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.
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.
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!
My puppy has been sleeping in a crate on our main floor without a problem since he was 8 weeks old. My husband, just recently mentioned that we should move it to our basement. Our basement is fully finished. The reason why he wants the crate in the basement is because he says the house smells like “dog” and that if we have the crate in the basement the upstairs won’t smell like “dog” anymore. What is your best advice? PS keep in mind, I wash Remmy’s bedding weekly so I don’t know why he thinks it smells! Thanks.
Hello Maria, If your basement is a healthy environment and not moldy or gets too hot or cold moving Remmy's crate into the basement for night sleep should be fine. If your basement is finished, then that would be even better than an unfished basement. If you move him, then start by crating him for short periods down there during the day with a food stuffed Kong in the crate with him. Every once in a while go down to him down there while he is being quiet and sprinkle treats into his crate for him, to make the crate pleasant. After you do this leave him again and after a few times of doing this, then let him out while he is quiet. If you gradually get him used to being down there during the day so that he feels safe down there like he does upstairs, then he should adjust well to being down there at night. You can put an audio baby monitor down there to listen to him if he still wakes at night to go potty or you are worried about him. If you crate him a lot during the day while you are home for potty training or any other reason, then it would be better for him to be upstairs around people for the human interaction. If no one is at home or it is time to sleep, the basement is fine. When you or other people are home he should be crated where he is around people the majority of the time. Ultimately the choice will be between you and your husband if he is crated while people are gone because both options at night are fine as long as you introduce it properly during the day first to prevent anxiety, and your basement does not pose a health risk. Great job getting him crate trained up to this point! If you keep him upstairs, then try adding a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse cycle in the rinse or fabric compartment of your washing machine to help with the smell even more. Between washes you can also sprinkle baking soda on the bed, let it sit for at least ten minutes, and then vacuum it off. Both the vinegar and baking soda should be safe to use around him and are natural deodorizers. You can also buy dog wipes for freshening up your puppy's fur between baths. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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My older two dogs have slept downstairs for most of their lives, they had the run of both the kitchen and living room. Around two years ago they were moved upstairs and slept between my parents and siblings rooms. The youngest dog came at around the same time and slept downstairs in her crate until she was six months old, then she was moved upstairs into my room, she has no isssues sleeping through the night in my room. One of the older dogs now struggles to last the whole nights without urinating (she has been vet checked for this, there’s no issue) and so both have been moved into my room as I have the oldest carpet. I have tried to move them all downstairs, unfortunately the youngest dog has had several incidents of urinating on the living room carpet so we have tried moving them into the kitchen. This is were we have the issue, obviously they don’t want to sleep in the kitchen with the door shut as they’re not used to this and being away from us. One of the older dogs howls and there’s always several accidents in the morning. How do I make them happier in there, leaving the door adjar is not an option because of the younger dog.
Hello Charlotte, First, the younger dog needs to be crated at night still to train her to hold her bladder through night, especially with the older dog having accidents still. If the younger dog is over six months of age, then she should be able to hold her bladder overnight and the accidents are a training issue. Crating her until you resolve the older dog's accidents and she matures more should deal with that. Also, remove all feed and water two hours prior to bedtime and take the dogs outside to go potty right before bed, not thirty-minute or an hour before they go to bed, but last thing before you put them in the kitchen and turn out the lights. Any accidents any dog is having need to be cleaned with a pet safe cleaner that contains enzymes also, or the smell will simply encourage the other dogs to have accidents as well. Only enzymes break down the pee and poop well enough to remove the smell for a dog's sensitive nose. Avoid products containing ammonia in the area also because ammonia smells like pee to a dog and can encourage peeing. Second, the older dog that is having accidents probably has urinary incontinence from age. That is normal as many dogs age, even without another medical issue like a urinary tract infection. You will either need to let him out in the night, find another way for him not to have to hold it for as long overnight, or train him to use an specific indoor toilet area separate from