How to Train Your Older Dog to Sleep Downstairs

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

You’ve had him for many years now. He probably feels like part of the furniture. He may have even been around longer than some of your kids. However, as he’s gotten older he has also become, well... needier. While he used to be content sleeping in his bed, over the years he’s developed a habit of coming and sleeping with you upstairs. A habit your partner has not always been most pleased about. Whilst it may have started as a one-off, now it has become a little too frequent. It is time to train your old dog to sleep downstairs.

Training him to sleep downstairs will reduce the mountain of dog hair that accumulates upstairs, and anything that cuts down on cleaning is a positive. Sleeping downstairs on his own will also reduce his separation anxiety when you leave for work.

Defining Tasks

Training an older dog to sleep downstairs isn’t always straightforward, especially if they have spent years dozing upstairs. To stamp out this habit you will have to make some changes to his routine. You will also need to find the right incentive to keep him downstairs. He may be old, but he probably still has a soft spot for all things edible. The hardest part will come from you, you’ll need to be strong-willed and resilient. It will be a tricky change for you too if you’re used to having him with you upstairs.

Training could take as little as a week. However, if you are reversing a lifelong habit then be prepared to work at it for a month or so. Get this training right and your partner will be forever grateful. Plus, your dog will find it much easier being left alone during the day.

Getting Started

Before you start training, you’ll need to get a few bits together. Go out and get him a comfy, new bed. You’ll also need to stock up on tasty treats, or break his favorite food into small chunks. Some toys and food puzzles will also be required.

Set aside a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day for training. Then find all the patience and willpower you can and approach training with a positive mental attitude.

Once you have all of the above, training can begin!

The Routine Method

Effective
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Step
1
Say good night
Each evening, spend a couple of minutes stroking him in his bed downstairs. This is his downtime where you say good night. Make this a time he looks forward to and you’ll find he actually goes to his bed downstairs in the evening in anticipation.
Step
2
Say good morning
When you wake up, go to his bed downstairs and say good morning. Again stroke him for a minute or two. If you do this every morning and evening, he knows he will get attention from you regularly. This will relax him and get him in a stable routine.
Step
3
Leave a treat
Place a treat on his bed in the evenings. This will help him associate his bed downstairs with positive consequences. The hardest part is luring him to his bed in the first place. A treat waiting for him will do the job.
Step
4
Toys
You can also place toys in his bed each day. If he’s surrounded by the things he loves and that smells like him, he’ll be more inclined to stay there all night. It’s about making his environment as comfortable as possible.
Step
5
Don’t punish him
If he does keep trying to come upstairs, don’t punish him. If he becomes scared of you then he may be even more eager to gain your approval. This could only increase his separation anxiety. So, stay calm and controlled.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Method

Effective
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Step
1
New bed
Give him a comfy, new bed to look forward to. Make sure it is located in a spot downstairs where he will get privacy. Three walls around him is ideal. If people are walking over him or making noise at night, he will struggle to sleep and won’t want to stay down there.
Step
2
Food puzzles
Try putting a food puzzle in his bed in the evening. This can keep him occupied for hours. Then he’ll be so settled and relaxed downstairs, that he won’t be as fussed about coming upstairs.
Step
3
Cold shoulder
If he does try and come upstairs, you must be strong. If you let him up just once you will only set back the end result. So, no matter how cute he looks, make sure he sleeps downstairs every evening.
Step
4
Start ajar
Start by closing the door most of the way at night. This will prevent him leaving his room downstairs, but don’t totally shut it. You don’t want to completely isolate him at this point.
Step
5
Close the door fully
After a few days of sleeping downstairs, you can close the door completely. By this point he will be somewhat relaxed and you need to get him used to being totally on his own at night.
Recommend training method?

