How to Train Your Older Dog to Sleep Downstairs

How to Train Your Older Dog to Sleep Downstairs
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon1-4 Weeks
General training category iconGeneral

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.

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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.

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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!

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The Routine Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Pack Leader Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Environment Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By James Barra

Published: 01/04/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Rocky

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Golden Retriever

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3 Years

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Question

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We just adopted Rocky from a loving but very lenient family who did not set strict boundaries with him. In my household, at night time and in general, he is not allowed upstairs and we set up a very large and cozy room for him where he is able to see outside but not leave. During the daytime, he is generally fine other than some random instances of barking which I have learned to ignore so he stops. At night though, if we leave him alone, he starts barking like crazy. Mind, he's used to sleeping in his owner's room but we want to kill this habit as it is not sustainable for me to come down every night at 3 am, set up a mattress, and sleep so that my family can get some rest. The last two nights I have only slept about 4 hours. I'm not sure if this is separation anxiety or just habitual but I really need a solution.

June 9, 2022

Rocky's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Xarlashta, First, 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, but instead of the crate, that entire room you are leaving pup in is your "crate" in this case. Practice leaving pup alone in that room during the day with this method's steps. In your case you would skip to the part where the crate door is closed - and in your case pup confined in that room. Whenever pup stays quiet in the room without you there for 5 minutes, return briefly and sprinkle some treats into the room wher eyou want pup to settle without letting pup out or giving too much attention, then leave the room again. As he 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 confining pup during the day for 1-3 hours each day that you can. Whenever he cries in the confined area, tell him "Quiet" without entering the room all the way. If he gets quiet - Great! Go over and 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 while calmly saying "Ah Ah", then leave again. Only use unscented air canisters, DON'T use citronella! And avoid spraying in the face. If pup stops before you can ever correct, so the situation looks like: pup barks, you walk in to correct and pup stops before you can correct each time - so pup is just getting attention for barking, then you will need to use a remote correction, like a remote training collar, e-collar, set on pup's working level, which is the lowest level pup indicates ahead of time while calm that they can feel the collar stimulation. The serves as an interrupter without being as harsh as a big shock. You will need a high quality collar with at least 60 levels to ensure this can be done without being too harsh, such as Ecollar technologies, dogtra, garmen, or sports dog. surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Example of this being done in a crate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3j882MAYDU Finding a working level: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl3V8vYobM Repeat the rewards when quiet and the corrections whenever he cries during daytime practice. Practice for a few days until he is doing well during the day. while practicing during the day, you can either continue what you are currently doing at night during this process, or go straight to correcting at night while practicing also rewarding during the day - to help pup learn what you want at night without having to wait too long. Personally, I would sleep on the couch a couple more nights while you practice a lot during the day, with an hour break between practices, then add in the nights too after two days, When you work on the nights, when he cries at night before it has been 8 hours, tell him Quiet, and correct with the pet convincer or collar if he doesn't become quiet and stay quiet. After correcting, if you went in the room to correct, then leave again, and don't give treats at night. If you use the remote collar to correct, most will have a tone setting, I would push the tone button first, to tell pup "Quiet" before correcting, so pup has the opportunity to stop when told Quiet by the collar tone, like you telling them Quiet with your words when practicing with the pet convincer. Eventually pup should learn to not bark at all or to at least stop when told to, without needing the correction. Once pup has slept down there long enough pup should simply get used to the new normal also, so you won't need to be reminding as often. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 10, 2022

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Hugo

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French Bulldog

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4 Years

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My frenchie is 4 and half. He has separation anxiety- I need to train him to sleep down stairs in his crate. He wakes crying and scratching to get out by 4/5am. He disturbs our sleep so much & it’s hard with a 3 year old. He’s been destructive in my house & I can’t afford to leave him roam downstairs if he’s going to dig up my carpet or sofa. Help :(

June 7, 2022

Hugo's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nicole, First, 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 he 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 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, 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 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 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 3-5 rough nights, with the first three being worse then gradually improving, with lots of correcting before he gets quiet - don't give in and let him out or this will take much longer! But the overall process will go faster if you can stay strong. If you practice the daytime routine first continuing bedtime how it is currently for a few more days, then start the nighttime routine once pup understands the new rules in the crate, the night should go easier when you do make the transition. Either way 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 and read in bed with the lights off - 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. Most dogs will cry on and off for about an hour before falling asleep, then will cry for about an hour in the morning until they go back to sleep. Once they see that your consistent, it should start improving and lead to better sleep overall for everyone. You may want to put a sound machine (or if they will let you, ear plugs) for your child those nights. I do highly recommend crating pup at night though. I wouldn't feel bad about crating. Not only will it prevent the chewing but it also makes it easier for pup to learn to settle down rather than pace and chew all night while transitioning. The occasional dog will be much easier, so that could be your outcome too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 7, 2022


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