the other dogs' areas. If you do the later, then I strongly suggest setting up an exercise pen with a PrimoPad on one end and a disposable real grass toilet pad on the other end. You can purchase a primopad here: https://www.primopads.com/ You can purchase a real grass pad here, or use one that's similar: https://www.amazon.com/DoggieLawn-Disposable-Dog-Potty-Grass/dp/B00761ZXQW/ref=pd_sim_199_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00761ZXQW&pd_rd_r=b8a52afe-cce1-11e8-a1fa-3b320cf86cd1&pd_rd_w=mzY5L&pd_rd_wg=KMeke&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=18bb0b78-4200-49b9-ac91-f141d61a1780&pf_rd_r=DQBBSZRXESHTRVND6WGJ&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=DQBBSZRXESHTRVND6WGJ To teach her to use the bathroom on a grass pad check out the article that I have linked below and follow the "Exercise Pen" method. That article talks about litter box training but you can substitute a grass pad for a litter box and follow the rest of the article. https://wagwalking.com/training/litter-box-train-a-chihuahua-puppy If you strongly believe that she should be able to make it through the night because she can go long periods during the day, then she needs to be crated at night like the puppy to break her habit of peeing inside. Spend time getting the dogs used to staying in the kitchen for shorter periods of time during the day to help with anxiety. Stuff several medium and large hollow Kong toys with their dog food and a bit of peanut butter or liver paste or soft cheese. You can soak the dog food in water until it turns into mush and then mix peanut butter or liver into it, stuff the Kongs with it, and freeze them, to make the treats last longer also. Give them these Kongs when you put them into the kitchen. Subtract that amount of food from their meal rations if needed for weight management. When the dogs get quiet for even a couple of seconds while in the kitchen, then return, toss small treats into the area, and then leave again without saying anything. Practice this every time the dogs get quiet. Either ignore or correct the barking and yelping. If you correct, use something that will interrupt the dogs' behavior. The goal is to interrupt the anxious, worked up behavior to give her a chance to learn coping skills when her current behavior is no longer an option because of corrections. The corrections can be vibration, very low level stimulation, a puff of air, or something else that will simply stop her from doing the behavior for a minute. Avoid citronella collars though because dogs' noses are too sensitive for them. You can hide a camera and go upstairs and then correct her with a device remotely, or if she does it while you are within hearing distance you can simply listen for quietness vs. barking. It is extremely important that you also go back to her very calmly and reward her calm behavior and give her something else, like chewing the food stuffed Kongs, to do instead of what she is currently doing. Your interactions with her need to be calm and boring. Giving her more structure by practicing obedience and interacting with her more calmly in general should also help some. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Allowed to sleep upstairs at previous owners now need him to sleep downstairs
Hello Heather, I suggest starting out crating him downstairs. Get him used to being in the crate downstairs during the day first. First, open the crate door, sprinkle treats inside, and show him the treats. After that, replace the treats whenever they are gone and let him discover them again later. This should encourage him to go into the crate on his own to look for treats. Next, when he will go into the crate, stuff a large Kong with his dog food mixed with a bit of peanut butter. Let the mixture soak in water until it turns into mush, before loosely stuffing it into the Kong. If he gets the mixture out of the Kong too quickly, then freeze the toy overnight to make it last longer. Gradually increase the amount of time that he is in the crate for. Sprinkle treats into the crate sporadically when he is being quiet. Do not let him out until he is quiet for at least a second. Work up to leaving him in the crate with the food stuffed Kong for up to three hours. When he is used to that, then you can start putting him into the familiar crate at night with an empty Kong. If he does well being unsupervised, then after he is used to sleeping downstairs in the crate for at least two-to-three months, then you can take his dog bed out of the crate and simply leave him downstairs to sleep on that bed. Only do this if you are completely confident that he is ready to be unsupervised though. Some dogs are past chewing and other destructive habits by that age, others need more time to mature. Another option is to simply crate him in there downstairs one night if he does not have severe separation anxiety. Give him two weeks to cry it out and get used to the new arrangements. Many dogs adjust within three nights, but others take longer. This method will work with many dogs, but it is not guaranteed to work with all, is harder at first for the dog, and involves some sleepless nights for you, but it takes less time overall. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Bobbi is 15 weeks old and we have had her for just over a week. she is currently sleeping in our bedroom at night in her cage. When and how would be a good way to gradually move her downstairs.