The Pack Leader Method

Effective
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Step
1
Leash
Secure him to a leash and lead him to his bed at night. If you do this every evening not only will it set a routine, but the leash lets him know you are in control and that he must go to his bed.
Step
2
‘Bed’
Spend a few minutes each day training him to go to his bed when instructed. You can do this by simply giving the command, pointing and then luring him to his bed with a treat. Once he’s there, give him the treat as a reward. You can then use this to send him to his bed if he tries to come upstairs at night.
Step
3
Walk
Give him a quick walk before bed time. If he’s tired after some late evening exercise, he’ll be much more likely to collapse and nap in his bed. A tired dog is a happy dog.
Step
4
Positive reinforcement
Whenever you see him go to his bed, give him a treat. Do this throughout the day, not just in the evening. The idea is to encourage him and get him as used to being in his bed as possible.
Step
5
Correction
If he does come upstairs, it’s important you react firmly, every time. Issue a firm ‘NO’ and then send him back to his bed. If he senses weakness on your part then he will continue to pester you to stay upstairs.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Beau
Chorkie
8 Years
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Question
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Beau
Chorkie
8 Years

she has slept in bed with me for 8 years and is already a very needy pooch however we have moved to a new home and do not want dogs upstairs anymore. During the day, she will stay downstairs or run back down when we tell her ‘no’, but in the night she will refuse to sleep and gets very distressed. we have put a child gate on the kitchen to stop her and our other dog from coming up and all she does is cry ALL night, it has been around 6 months now. she started getting better and staying in bed for longer periods before crying again, but she still had us up from 4am most nights. her screaming has started when we go to bed now as well, and she will cry from around 11pm and every hour pretty much until I get up with her. I’m up at 3-4am every night, and having very broken sleep. I have tried earplugs, but she is so loud. I have tried giving her treats to reward her to go to bed, I have tried telling her off when she wakes me, I have tried putting her to bed and stroking her back to sleep when she wakes but nothing works and I end up sleeping downstairs most nights now on the sofa. I’m starting to get anxiety about going to bed as she starts terrible as soon as I go up, please help!
Many thanks
Cassie

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Mollie
Cavapoo
15 Months
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Question
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Mollie
Cavapoo
15 Months

Mollie was crate trained until 5 months old, then she began to hate her crate. She would cry throughout the night and was trembling every morning when I came downstairs. I decided this was unfair so she started sleeping in my bed with me. Almost a year later, Mollie is really reliant on me and has began growling at others if they’re near my bedroom (now it’s increasing to other places in the house). It’s almost like she’s protecting her territory, me and does it when she’s startled.
Our agility trainer saw this side of her during our class and she advised that Mollie seems to suffer from anxiety and re-training her to sleep downstairs will benefit her and increase her confidence, and reduce her reliance on me.
We have a very comfy new bed coming to sit in the kitchen, any tips? My plan is to follow your advice but should we make her sleep in it straight away or should we build her confidence and do it after a few days of positive training based around the bed?
Thank you in advance!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
93 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I apologize for the delay in reply. I would definitely work on positive association with the bed first. I do think that you may have trouble getting Mollie to sleep downstairs after having her in your bed. Your trainer knows her better so go with her advice. If there are issues, you could try her in the room on her bed (put a pen around it so she stays in that area), and slowly inch the bed out of the room by moving it just inches per night. But you would try this move only once she has learned to settle in the bed. I would leave treats for her to find throughout the day on the bed, to further increase a good association with it. As for the growling when others come to the room and other areas of the house, I would suggest a trainer used to dealing with anxiety come to the house to help Mollie, and to give you tools for how to deal with the growling. Good luck and I hope all is going well!

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Question
Rolo
Husky
8 Years
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Question
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Rolo
Husky
8 Years

We recently had a baby and our dog has always had the run of the house we have Stairgates up so he gets use to them around the house. Rolo keeps waking up the baby with his constant walking around the bedroom or shaking of the collar whilst stretching. He was a very Spoilt dog as a puppy and can admit treated like a baby so we understand he is use to getting his own way he hates doors being shut including Stairgates as he likes having access to all rooms and his food and water which recently he keeps moving around the house. We have tried training him to stay behind a Stairgate but he is howling and trying to jump over we just want him use to them being shut for when baby starts to move around

