Note: This post was written before we adopted Ben.
Back in July 2014, my husband and I got the good news: we’d be able to purchase a house the following year. Our lease was up in June (we were able to weasel out as early as April) and so we had plenty of time to figure out where we wanted to live and what kinds of things we wanted in this new house of ours.
You might remember the way I went about adopting a dog with my list of things I had to have, things I absolutely could not deal with, and the things I was willing to bend on. This served me well yet again as we started to list those things we wanted in a house.
Now, plenty of those things had little or nothing to do with our dog (or future dogs). We had to have space for my husband’s books. We had to have a guest room and preferred it on the first floor as his father had trouble with stairs. We really wanted a dishwasher because…well…that one should be obvious! So I won’t say that every single thing about the house was thought of in conjunction with dogs, but there were certainly things that we considered that did have to do with dogs.
1. The neighborhood. There were many questions that we had about the neighborhoods we looked at. At the top of the list was: Is it safe? Obviously this is not just about our dog, but there are certainly reasons why the two are connected. I have to walk her before work, often before it’s even light out. I take her out to pee at night. I don’t want to be looking over my shoulder and being afraid that someone might come after me when out for a walk. My go-to site for crime statistics for particular houses I was looking at was Trulia. Trulia gives you a general idea of how many crimes and what type of crimes have been reported in the area surrounding a particular address. One house we really adored we decided not to look closer at because the area was a higher crime area. And this was driven home rather well when it was discovered that not only was a house fire a few blocks away intentionally set, but that it was set by a man who was literally an ax murderer! The neighborhood we chose was “low” in the crimes list and those crimes that happened were relatively benign (no ax murderers living in our neighborhood, thank you very much!).
In addition to crime, we worried about noise, especially with a Border Collie mix (and future Border Collie) and how busy the neighborhood is. We were moving from a college neighborhood (read: drunken parties until the middle of the night) and wanted something far more peaceful. We found a nice suburban neighborhood that is essentially cut off from other neighborhoods. That means about 99% of the traffic that comes down our street is from people who live in the neighborhood. It’s quiet and not crime-ridden. Exactly what we wanted!
2. The yard. This one is pretty obvious. For my husband and I, personally, a yard is not a big deal. He wants to plant a small garden. So having a lot of space was not really necessary. But for our dog and for any future dogs? We had two requirements in a yard: (a) A decent sized yard that enabled me to set up some agility equipment and play some good games of fetch, but that was not so large that we would need a riding lawn mower to take care of it and (b) fenced in. The latter was something we could have bent on, but I really didn’t want to. Fencing is expensive. And as we’ve discussed before, many rescues require a fenced in yard, and if they don’t require one, they would really really like you to have one. Having a fenced in yard means there are more rescues we can adopt from.
3. House size and layout. The former was really far more about my husband’s stuff (read: 1000+ books), but the size of the house and the layout of it were fairly important when it came to dogs. Right now we have one dog. In the future we would like to get a second and there were things we took into consideration for future dog. The two most important things for us were (a) space in the bedroom for two dog beds, one on each side of the bed (we got it!) and (b) a comfortable room that we can close one dog up in if necessary. I will admit, I’m not big on crates unless there is a really major reason to use one (e.g. housebreaking, dog is more comfortable in the crate). I like giving Dahlia the run of the house when we’re gone. She’s not destructive (unless we leave some sort of food item out…*ah hem*…butter thief), she’s housebroken, and mostly she just lays around and sleeps all day. If future dog is not destructive and housebroken, then I want future dog to have that same benefit. But I admit, I’m a bit of a nervous nelly. I hate leaving two dogs together because I have constant fears that I’m going to come home to something really horrible and am always relieved when I come home to find them laying around and just chilling. So I can well imagine that I’m going to want to separate them when no one is home, especially at first, just for my own sanity. But I don’t want one dog to have someplace comfortable to lay and the other one be stuck in a tiny room. So that was all taken into consideration when looking at houses. The house we bought has a 240 square foot room that my husband is using as his study. It’s comfortable, has some nice chairs in it and plenty of space. It’s certainly a good place for future dog to hang out in.
