How Change Affects Your Pets & What You Can Do
Our pets are creatures of habit. They thrive on routines and are often wary of change and anything new. We’re sure you have experienced this with your pet at some point in his life. Maybe, you’ve noticed it when you bring something new into the house - your cat inspects it like it’s from another planet! Maybe you’ve adjusted your dog’s schedule - he may act out like he’s confused or overwhelmed for a few days until he gets used to the new routine.
In our pets’ perfect world, there would be no change. But that is not realistic; change will happen no matter what. If you keep in mind the way that change affects your pet, you can also arm yourself with the tools to assist them during any transition. This will make any changes more manageable (and possibly pleasant) for both you and your pet!
But first, we need to start by learning what signs to look out for when your pet sense a change.
How You Know Your Pet is Affected by Change
Very often, if a pet is affected by a change, you will know.
Misbehavior is a key indicator that your pet is stressed and acting out. If your pet is destroying items or furniture in your home, they are letting you know that they are uneasy.
Keep an eye out for accidents in the home - These also indicate fear and stress.
Finally, learn about your pet’s body language. What does panting mean? What does a tucked tail mean? These are all important things to know so that you and your pet can better communicate. They can’t speak to you after all!
What You Can Do
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid switching up your pet’s routine or introducing them to something new when you enter a new chapter in your life or you need a construction worker over to the house. However, there is a LOT you can do to prepare your pet, help them adjust, and ease them into new beginnings!
Humans adapt to new things fairly easily, so it’s often hard to remember that our pets have no idea what is going on. Since we cannot explain it to them or hear how they’re feeling, it’s a good idea to taking things slowly. Introduce your pet to new things as slowly as you can and in small doses if possible.
A good general rule of thumb: be patient. They are figuring this all out on their own. If your pet has more serious anxiety, consider using calming supplements or a Thundershirt to ease their anxiety during a tough transition. You can also talk to your veterinarian about ways to help with deep anxiety or stress.
Physical exercise is a great way to get their mind off of the ‘scary’ new change. Hire a dog walker to entertain your dog while you are away (well what’d ya know? We’re dog walkers!! Learn more here!).
Mental stimulation is another way to keep your pet engaged in something else. Try fun toys, puzzles, or new tricks.
You are aiming for a balance between mental and physical exercise. The point?
We want to give your pet something fun and exciting to focus on outside of the new change. Keep in mind that you don’t want an overly tired pet. Remember, it’s all about balance here.
Consider hiring a dog trainer (like us!) to assist with a big transition. Sometimes, just knowing that you are providing your dog with the right tools necessary to prevent further stress and future misbehavior is reason enough to invest in training for your pet.
Examples of Changes That May Affect Your Pet
1. A New Home
Over time, pets become accustomed to their environment. They know the layout, the smells, and most importantly, they have a safe space to hide if they are feeling uneasy. In a new home or environment, your pet loses their lay of the land. When plopped into this new environment, they don’t have a place to retreat to and de-stress. Instead, everything is new and requires a thorough investigation.
Pro tip: Take this transition slowly. If possible, introduce your pet to the new environment briefly and return them to their safe, old environment. Continue to do this as you are packing up and moving things. When you officially move in, continue to take things slowly to help your pet adjust. Limit the amount of space they have access to (and have to explore). Prep their area with familiar items like their bed, blanket, toys, and an item of clothing that smells like you and like their safe old environment. As you leave, give them high-value treats, so they can begin associating you leaving with a yummy snack.
To avoid misbehavior and additional stress, you can also schedule additional visits from your pet sitter while you are away to provide them with love and attention from a familiar person. If you don’t already have a pet sitter, but know that you will be moving to a new home or apartment, now is the time to get your meet and greet scheduled. The more familiarity you can surround your pets with before the move, the better.
2. A New Member of the Family
Whether you’re bringing home a new pet or a new human, this change will certainly stump your pet. As with all changes, take things slowly and limit interactions to small bits of time. Give rewards for good, positive behavior. If you notice any aggression or negativity from your pet; again, it’s so important to consider getting a trainer involved. Our trainer works to ensure these new family additions go as smoothly as possible.
3. A Temporary Change Like Remodeling Your Home
Before a temporary change, consider whether it may be worth it to have your pet stay elsewhere. You know your pet best - Will he be more stressed if he stays or if he has another place he loves to stay?
Another option would be to consider extra outdoor activities during construction time to keep your pet away from the mess and noise. We provide dog park play days on Tuesdays - Thursdays, which provides ample time to burn some energy and get your dog out of the house temporarily.
If your pet will be staying home during construction or remodeling, have a discussion with your contractor regarding expectations and rules. Explain any precautions they need to take to ensure your pet is safe and calm. Set up a safe place for your pet to be during any construction. This should be a space that is solely their own. If necessary, have them meet the contractor to build familiarity - maybe he can even give your pet some treats!
4. A New Walker or Sitter
If you’re introducing a new pet sitter or walker into your routine, it’s important to build a relationship between the caretaker and your pet. If your pet is shy, have the pet care provider reward them with high-value treats when they are present. These treats should be reserved for the pet care provider only.
Our first impressions’ visits are SO important to building a bond with your pet before reservations or dog walks begin. This is the time to establish familiar, get some smells in, and learn that this new person is nice, loving, and gives treats! Ensuring your pet is happy and comfortable with our specialists is SO important to Pet Waggin’ Pet Care’s philosophy.
5. A New Schedule
There are so many things that can affect your schedule and thus, your pet’s. Whether you’re starting a new job, are undergoing surgery, or you’ve taken on a new hobby, your pet will certainly be affected. Do the best you can to slowly adapt your pet to the change. By performing simple activities, like treating them when the crutches come into the room if you’re getting surgery, can make a much larger impact than you’d think.
If you have a big change planned for the future, don’t forget to plan for your pet. Easing the transition for your pet is not rocket science, but it does definitely require some extra attention and care.
As you, yourself, deal with these changes, you might ALSO be overwhelmed, so please don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And if you’re wondering how we can help, we have dog walkers and pet sitters at the ready to ease that burden. For larger scale changes, our amazing dog trainer, Carolyn, can provide you with a customized plan to help your dog adjust, adapt, and thrive as he heads into new changes in your family’s lives.
Questions? Contact us here! We’d LOVE to help. Anything for our amazing Long Beach community and its pets.