Hello Marc, Start by getting her used to being in the crate downstairs during the day. Set up a crate downstairs, leave treats sprinkled inside, and open the door. The first couple of times, show her that there are treats in there. After that, simply sprinkle treats in there for her to find. When she eats the treats, then replace them with more. This should be a fun game for her. She should begin to go into the crate to look for treats on her own. Next, stuff a hollow chew toy, like a medium or large Kong, with her food. Soak the food in water beforehand until it turns into mush, then mix a bit of peanut butter, liver paste, or soft cheese into the mush. Loosely stuff the toy with the mixture. Later, when she gets good at getting the food out, you can also freeze the Kong overnight ahead of time to make it into a time released treat that is more challenging and fun. You can make several frozen Kongs ahead of time to pull from the freezer as needed. Put her into the crate with the food stuffed Kong and drop several other treats inside too. Leave her in there until she finishes the Kong. While she is being quiet, let her out of the crate again. As she gets more comfortable being in the crate, increase how long you leave her in there for. If she stays quiet for fifteen minutes, then you can return to her, sprinkle treats into the crate and leave again. You can do this periodically to teach her that being quiet earns rewards. When she can handle being in the crate in that room for at least three hours during the day, then you can simply put her in the crate at night one night. If she cries when she does not have to use the bathroom, then ignore the crying. Let her work it out. Since you have practiced during the day, she should be capable of settling down eventually. You can put her in the crate in the other room immediately too. You would simply let her cry it out the first few nights, and use a baby monitor to listen to her for when she wakes up to pee. Introducing it during the day overtime is more gentle and typically involves less crying though. You can move her into the other room as soon as you choose. Since she may need to go potty during the night still right now, you will need to put a baby monitor by the crate in case she wakes up to pee. Many people wait until the puppy can sleep through the night without needing to be taken potty, for the sake of their own convenience. The earlier you move her, the easier it will be for her to transition from this point onward though, so you will have to decide when the combination of convenience with potty trips and getting her used to it early works best for you. If she can already consistently make it through the night, then it might be worth moving her right now. Make sure that she is always making it through the night though. If she occasionally needs to go out, then you will still need a monitor baby. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi there I brought a dog from some one today and when I leave down stairs it starts crying then starts barking how do I change this please
Hello Stacey, Unfortunately, you will probably not be able to change his crying and barking behavior in just one night. If you need the barking to stop right now, so that you can get sleep tonight, then you best bet is to place Milo into a crate by your bed, so that he is not alone, and place a food stuffed Kong into the crate with him to help with anxiety and boredom, and to automatically reward quiet behavior, since it's hard to bark while chewing. To prevent future crying, Milo will need to be taught how to be alone and how to be in a crate. You can jump into that tonight by following one of the methods for letting him cry a bit tonight, or crate him by your bed at night right now, while you work on introducing the crate during the day, and then once he can handle being in the crate for an hour during the day, move the crate back to the basement and tackle the nights there. By that time he should be more familiar with the crate and the crying should be less severe. To teach either of those check out these articles: This article will go over how to tackle the nights starting tonight if you choose to: https://wagwalking.com/training/crate-train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-at-night This article takes a more gradual approach, tackling the days first: https://wagwalking.com/training/crate-train-a-dachshund-puppy This article is great in general, regardless of whether you tackle night time or day time first, because Milo likely needs help learning how to be independent: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-husky-to-be-alone Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Our dogs (2 years & 6 months old) have slept with us in our bed since the day they came home with us. We just moved into a new house and the advice given to us was to start right away training with the new environment downstairs. We have a very nice defined square area at the bottom of our stairs about 5 feet x 5 feet that we filled with blankets, toys and a food dish. Last night was our first night trying them sleeping downstairs and they barked. ALL. NIGHT! Right now aside from the area we have filled with blankets they are open to the whole basement. Tonight i will put up a gate and try a smaller area. Are there any other tips for sleep training these two dogs?