So what about the actual move? Moving can be really tough on dogs. Everything is being packed up, things are being discarded, their routine is being disrupted. There were a handful of things we kept in mind as we were preparing to move with our dog.
1. Keep something the same. When my parents moved back in 2007, they made one huge mistake. They got rid of everything but their clothes and some kitchen things. And I do mean everything. They got all new living room, bedroom and dining room furniture, all new decorations. They even tossed out their dog’s old bed and bought her a new one. When their dog (Teri) came over to their new house for the first time she was frantic. She spent three days pacing. You could almost feel the panic coming off of her. When are we going home? She did finally settle, but it took longer than my parents would have liked. So when it came time to moving for us, we kept almost everything we owned. We ditched our bed and bought a new one. But our living room and dining room furniture was the same (including the area rug for the living room). And most importantly, we took Dahlia’s old bed and the blanket on top of it. We didn’t even wash it. We wanted it to really smell of her.
We also kept her routine the same. The shape of the house may differ from the apartment we lived in. We might have had to send her to the living room to eat around a corner instead of straight down a hallway, but the routine of where and when she got fed, where and when she got treats, where she slept, has all basically been kept the same.
She adjusted much quicker than my parent’s dog. Was there stress? Of course. In fact, I’d say that only now, a month or so after the move, has she become completely free of the moving stress. But she was much more comfortable in the house than I think she would have been with all new things.
2. Find a safe place for your dog(s) to go during the move. Moving is a lot of hard work. Doors have to be kept open. People are running in and out of the house carrying 40 boxes of books (ok maybe that’s just us). It’s confusing even for the humans involved. The last thing you need is for your dog to escape the house and be lost or for your dog to be injured because she is underfoot. I’d even say that it would be unfair to the dog to crate her in a separate room where she can hear all the noise and then be let out only to find out all her things are gone and nothing looks the same. Imagine how disconcerting that would be to a dog!
We sent Dahlia off with my mother for the day of the move. She trusts my mother (in fact, my Mom came to pick her up and Dahlia didn’t even look back when she got her into the car!). She knows my mother’s house and her dog. She was happy to hang out in her kitchen (we don’t call her “the food lady” for no reason!) and follow her around the house. It made the move far less stressful for us and for her.
3. Take some time off. I know this probably isn’t possible for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for my husband as we moved in the middle of the school year and he’s a professor. But it was for me and so I scheduled a whole week off of work. We moved on a Saturday and I spent the next week with my dog in and out of the house. That meant she always felt safe because she knew her Mama was there with her. Her Daddy left and always came back to the new house! She got to explore a whole new area and her Mama always took her back to that same place. By the end of that first week, she would turn toward the house as soon as we got near it. She knew it was her house, even if she wasn’t 100% comfortable there just yet.
4. A lot of rewards. I’ve never been skimpy with treats for my dog. I make no bones about that (haha bad dog pun…get it?…not that she really gets bones or anything…anyway…). But I gave her even more during those first weeks in the house. You came down stairs? Oh boy, rewards! You headed toward the house after a walk? Oh boy, rewards! You came into the kitchen? REWARDS! I wanted her to associate every room in the house with something awesome. I wanted her to be happy to go into the guest room or the study or our bedroom or even the bathroom (which has now become her safe space during storms). Dahlia has had threshold issues in the past. In our previous apartment she wouldn’t go past the living room and so we had to coax her into the dining room and the kitchen and our bedroom. This time she had much more confidence but I wanted to make sure everything was as awesome as it could be for her.
Now she’s underfoot.
All the time.
But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So have at it folks. Have you picked out a house with your dog(s) in mind? How did you acclimate your dog to their new home? Come share your words of wisdom with your fellow Team Unruly readers!