Tips For PCSing With Pets
We all know PCSing is super stressful for humans! But what about all those sweet four-legged kiddos? They can get just as stressed and anxious as humans, sometimes even more so, as they do not know how to express their feelings. Change is hard on our four-legged kiddos; I’ve PCSed five times with three dogs and two hamsters, and each time was no easy task. I wish I had a magic solution to tell you how to make your next PCS stress free, but I don’t. What I do have is experience, and I would like to offer some tips to help make your next PCS less stressful on all humans and animals involved.
1. I recommend making sure you have an Emergency Kit for your pets. I always add: dog food (whatever food they are already used to), toys, grooming tools, blankets, a water bottle, extra leash, and an emergency phone number card just in case we have an accident and EMS needs it. I make sure the card includes info on how to reach parents and/or other emergency contacts, names and ages of all people riding in the vehicle, as well as names, ages, breeds, and photos of any animals riding in the vehicle. Often in the aftermath of a serious accident, pets will make a run for it out of fear and confusion. I want the police and EMS to know there were pets in the vehicle, and have as much information on hand as possible to help find them.
2. Vet records are a MUST! Make sure you have all of your pet’s vaccination records (they may only be copies, but that’s ok) with you in your vehicle. Sometimes you will get to a hotel and they will be picky and ask for them. Also, when you arrive at your duty station you will have them on hand to show to housing or the new landlord. Make sure if your pets are on medication you have that in writing from the vet as well. My golden retriever is on allergy medications and before we PCS I make sure i have a 90-day supply–just like the humans… you never know.
3. My doggies are generally quite well behaved, but my golden does not like change (who does?!). I do my best to keep the stress level as low as possible for her. At night, I make sure all her familiar blankets/bedding are arranged to resemble the way she is used to at home; her water bowl will be in the same place, I find a corner of the room for her to sleep in (that’s her favorite), and I always ask for the ground floor at hotels in case we need to go out late at night to use the doggie restroom. Remember, the better your kiddos sleep, including four-legged kiddos, the better you will sleep.
4. I always recommend introducing the dogs to your new home as a family. If you have to board them for any reason, go to the kennel as a family, and try to pick them up as a family. Dogs can sense when something is different or wrong. When they see the entire family they will be reassured and confident they are going home. Also, to make it easier on them, have their blanket in the car: smells are very important, if they can smell home, it will ease the stress.
5. When you arrive at the new duty station, make sure you conduct a good sweep of the backyard before you allow the doggies to explore. There may be holes in the fence and the last thing you want is your baby to escape in a strange new place.
6. When the movers arrive make sure you allow the dogs to smell the boxes. They will want to know what is happening. Trust me they can smell what’s inside and they will feel more comfortable knowing it’s their “home” inside the boxes. I always keep them on a leash though, even if you know they won’t run, this is still new to them, and they could get scared.
7. After you are all settled in, do not forget to update all your information with the microchip company. Also, go to the local pet store and make a new tag for their collar.
8. I always allow the doggies to run around the house after the movers leave. They do get a little silly, jumping on beds etc. but it allows them to destress a little.
9. Pets may not eat/drink/sleep normally when you first arrive at the new duty station. I keep an extra eye on them the first week or two to make sure they are still drinking and using the restroom (outdoors of course).
10. Be patient with your pets. This is a HUGE adjustment for them, and unlike humans they cannot tell you with their words how they feel. Give them lots of love and attention, show them you love them and care for them. Giving lots of snuggles, kisses, and hugs will help them adjust to change.