Moving and Re-Socializing Your Dog

re-socializing your dog

A little playtime can distract your dog when introducing them to new surroundings.

You have a regular regimen with your dog. You are both settled in your daily routine. Then you decide to move. Whether it’s due to a new job, a better neighborhood, or a bigger home, you know that moving is the right decision for your family. However, you are concerned with how your furry friend will cope with the move. You realize you need to think about re-socializing your dog in your new environment.

You will need to introduce your dog to their new surroundings. This is especially important if there is a big change involved, for example: elevators, communal areas, sprinkler systems, etc.  Additionally, if you have an older dog, it may be a few years since you’ve practiced some socializing.

So where do you start?

Introducing Your Dog To New Experiences

We’ll let you in on a little secret: re-socializing your dog is socializing, whenever and wherever it is done. Socializing is something that should be practiced consistently, whether at a dog park or just walking down the street. But if you need to introduce your dog to specific new things and situations, there are some definite steps to take. Re-socializing your dog should take place with a lot of time and patience. Also, it is best to help your dog make positive associations with the new experiences.

Entering Communal Areas

Your new place to live may have communal areas with grassy parkways, picnic tables and playground equipment. This means there will be more people milling around – including adults, kids and maybe other pets. If your dog isn’t used to all this activity, it may be a bit of a shock. 

re-socializing your dog
Always have your dog on a leash when out in communal areas. Image by S Melki via CC by 2.0
  • Take it slow. Keep your dog on leash and casually wander around the edge of the communal area. It is usually quieter around the perimeter.
  • Carefully watch how your dog responds. If they are indifferent, you can proceed to wander throughout the area. 
  • Intermittently give your dog treats when they are demonstrating the desired behavior: calm interest. 
  • If your dog appears stressed – cowering, licking their muzzles, yowling or barking, panting or drooling excessively – return to a safer place, a distance away from the communal area.
  • Move away. Wait for your dog to return to a calm and submissive state. Verbally assure them. Then start again.

Interacting With New Neighbors

Be mindful of how your dog interacts with new people and other dogs. You want them to be interested, but calm. You don’t want your pooch to be dubbed as “the wild child” as soon as you arrive. 

re-socializing your dog
Allow your dog to approach new neighbors on their terms. Image by C Miller via CC BY-SA 2.0.
  • As you come to know your new neighbors, try to arrange some “meet and greets” between them and your leashed dog. Ask a neighbor to casually approach, without displaying any direct attention to your dog. There should be no touching.
  • Wait until your dog shows calm interest in the new acquaintance. Then allow them to approach. Desired behavior from your dog includes sniffing and rubbing against their new friend. Your neighbor can then gently pat your dog.
  • If your dog becomes hyper-excited, move away.  Re-introduce everyone from a distance. 

Dealing With Elevators

If elevators are a new experience to your dog, they can take some time to get used to. Look at it from your dog’s point of view: What is natural about stepping into a box and when the door opens, you end up somewhere completely different? Not to mention there is that funny feeling you get when the elevator doors close and you are lifted upwards.   

re-socializing your dog
While inside an elevator, have your dog face away from the doors.
  • Again, take your time. Let your dog sniff around the entrance to the elevator. Open and close the elevator doors while you are in the reception area so your dog can get used to the sound.
  • Throw some treats around the elevator entrance while the doors are opening and closing. Make sure to keep your dog on a short leash so they don’t get caught between the closing doors.
  • Next, with a treat, encourage your dog to enter the elevator. Then walk straight back out. Repeat. Once you are confident your dog isn’t phased by this, close the door while you are both inside the elevator. Reopen the door and walk back out.
  • Always have your dog sit facing the elevator walls, not facing the elevator doors. This avoids what can be a startling encounter for your dog if the doors open to reveal unfamiliar people/ other dogs waiting to enter the elevator.
  • Make sure you are practicing all of this at a quiet time of the day. Neighbors will not appreciate if the elevator is held up during busy rush hours (when they leave in the morning or return home in the evening).
  • Providing your dog is comfortable in the elevator, attempt to go to another floor. Treat and praise your pooch both while inside and as you exit the elevator.

Getting Used To Lobbies/ Reception Areas

Lobbies/ reception areas can be super busy in some buildings, so chances are your dog may become overwhelmed.   

  • If there is a doorman and/or a concierge at your new residence, the best thing to do is to encourage your dog to make best friends with them. This way there will always be a familiar face for your dog, even if there is a lot of commotion going on. 
  • Alternatively, spend some time and sit in the corner of the reception area. Allow your leashed dog to watch all that is going on from a distance.
  • While you may want your dog to be sociable with others, encouraging your dog to meet everyone in the busy lobby/ reception area isn’t a great idea. It’s not the right setting.
  • You can also distract your dog with some activity. Give your dog a chew toy. You can practice some trick training. 

    Reward good behavior.
  • You just want your pooch to be comfortable in the lobby/ reception area as everyone passes through. Make sure to reward and praise your dog’s calm behavior. 

Re-Socializing Your Dog… Check ✓

Moving your home can be super-stressful. However, it is one less thing to worry about if you have a plan for re-socializing your dog. To help them cope with their new environment, make sure that their experiences are positive. Make sure to be patient at all times. Follow your dog’s lead. Reward good, calm behavior. Not only will your new neighbors be thankful for your efforts, so will your dog.

 *         *         *         *         *

John Woods,  Guest Contributor  

John Woods is a full-time dog trainer and the founder of All Things Dogs. He is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare, and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America. John’s mission is to make the world a better place for dogs by teaching and educating their pet-parents on how best to care for them.

All unaccredited photos via All Things Dog