When you get the news that your pupper has successfully landed at their final destination, you’ll be so excited to smother them with love and introduce them to their new home—you might feel let down if they don’t act totally normal right away.
Hold up—let’s paws. Try getting into the sweet little brain of your dog for a minute! They just took quite a journey and landed at a brand new house or apartment with a new layout and thousands of new smells, probably piled high with boxes. They have no idea where they are now, or why.
We humans have a leg up when it comes to getting our bearings in a new location: verbal communication. When Dorothy landed in Oz, she quickly met some friends who explained things to her. Meanwhile, Toto was totally dazed and confused!
When it comes to introducing a dog (or dogs) to a new home, you may notice some strange behaviors. It's important to know what's normal, what's not, and how to help them settle in. They may have heightened cortisol for days from the journey, and they’re certainly smart enough to wonder, “What happened to my normal life?” New home acclimation is a critical step to help you and your dog get back into your trusting partnership and a healthy routine.
How long does it take a dog to adjust to a new home?
We get this question a lot! The answer really depends on your dog. Are they anxious? Did they experience trauma before finding you? Had they ever traveled a long distance before this big move?
It can take days, weeks, even months for a dog to feel confident and secure in a new home. Following the tips in this article should help you shorten the acclimation period significantly so you and your furbaby can hit a happy stride within a few weeks of moving in, but some dogs are simply more anxious—and for these guys, establishing a daily routine is even more important.
Common signs of anxiety when introducing a dog to a new home:
When you first introduce your dog to their new home, you may notice them:
- Following you around
- Showing heightened separation anxiety
- Eating less or refusing to eat
- Having diarrhea or constipation
- Playing less
- Growling, barking, or signs of aggression in new situations
These are all common signs of anxiety. If your dog isn't typically prone to these behaviors, they should subside within days or weeks if you commit to a consistent routine and introduce new stimuli slowly, one at a time.
Alternatively, these are more concerning signs that your dog may have contracted an illness while traveling:
- Ongoing diarrhea or constipation for more than a few days
- Prolonged lethargy
- Eating less or refusing to eat for more than a couple of days
Call your new vet straight away if you think your dog could be ill!
How to help your dog adjust to their new home:
- Stick to the daily routine they’re used to. Feed, walk, and play with your dog(s) at the times they’re used to. Routine makes them feel safe!
- Keep their old things. You may feel inspired to buy new beds, toys, harnesses, food bowls… but you should keep their familiar comforts around and replace items one at a time.
- Create a little sanctuary and give them space. Where did your dog(s) love to retreat in your old home? Can you create a similar setup for them in your new home? Even the most social pups need alone time, and you may notice they want to be alone more while they’re adjusting. A familiar rug, bed, or other items that smell like their previous pad will really help.
- If they need to start eating new food, go slow. Keep your dog(s) on the same food after the move if at all possible, at least for a few weeks. Adjusting to a new food can really upset a pet’s stomach, especially if you’re introducing a new protein. You can find lots of good tips online for transitioning your dog(s) to a new diet if needed.
- Use treats and play to create positive associations. Train your pup with lots of tasty treats and positive reinforcement around your new home and neighborhood. Toss or hide treats around the home for a game of “find it!” to familiarize them with each room.
- One new thing at a time, please! When dogs are faced with new or stressful events one after another, cortisol (the stress hormone) will build up in their systems and can stay heightened for multiple days. If you bring your dog to a new dog park today, they might still feel on edge if you bring someone new into your home a few days later. Introduce new places, people, and pups one at a time with days in between, and host new guests at your home sparingly during the first few months.
- Work with a local trainer. If your dog is showing signs of anxiety, aggression, or both, we recommend working with a positive reinforcement-based trainer who can decode your dog’s behavior and teach you to reestablish their trust in you, so they can relax.
We also recommend scheduling a visit with your new vet within a week of arrival. If you hired PetRelocation, your dedicated coordinator will remind you about this. It’s a good idea to get on your new vet’s schedule right away to ensure your dog is healthy after their travels. They may also need vaccinations that are required in their new home country or state.
Congratulations on the big move! We hope your pup can settle in quickly and enjoy their new location with you.