Moving to a new city is often an exciting, albeit stressful, experience. Living in and exploring a new city brings with it the potential for so many new and enjoyable opportunities, but adjusting and settling into your new surroundings can also take time and may initially leave you feeling a bit anxious. And if you are feeling all of these things, just imagine how your dog is feeling.
The new sights, experiences, people, and smells that come with living in a new city affect dogs so much more than they affect us humans because their senses are much more heightened than ours. So when you are moving into a new home and adjusting to life in a new city, it’s important not to forget that your dog is also likely feeling the same way you are, if not more so.
As you navigate this new phase of your life, make sure you include your dog in the steps you take to adjust. Just as you might seek out a new routine, explore new places, and meet new people, you need to allow your dog to have the same experiences to better help them adapt and grow accustomed to this new city and their new life.
It can take dogs a bit longer to adjust, simply for the fact that we can’t exactly explain to them what is happening. So if you want to make this a positive experience for them and yourself, and avoid any setbacks in their training or other negative behaviors, you need to find ways to help them feel at home in a new city just as you would for yourself. And the following tips will help you do just that.
Opt for a Pet-Friendly Location If Possible
This one is a bit of a pre-move tip, but it’s worth mentioning if you are still deciding where to go. Often, when we think about moving to a new city, we only consider the pros and cons as they relate to our own lives and personal or professional experiences. However, it’s important to remember that the move can affect our pets as well.
So when doing your research and considering where to live, try choosing a location that is suited to you and your dog. Pet-friendly cities are excellent places to live, and they can help both you and your dog better adapt and have a positive experience.
Very pet-friendly cities tend to attract more people, which is beneficial in numerous ways. It means there will be more people and pets for you and your dog to connect with, especially when you get outside for a walk or enjoy some playtime at a local park. But it also means the city itself is likely thriving due to economic growth, a diverse culture, and even tourism.
Pet-friendly cities are also much better for your and your dog's mental and physical health. This is because people in pet-friendly locations tend to get outside more with their dogs and go for more walks—and fresh air and regular exercise are proven to help boost your mental and physical health.
Increased social interactions with other people and other dogs also boost serotonin levels and lower stress-related hormones. Moving to a new city can sometimes feel lonely and isolating, but if you live somewhere that is pet-friendly, you are more likely to get outside and socialize more often, which will combat negative feelings.
Be Present to Help Them Acclimate
After the move, one of the best things you can do for your dog is staying home with them as much as possible in the first few days. They won’t initially understand that this is their new home, so if you are constantly going out and leaving them after you first arrive, it can be incredibly traumatic for them.
Instead, think of it as a mini staycation. Try getting some time off work if possible and avoid making plans to go out. If you do have to go out for errands, try to avoid being gone longer than 10 minutes at a time or take them with you if possible. This will help them acclimate and feel safe in the new space.
The ideal time frame is around three to four days, and then you can start leaving them behind for small increments of time. Try leaving them for 10-20 minutes. Then try again another day for 20-30 minutes, and slowly increase the time from there. Once you start going out for longer periods, try giving them as much attention as possible and tire them out before you leave.
Create a Comforting Home Space
Just as you will want to get settled in and make your new home feel cozy and inviting for yourself, make sure to do the same for your dog. Your dog’s space should be one of the first things you set up for them before you unpack anything else. The new city smells and noises can be scary for a dog, so giving them a space that is familiar and comforting can help them better settle in.
This can include their dog bed if they have one, some of their favorite toys, some treats or a bone to keep them occupied, and even an item of your clothing with your scent on it. Set this up either in a common space where they can keep an eye on you while you are unpacking, or you can even confine them to one room for a day or two until they adjust.
In some cases, moving to a new city and home can also involve buying new furniture to fit the space. While it’s good for you to also choose things that are comforting to you and enable you to style the space to your own tastes, consider opting for pet-friendly furniture where possible. If you buy a ton of new things and restrict your dog from having access to them, it can be stressful for them and make it feel like unfamiliar and unsafe territory.
Stick to a Routine
Another essential post-move priority for you and your dog is to find a routine. Our pets often find comfort in routine, so it’s important to stick to your old routine or develop a new one as quickly as possible to help them feel at home. This means keeping feeding and walk times the same as much as possible.
If you want to develop a new routine that better suits your new life in this new city, that is perfectly okay too. Just try to stick to whatever routine you choose as much as possible in the first few weeks and avoid constantly making changes. Routine is not only essential for helping your pet acclimate, but it’s also beneficial to your own experience in a new city as well.
Get Outside and Explore
After you and your dog have settled into your new home, start getting them outside to explore the new city as much as possible. Daily walks are highly beneficial for your pet’s well-being and your own, but it’s also simply a good way to explore your new home and learn your way around.
If you want to walk around and check out the local coffee shops, cafés, stores, etc.—take your dog with you. It’s just as exciting for them to explore new places as it is for you, so it’s important to let them be a part of that experience. Understandably, not all places will allow you to bring your pup inside, but you can at least walk around and see where everything is and what places are pet-friendly, so you’ll know for future outings.
Join the Community and Make Friends
Both you and your dog need to socialize and find ways to feel at home in your new community. This is an essential part of making a new city feel like home. So when you are looking for places to visit or events to check out in your new location, make sure you look for pet-friendly places and events as well.
Of course, a dog park is an excellent way to meet the locals and give your dog an outlet for burning off their energy, but there are lots of other things to do and places you can visit with your dog as well. If your new city is pet-friendly, there are likely plenty of events or spaces that welcome furry friends and will allow both you and your pet to meet your neighbors, socialize, and have a good time.
The most important thing to remember when moving to a new location with a dog is that it’s just as important to find ways to acclimate to the new city as it is to make the interior of your new home comforting. Often, people will focus solely on making their home a comforting and safe space, but truly feeling at home in a new location requires you to get out and socialize with your new community as well. And this is essential for both you and your dog.