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Congratulations on your new baby! First, I recommend teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below while pup is in a confined area, such as a crate or behind the baby gate, or another room with the door closed, away from you. Whenever pup stays in the confined area for 5 minutes while you are out of the room, return after 5 minutes and sprinkle some treats into the crate/area without letting pup out, then leave the room again. As he improves, only return and give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating him during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. If you are home during the day, have lots of 30 minute - 1 hour long sessions with breaks between to practice this, to help pup learn sooner. Whenever he cries in the crate/area, tell him "Quiet". If he gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if he stays quiet. If he continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at his side through the crate/gate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries. Practice for a few days until he is doing well during the day. You can either continue what you are currently doing at night during this process or go ahead and jump into what I explain below for night time training - waiting until the day is good before starting the night or starting the night and day both at the same time. When he cries at night while in the area away from you before it has been 8 hours (so you know it's not a potty issue), tell him Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if he doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. If you go straight to nights and days like this you will probably have about 3 rough nights, with lots of correcting before he gets quiet - don't give in and let him out or this will take much longer! Whether you practice the daytime first or both right away you need to stay very consistent for this to work - expect pup to protest and for you to have to correct a lot. You may want to pretend like you are all going to bed two hours early - anticipating having to get up a lot the first couple of hours to correct - so that you don't loose as much sleep. Choose whichever option seems less stressful for you ultimately and is something you can stick to. Sleep is extremely important in general and especially with a new baby, so I wouldn't feel bad for expecting pup to learn some new boundaries that allow everyone to be healthier and happier. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Flo
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
3 Years
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Question
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Flo
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
3 Years

She has always slept upstairs but I work hard in the NHS and need my sleep
She barks at night anand ot is upsetting everyone.i am trying to leave her downstairs at night but she yaps and barks and scratches at the door for hours,I cant cope anymore.please please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sarah, First, I recommend getting pup used to a crate to stop the door scratching and make the below easier to enforce. Work on teaching the Quiet command during the day using the Quiet method from the article linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Second, during the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate for 5 minutes, sprinkle some treats into the crate without opening it, then leave the room again. As she improves, only give the treats every 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 1.5 hour, 2, hour, 3 hour. Practice crating her during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. Whenever she cries in the crate, tell her "Quiet". If she gets quiet - Great! Sprinkle treats in after five minutes if she stays quiet. If she continues barking or stops and starts again, spray a quick puff of air from a pet convincer at her side through the crate while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever she cries. Crate her at night too. When she cries at night before it has been 8 hours, tell her Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer if she doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. Don't give treats at night though - but do practice with them proactively during the day so that pup will understand the training and adjust better once night comes. Practice regularly until pup is doing well at night. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Irah
Pyredoodle
5 Months
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Question
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Irah
Pyredoodle
5 Months

Irah is an amazing pup but it has been difficult training her where to pee and poop. Whenever I bring her out on walks, she never pees or poops. I have tried giving her space, bringing her out after meals, bringing her out after playing, and before bed but she never goes. The only place she wants to pee and poop is on our turf. It has attracted so many flies and bugs. I have tried to relocate her as well by moving her to the desired place right when she pees or bringing her out in increments of 10-15 minutes. Nothing seems to work. She pees and poops only on the turf. I have even tried to take a paper towel soaked in her pee and wiped it across the rocks on the side of our yard. I cleaned the turf with an enzymatic cleaner but right when I finished she went over there and squatted and peed again. Hopefully you can help me out. Thanks!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello, It sounds like pup is being taken to a rocky area to go potty and refusing to go there. Many dogs don't like the texture of rocks and how pee can splash bag and get feet wet on rocks. If this is the case, I recommend purchasing a piece of grass sod or a disposable real grass pad and creating a little area of grass on the rocks for pup to go potty. Take pup there and walk them around slowly on a leash, telling pup to "Go Potty" and rewarding with several small treats - one at a time if they go. If they don't go, take pup inside, crate for 1 hour, then take them back outside to that spot on leash. Practice the above until pup will quickly go potty consistently on the little grass area you have created on the gravel rocks. When pup is doing well with that, if you don't want to maintain a grass area there long term, gradually cut away the grass pad just a few inches at a time. Do this over the course of a month slowly to avoid stalling potty progress, until there is no more grass left in that area and pup is going potty on the rocks - having developed a habit of going potty in that spot even without the grass pad. You will need to take pup potty to that spot and avoid giving freedom in the rest of the yard when pup's bladder isn't empty for 6 months to ensure pup develops a habit of going on the rocks only as well. Disposable real grass pad brands if you can't find a cheap piece of grass turf to use for this: www.doggielawn.com www.freshpatch.com www.porchpotty.com - the refill top grass pieces, not entire potty system Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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