MIAMI – When Jim and Claudia Romero decided to move from a one-bedroom condo on Miami Beach to a large, single-family home in Fort Lauderdale, they were thrilled that Max, their 3-year-old golden Retriever, would have a big yard in which to play.
Max, however, had other plans. It was as if the normally even-tempered dog was "possessed by the spirit of a Jack Russell terrier on a sugar high," Jim said."
He chewed on the packed boxes like they were rawhide treats and barked at anything that moved," said Claudia.
If you think moving is stressful, imagine what goes through your pet pal's mind when she sees boxes being packed, furniture being moved, and everything in the surroundings to which she's accustomed being turned upside down.
"It's all about routine, routine, routine," said Dawn Hanna of Oh Behave, Professional Dog Training in South Florida. In her 15 years as a trainer, Hanna has developed programs to treat all kinds of behavioral problems in dogs. Any disruption of their routine, she said, is bound to cause some unwanted behavior.
"If Queenie always gets a morning walk, eats dinner at 7 p.m. and is used to a cuddle/TV-watching ritual with you before bedtime, keep it going right up until moving day," Hanna said. "Even though you are overwhelmed with the details of the move, it's important to make special time for your pet."
To help your pet prepare, here are a few things experts say you should do to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Before The Move
If you're moving to another state, The Humane Society suggests you find out as much as you can about your new neighborhood or city. Does your new community allow pets? Are there any restrictions or animal laws that you should be aware of?
To find out, contact the Department of Agriculture and request their pet laws and regulations. This is especially crucial if your pet pal is an exotic animal.
Don't forget to schedule a visit with your pet's veterinarian before the move to make sure he is fit to travel.
During The Move
"Remember to bring your pet's feeding and water bowls, toys and any bedding essentials that will make him more comfortable and help him have fun," Hanna said.
While packing, secure your pal in a crate or gated area where he can't escape while doors are open and boxes are being loaded. Cats have been known to sneak into an open box and get packed up and shipped away.
Your pet should also be wearing an identification tag with your new address and phone number. According to the Humane Society, an up-to-date ID tag is a lost pet's ticket home. Old tags won't help reunite you with your pet pal if he gets lost during the move.
If you're planning a long-distance move, and you plan to drive there, check online to find pet-friendly places en route to your new town.
If your trip involves air travel, contact the airline and know their requirements for transporting pets and keeping them safe. Regardless of whether your move involves a trip across town or one across the country, a travel crate will keep your pet safe until you reach your new home.
New Home Sweet Home
When you arrive at your new home, set up your pet's bedding and feeding areas right away. "Have their toys around and settle into your new routine," Hanna said.
If your pet is used to walks, plan out your new walking route and stick with the familiar for a while.
You'll also want to ask neighbors and co-workers for recommendations on veterinarians and groomers.
"The most important thing is to spend quality time with your pet at the new home and familiarizing her with the new surroundings," Hanna said. "With all of the boxes and chaos, you may be tempted to eat out a lot and be out exploring the new neighborhood. If you can, take your pet with you and let him join in the fun." But never leave him alone in a new environment for more than a few hours at a time.
Once you're settled in, you will be glad you took the time to help your pet pal through the madness of moving. You'll not only have a happy, well-adjusted pet; you will also be rewarded with a payoff you may not have considered -- new surroundings can help undo many of the behavioral problems your pet may have exhibited in the past.
"This is the silver lining after all the chaos," Hanna said. "It's the time to correct any training mistakes from the past. Pets will be much more receptive to a change in house rules at a new house. Moving in to a new home gives you the opportunity to start enforcing new rules."
So relax -- you can teach an old dog new tricks.