Helping Your Dog Cope with Changes at Home

Changes in your home like a separation or a family member moving out can be incredibly stressful for your dog. Where this is a difficult time for all involved, there are still things you can do to help make your dog's life much easier. Keep reading to discover our top ways to help your dog cope with changes at home.
dog lying in front of the door

Changes in your home environment can be a stressful time for all the family, and often people forget that this includes your dog. Some dogs are extremely sensitive to change and may respond negatively to a shift in their schedule, which could result in them displaying dog stress symptoms, such as chewing your furniture or going to the toilet in your house.

Here at Purina, we understand how difficult these changes can be. Whether you’re going through a separation and have to decide who gets the dog, or are wondering how to settle a dog into a new home, we’ve created this handy guide to help them adjust to the change as painlessly as possible.

Dog stress symptoms

If your dog is going through a change in their life, it’s important that you keep a look out for any dog stress symptoms, which may indicate that they’re having a difficult time coping:

  • Excessive howling or barking
  • Going to the toilet in the house
  • Lack of interest in food and play
  • Digestive issues such as diarrhoea
  • Increased sleeping
  • Aggression
  • Destructive behaviour
dog lying on the sofa

How to settle a dog into a new home

The first step you should take when moving home with your dog is to double check that the place you’re moving to is pet-friendly. According to Vet Street, moving home is one of the top reasons why dogs and cats are given to rehoming centres each year, and this is largely due to the new home having a no pet policy.

When you begin the moving process it can be a very stressful time for your dog, which is why many decide to board their dog in a kennel, or have them stay with friends or family for the duration of the move. By doing this it not only keeps them safe and out of the way of the movers, but also can make them feel calmer as moving home is a busy time. When considering how to settle a dog into a new home, before collecting them we recommend unpacking some of their familiar things, as this will help to reduce stress and make them feel more at home.

If your dog has to stay with you for the duration of the move, then put them in a quiet room with the door shut whilst everything is packed and loaded up. This will ensure that your dog is safe at all times and that you’ll know where they are when the time comes for them to move. Then once you get to the new home unload some of their things straight away and allow them plenty of time to settle in.

Helping your dog deal with a break up

Divorce or a breakdown of a relationship can be really upsetting, and many owners forget about the impact it has on their dog. For your dog, your partner could have been their play companion and they might have spent a lot of time having fun with them, so when that person is no longer there, they may experience separation anxiety.  

dog sitting on the sofa with a couple

The easiest way to help your dog adjust painlessly is by slowly allowing them time to get used to it. If this is an option, once you know what your new schedule will look like, start working this in as early as possible, this will make it much easier and can help to avoid severe dog stress symptoms.

If slowly introducing the new schedule isn’t an option, you can help your dog by keeping their routine as normal as possible. Ensuring that you reinforce good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour is essential during the adjustment process. For example, if your dog is crying at the door the best thing to do is ignore them. Then when they’re quiet again, give them lots of fuss and comfort. It’s also a good idea to use exercise as a distraction to get rid of any anxious energy. Try stimulating their brain with some treat or puzzle toys, or start taking them for longer walks to tire them out.

Read more tips on helping an anxious dog here.

Who gets the dog?

There is also the big question of who gets the dog? This can be an incredibly difficult decision, but the fairest option is to choose the person the dog is most bonded/attached to. In some cases when there is an equal attachment and you’ve parted ways amicably with your partner, then joint dog custody may be an option. For this to be successful, it’s important that basic rules are agreed between both parties to make sure that the dog doesn’t get confused. For those considering joint dog custody, it’s usually a good idea for it to be trialled for a period of time first, then if it’s not working, rethink it.

If you’re concerned about your dog and they don’t seem to be adapting well to changes, take them to the vet and they’ll be able help with the symptoms and suggest how to reduce their stress.

For more dog behaviour and training advice, take a look at our content hub.