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How do I prevent relocation trauma?

Q:

I’m going to be moving soon, taking my 11-year-old female Border Collie and 10-year-old Blue Heeler-Australian Shepherd male from where they’ve lived with me in a small community all their lives, to the big city of Seattle. I will be living with friends temporarily—they have two cats and a backyard—before we move to something smaller, quite possibly an apartment or condo. My Border Collie is quiet and easily managed; my male dog is hyper, protective of me, has a few separation issues, and is sometimes aggressive toward strangers. How can I ease the transition from their familiar routine to something so completely different? I’ll make sure we see the vet before we move, and I know I should bring along and keep consistent their bedding, food, and exercise routine, etc. My Border Collie has some arthritis and cataracts, but otherwise both dogs are in good health.

A:

First, we need to dissect the idea of health. While your dogs may be okay physically, your male dog’s aggressive behavior is adversely affecting the mental health of your entire family. I see this move as a real opportunity for you—since unfamiliar territory will create the kind of temporary uncertainty needed to establish a fresh set of rules and boundaries. If you can swing it financially, I’d advise you not to bring any of your dogs’ old paraphernalia, since without it, you can create new associations and, as a result, new behaviors. I don’t know if you put a backpack on your Blue Heeler mix when you walk him, but if you don’t, I’d start now. And I’d also use this as an opportunity to claim my own interior space; for more on this, read the chapter about “proximity” in my book, How to Raise the Perfect Dog.

One thing I do when I need to make change happen is draw a rectangle, and inside it, I write down five things that I want: “I want total discipline”; “I want to be out of this apartment in three months”; “I want a great job,” etc. I keep it simple; I don’t overthink it, I just feel it. Spiritually, in our DNA, we all know what we want but when we think too much, we dilute that sense of certainty. What works for me is writing about my wishes for my whole life, not just my wishes for my dogs—because the manifestation of getting the other things that I want will be a great relationship with my dogs. While Dog Whisperer’s episodes are planned, the show itself—its insistence on striving for calm-assertive energy—came completely from a feeling, one that was at the very root of who I am.


Submitted by Chere
Answered by Cesar Milan

 

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