that you get some exercise beforehand so that your dog isn't jumping around like a loon and will likely feel a little calmer.
When we got there I took them into the kitchen only, shutting off the rest of the house and lay their beds so they could have a good old sniff about. I left the door open so they could explore the garden (I had checked this for security e.g. fences, gates etc many times before. The last thing you need is an escapee!) and I offered them some treats.
It's important to make the whole thing a positive experience - they will be staying here now for the foreseeable, but they don't know that, and for a few days I know that Vinny the eldest Bulldog was just waiting to go home. That, coupled with us leaving behind a family member, meant that this would be a tricky one for Vinny and I knew that.
Part of me would like to report a variety of interesting anecdotes and stories of the days that have just passed, but I am actually very grateful that I cannot.
I have gradually introduced them to the house and tried to keep them involved in everything, letting them sniff and explore anything they felt they needed to. Their routine has changed slightly in the fact that we don't have to 'buckle up' for the morning walk and we can just wander down the back path and scout round the field before breakfast, which is a gift for us all.
Dogs are incredibly resilient creatures, but they do need support. Aayden's anxiety has been re-ignited by the change and he has begun to follow me literally everywhere again. I am confident that this will settle after a few months once again, as it did before. I make sure that I set aside time amongst the chaos of unpacking to sit on the sofa with them all for a doze in the evening - 'TV' time is their favourite and it has the added benefit of making me stop for an hour or so to give them a cuddle and re-assurance where it's needed.
They spent the first few days literally staring at me whenever I moved as if to say "are we going home now?". It clearly takes them time to adjust, but I am very pleased to report that they seem to have got the hang of things and are now playing together, lolling around the furniture and generally being their usual joyous selves.
I don't think for a second that this is it. It's clear from adopting rescues that dogs can take many, many months to adjust to a change in environment - but I do believe that you can make things easier for them, by taking a few simple steps (more on transitioning rescues in another blog).
So there you have it - my experience of moving with 'the team', and I'll be putting up some of my Top Tips for moving with your dogs on the back of it.
The garden is like a mud bath, the water pressure is low and the internet speed is atrocious, but once you've got four dogs these things matter not.
I'm off now for another coffee from my new machine ;-)