Zuri is a creature of habit. She enjoys the comfort of familiar surroundings and familiar people. If I move one of her beds a metre away, she will notice immediately. If I change the position of a potplant, it is the first place she investigates when she is outside. She is very aware of changes in her environment and her behaviour can change in response to any alterations. This is true of all dogs. Environmental changes have an effect on all behaviour. It's the individual dog and circumstances that create the varying nuances of altered behaviour. Zuri's behaviour did change, despite all my care. Which makes me wonder how much more intense her little idiosyncrasies may have been if I hadn't taken care to consider her well-being before, during and after the move.
BEFORE THE MOVE
I prepared Zuri for the move. We visited the new home a few times before the big day. She got to investigate the house and surrounds without pressure. I tried to keep our daily routine as close to usual as possible - even whilst packing and dealing with the added tasks involved in moving. We went for walks, we spent time training, I utilized treat dispensers more often to take up the slack of less one-on-one time with me. Unfortunately she became very sick the week before the move. This made it slightly harder to keep things routine. She even went off her food.
DURING THE MOVE
During the move I made the decision to keep her with me. Sometimes I recommend leaving a dog with friends or even a kennel for the day or few days so they don't get lost in the craziness that can be involved in moving house. This works well for dogs who have no issues with separation or who are used to the friend or kennel they are in. For Zuri, staying with me and following me around was the better option. Especially since she wasn't feeling well. She didn't get in the way and felt more secure being my shadow and watching as her world was transported from one site to another.
AFTER THE MOVE
The first pieces of furniture that I arranged in our new home were her dog beds. This was part of my strategy to make her feel as comfortable as soon as possible. I observed where she seemed to gravitate and tried to place her beds in those places. If she chose the place, I was hoping that's where she felt most content. In this strange new world she now had a haven of familiarity that she could retreat to. Her food and water were the next in place and she was shown where these were. I took her on toilet breaks and showed her where to go - reinforcing her excitedly for going in this new area. This was complicated by her sickness. She went from diarrhoea to constipation within a few days. I was aware that this change in bowel movements could be a health issue, a reaction to medication or a stress response. Many dogs that are toilet trained in the old home may urinate and/or defecate inside the new place. This can be a combination of not knowing where to go in unfamiliar surroundings, the stress of the move and being a new environment.
Zuri took about three weeks to settle. She moved from bed to bed. She didn't sleep well and woke up during the night to move more frequently than usual. Being sick didn't help as she needed more toilet stops during the night as well. Maybe this was stress related as well? She woke and barked at unfamiliar noises. She generally barked more than usual as people or dogs passed. Her behaviour changed from wanting to go out the back door to sitting at the front door and wanting to go out. Who can blame her? I put a bed out the front which caught the morning sun. In our old place, the back door was the gateway to morning sun!
Some other behaviour changes in dogs that can coincide with moving are pacing, hiding, licking themselves excessively, digging or digging more and chewing or chewing things not usually on the chew list. They may appear disobedient, not performing tasks they normally have no problem with. Knowing that a dog may be responding to the move and new environment is the first step in assisting a return to normal.
The foot traffic of dogs and people is quite a bit greater and closer than that passing our old home. The increased frequency and proximity is a challenge for Zuri. So, to help her, my plan was to devise some training sessions helping her get used to this and no longer feel the need to bark. At the very least, not to bark as frequently or with such intensity. We've just started and it's working nicely. I plan sessions and also capture her desired behaviour spontaneously whenever we're sitting out the front together watching the world go by. To this end, I have a little container of treats permanently by my chair, so I have the best chance of reinforcing her for just watching and not barking as people pass.
I'm also teaching her to go to the toilet (poop) in certain places. We don't have our own yard. If I miss "poo patrol" one day, I don't want to inconvenience the neighbours. At least it will be outside my door :-)
We have a little chihuahua (Minnie) as a neighbour. She is scared of big dogs. I would be too if I was that tiny. Zuri is scared of new dogs. I'm working on these guys getting on. So far we are having success. Minnie no longer barks and retreats incessantly and Zuri no longer stops and stares. Minnie comes out and snuffles around and Zuri raises her head briefly from her bed, then resumes her relaxed position. They are able to be closer and closer. Being a dog trainer, I'm going to push the boundaries and see if they can become playmates. I wouldn't necessarily go as far as recommending this to my clients, but I'm dedicated and have the time and patience to go as slowly as both dogs need to get acquainted. I've also seen Minnie play. Zuri plays well with much smaller dogs. She also respects very subtle dog body language of other dogs, so I don't fear she will be too rough. If they overcome their fear of each other but choose not to become interactive friends, I'll accept their wishes. I'm secretly hoping they will become best buddies. It will be a great alternative for fun and stimulation for Zuri, while I sit out the front watching them play when I'm too weary for a walk. Plus the joy of watching two dogs play well together is hard to beat.