Hello Casey, Get the dogs used to spending time in that area during the day when you can be there to train. First, sprinkle treats on the area, show the dogs the treats, and throughout the day replace the treats after they are eaten. This will make that area a really wonderful spot, full of surprises, and it will encourage the dogs to go there on their own. Second, once they are visiting the area on their own, fill hollow chew toys with dog food mixed with peanut butter (avoid Xylitol -- it's toxic!), liver paste or very soft cheese. You can also put things like an automatic treat dispenser, Kong treat wobble toy that dumps pieces of dog food, or other safe, favorite exciting toys. Put the dogs into the area with the fun toys and barricade the area with baby gates, so that they cannot leave. Leave them in there until the food has been eaten or thirty-minutes to one-hour if they do not eat the food. Whenever they become quiet or stay quiet for five-to-ten-minutes, return to the area and sprinkle more treats into the area, then leave again. Wait until they are quiet before you let them out of the area. One of three things will probably happen: They will be so excited about the food-stuffed toys that they will quietly chew on these (easiest scenario). They will bark and occasionally become quiet -- giving you opportunities to reward the quietness, which will increase quietness with practice. They will never stop barking during the hour. If they don't bark, you can gradually increase how long you leave them in the penned area for, until they can handle three hours calmly. If they bark, but occasionally get quiet, you can reward the quietness and overtime they should learn that being quiet is how they earn rewards and get out, and they will get use to the pen and become quieter in there in general. If they never stop barking, it's time to correct. To correct barking that never stops, purchase a small canister of air called a Pet Convincer. Teach your dogs the meaning of the word "Quiet" by using the "Quiet" method found in the article that I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Once the dogs know what "Quiet" means from practicing it, put them into the penned area with the toys, tell them "Quiet" and leave. If they bark, return to them, tell them "No", spray a small puff of air at their sides with the Pet Convincer (by their rib cage, NOT face) and leave again. If they stay quiet after the correction, return to them within five minutes and give them treats to reward the quietness. If they start barking again, return and correct, then leave them again. This will take several repetitions of BOTH correcting AND rewarding before they will make the connection to choose quietness. Make sure that you also reward quietness. Don't skip this step. Look for those opportunities to reward quietness because that is what will long-term train them to accept the pen. The correction will simply provide an opportunity for the dogs to choose the correct behavior and learn. Once the dogs are quiet in the pen during the day for three hours, put them in the pen at night. Do this when you can stay up for a couple of hours if needed, to reward the quietness or correct the barking, until they go to sleep. Focus more on ignoring and correcting at night than rewarding, so that they will not stay up in anticipation of treats -- this is why it's important to practice during the day first, when you can reward more. You can also remove the bottom gate of the pen (leaving the top gate, blocking the stairs up -- to give them access to the basement again if you want to, like you are giving them now (assuming they are trustworthy unsupervised and don't destroy anything or hurt themselves). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I am looking for advice for changing my dogs sleeping arrangements. He is 2 years old and he has always come in our bed for a cuddle before going to sleep on the floor in our bedroom near our bed (We have tried many different beds but he likes the carpet!) We have now moved into rented housing for a year and he is not allowed up stairs. We are trying to train him to stay downstairs to sleep but he just spends all night crying and crying on the bottom step.
He hasn’t slept well for about 4 nights and today we came back to the place we use to live for a visit and he took himself straight to the old bedroom and slept for 5.5hrs!
I know this will be a huge change for him because we have moved house plus changed his sleeping routines and I am concerned that we are doing something wrong or badly and want to make sure he is comfortable with the change. I don’t want him to be sad!! :(
Many thanks for your help!
Hello Adele, Start by setting up where he should sleep during the day. Confine the area with his carpet or bed that he should sleep on at first using baby gates, an exercise pen, or by closing doors. During the day leave the area open and sprinkle treats in there. Show him the treats at first. After he knows that treats appear there, then randomly reapply more treats after he eats the current ones - so that he goes to the area and finds surprise treats often. After that step, next confine him in the area with a food-stuffed chew toy, like a Kong filled with dog food and a bit of peanut butter or liver paste (make sure the peanut butter does not have Xylitol in it - it is toxic to dogs). Start by confining him for just ten to thirty-minutes. Put the food-stuffed toy in there and sprinkle treats in. Whenever he gets quiet for even a couple of seconds or stays quiet for at least five minutes, then go back, sprinkle more treats in his area, and leave again. Do not let him out until he is quiet for at least a couple of seconds - even if that means leaving him in the area for a lot longer than thirty-minutes at first. You don't want to reward the crying. If you are in a location with close neighbors, like a townhouse, then you can correct his barking also with a Pet Convincer, which is a small canister of pressurized air. You would tell him "Ah Ah" and blow a small puff of air at his side (not face), then reward him whenever he gets or stays quiet also. Practice confining him in there during the day and rewarding his quietness and calmness, and correcting or ignoring his barking and protests. Gradually work up to confining him in there for longer and longer until he can be in there for three-hours and stay relaxed. While doing this (since you cannot transition him away from sleeping up stairs) put him in his confined area at night and ignore his crying (if you cannot ignore it because of neighbors, then you will have to correct at night too). It won't be fun but it's necessary. It will likely help him develop better coping skills in general too, which can be good for anxiety. Practice the training in the confined area during the day and put him in there at night and ignore him. You will likely get up to a week of crying (hopefully less) but if you work on the training during the day and don't give into the crying, he should learn to self-sooth. Be strong because the more you give in, the longer this will take and the harder it will be for him. The sooner he learns how to cope with being alone, the sooner he will relax again and be able to sleep. Being alone is not hurting him. All his necessary needs are being met. Trust that he is able to learn with your guidance. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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