Real estate can be tough on pets. Here are a few tips to make things less “ruff.”

The process of buying or selling a home can be stressful for us humans, but it can be especially hard on pets. Routines get knocked out of whack, strange people (including potential buyers, agents and home inspectors) are entering the property, and a general feeling of upheaval can be palpable.

When we start working with a new buyer or seller, we always try to find out as much as possible about their pets so we can help them make solid decisions for everyone who might be part of their household, two- and four-legged creatures alike.

When you’re selling your home

On the seller side, our top concern is how to handle showings with potential buyers. Our policy is to attend all showings, rather than slap a lockbox on the door so that buyers and their agents can stroll through on their own. Being there in-person allows us to keep an eye on pets and try to keep them from slipping out the door or getting into any restricted spaces (such as a particular bedroom or a closet) when buyers enter the house and start exploring and throwing doors open. If you’d like this type of service, make sure you ask agents if they provide “accompanied showings” before you hire them to sell your home.

It’s also good to let your agent know if visitors shouldn’t pet animals they see, or if a certain animal is aggressive toward strangers. This helps to prevent bad results.

If you’re super nervous about your pet during showings, we always recommend that you take them with you when you leave the house before people come over. Although this may not always be possible (and may not work for say, a gerbil or your goldfish), this is the best way to ensure your pet’s comfort and safety (and give you peace of mind).

When you’re looking to move to a new home

If you’re looking to buy or rent a home yourself, it’s especially important to inform your real estate agent about your pet, including breed and size. One of the biggest challenges pet owners run into is something called “pet restrictions.” This usually comes up with rentals and condo complexes.

Sometimes, pet restrictions are a creature of local ordinances, such as a ban on aggressive dog breeds. More frequently, however, they come up as the result of limitations placed on a property by an owner, developer, or association. The restrictions themselves vary, but some of the more common ones we’ve seen involve limitations on the type of animal (for example, “no dogs”), or on the size of pet allowed (for example, “dogs under 25 lbs. allowed”).

Whatever the case, they’re usually binding upon you unless you can somehow obtain an exemption (as in the case of a landlord who breaks their own rule to allow you to have a bigger pet.) It might be worth your while to investigate the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen designation. This is a program where dogs complete a 10-step “good citizen” test to earn a special certificate you could present to potential landlords who might be wary about accepting your pet. Items on the test include “accepting a friendly stranger” and “walking through a crowd.” Having the certificate might not guarantee entry for your dog, but it could definitely help your case.

As you begin your home search, you should also consider telling your agent to keep an eye out for certain pet-friendly features, such as a fenced backyard for pets to roam free, a nearby dog park or non-porous floors suitable for four-legged occupants. Don’t feel silly putting a strong emphasis on these types of features—pets are part of the family and deserve to be comfortable, too!

Have you ever moved or sold your house while you had a pet? What challenges did you face? Share your story in the comment section below.