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

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
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 Pack Leader Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
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?

The Environment Method

ribbon-method-2
Least Recommended
1 Vote
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Blisco
terrier
14 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Blisco
terrier
14 Months

He always slept on the sofa downstairs but over the holidays when we were away he had to sleep in our room with us on our bed. We now can't leave him downstairs, he cries and waked my autistic son up who then won't settle so the dog won't settle it's a never ending cycle and I was up until 1:30am most nights. In the end I let him sleep in our bed, it's been about a week now but I want to get him back downstairs, how do I do it?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello, 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, set up an area pup has to stay in - either gate off the den or bottom of stairs so he can't come up stairs if you prefer that, or crate pup. During the day practice the Surprise method from the article linked below. Have everyone leave the area where pup will be sleeping alone, leaving just pup down there. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate/confined area for 5 minutes, return briefly and sprinkle some treats into the crate/onto pup's dog bed area without letting pup out, 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. 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 (in the crate/downstairs - where he needs to be sleeping for now) 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. Correct each time pup cries until pup settles to go to sleep. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Dilly
Australian Cattle Dog
6 Years
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Question
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Dilly
Australian Cattle Dog
6 Years

Hi 😊
I have 2 dogs, Dilly is nearly 7 (lab x Australian cattle) and Daphne was 2 in March (lab x German shepherd)
Dilly has slept on our bed since we got her at 5 months & daphne has slept in our room on the floor in her bed since puppy trained.
I no longer want them to have upstairs access as the dog hair, the room on the bed, the snoring etc is ridiculous! I just want a nice dog hair free bedroom and bed! I love them dearly but want to keep to this.
3 nights ago a stair gate was put on the bottom of the stairs, daphne has her bed in the hallway, there is also a chaise sofa under the stairs which they share. They have access to the kitchen & hallway. Night 1 - daphne whined, dilly did 2 singular barks, I woke up to liquid poo from dilly in the kitchen and what looked like foamy sick possibly from daphne.
Night 2 - no barks from dilly, daphne whined some, woke up to liquid poo from dilly. Night 3 - no barks from dilly, daphne whined for a few minutes then nothing till morning, woke up to liquid poo from dilly.
Is this anxiety? Dilly hasn’t messed in the house since she was a pup! I was expecting barking and whining but not the diarrhoea!
She doesn’t seem poorly in any way, any advice and ideas would be gratefully received!
Many thanks 😊

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sandie, I would go with them when they go to the bathroom outside during the day. An accident in the home can be normal with anxiety but for it to look like diarrhea and for there to be vomit too suggests something medical that happened to coincide with the change. If is it medical poops during the day will likely be watery or more frequent too. If they are, I would speak with your vet because that likely needs to be addressed medically. I am not a vet. If things are completely normal during the day, it could be possible that it's stress although unusual. In that case I would work on getting the dogs used to being in those areas alone without you during the day, when you can help train and not be too tired, to ease their transition. Check out the Surprise method from the article I have linked below. With the gate up, you and all other family members upstairs or not at home with you, I would leave the dogs downstairs alone. Turn off lights where the dogs are even if needed to mimic the setup at night. With pup's alone, I would periodically reward periods of quietness and calmness by briefly returning and placing a couple of treats on the locations where you want them to sleep. Since stomach's are upset, I would only use things that are easy on tummies, like plain pumpkin licked off a spoon, freeze dried liver, pup's normal kibble, or small plain or low sodium chicken broth flavored little rice balls you make. Check with your vet about anything you are giving them if tummies are upset though. Again, I am not a vet. There is also an ask a vet section under many of the wagwalking medical articles. They may also be able to advise you on this. Surprise method for desensitizing to being alone downstairs. https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate For the surprise method, instead of crating if you don't feel they need crating, you can follow the protocol generally, by sprinkling or giving a treat on the beds, then leaving again. That method will outline how to progress through the length of times to leave them and what to do when they cry though, to transition to longer periods being left alone as they progress. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Leo
cockapoo
14 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Leo
cockapoo
14 Weeks

So my cockapoo goes to sleep at night if my husband puts him to bed but not if I do,
Then he wakes up around 4 not for a toilet break just for one off us to go down if we sit down there for a minute he starts to go back to sleep as soon as we leave he is barking and howling.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Nikki, Pup may expect you to stay or let him out if he cries, but expects not to be let out despite crying with your husband, so pup is more persistent with you. I recommend practicing the Surprise method during the day, from the article I have linked below. Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate I would also do the following at night. 1. When pup cries but doesn't have to go potty (like after you return them to the crate when they just went potty outside) be consistent about ignoring the crying until they go back to sleep. If pup sleeps in another room, leave the room to help pup get used to settling without you there. Use an audio baby monitor to listen out for when pup needs to go potty during the night if you can't hear them from your bedroom. The more consistent you are the quicker the overall process tends to take even if it's hard to do for the first couple weeks. 2. When pup does truly need to go potty (when it's been at least 2 hours since pup last peed), take pup to go potty outside on a leash to keep pup focused and things calmer. Don't give treats, food, play, or much attention during these trips at night and early morning - boring and sleepy is the goal, then right back to bed after. This helps pup learn to only wake when they truly need to go potty and be able to put themselves back to sleep - helping them start sleeping longer stretches sooner and not ask to go out unless they actually need to potty. Pup will generally need 1-2 potty trips at night even after trained for a couple months though due to a small bladder. 3. Wait until pup asks to go potty by crying in the crate at night before you take them - opposed to setting an alarm clock, unless pup is having accidents in the crate and not asking to go out. This gives pup the chance to learn to start falling back to sleep when they wake in light sleep if they don't really need to go potty, instead of being woken up all the way when they could have held it a bit longer. 4. Practice the Surprise method from the article I have linked above to help pup get used to crate time during the day too - so that there is less crying at night due to pup adjusting to being alone. Only give treats during daytime practice, not at night though: Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Milko
Miniature Goldendoodle
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Milko
Miniature Goldendoodle
1 Year

Last year I got a pandemic puppy who I’m very attached with. We usually sleep every night together however there have been many nights where I am traveling and he sleeps with my parents (with no issue) and is happy to nap in a room by himself.

Unfortunately, in a few weeks my parents and I will be gone for 24 hours for an (unavoidable) overnight, out of town event. I’m thinking of boarding him in the location where he goes for daycare/ grooming/ vet visits regularly so we’re both used to the location. However, I’m worried he will be scared for that one night as he will be sleeping alone. Although the boarding is safe/ trustworthy, should I be worried about his mental health for that one night? Is it cruel to leave him without training him to sleep by himself?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shivani, If pup regularly is kenneled at the daycare, pup will probably adjust just fine. If pup only goes a couple times a year, then pup will probably bark a lot the night you board them, but if pup is safe and the place takes good care of them, I doubt it will be traumatizing for pup even in that case. If you have a home where you feel comfortable having a house sitter, and pup isn't going to the daycare often enough to be pretty comfortable there, I personally use in home dog sitters for my dogs since it tends to be a more familiar environment for them to stay in their own home and have someone come here. Wag for example, offers overnight sitters, or you could have a friend, local dog sitting agency or another similar company come, who has been recommended to you by those you know or has great reviews online. If you don't know the person personally, I would choose a company with sitters they have vetted, who are bonded and insured. If someone can't come to your home, there are also dog sitters who will watch pup in their own home, so the environment is still a calmer one with pup having a lot of direct human interaction, and someone who may even be okay with pup sleeping in the room with them. If pup regularly goes to the kennel and is used to being in the kennel area all day for things like doggie daycare, pup probably won't view an overnight very differently than a day in daycare. If pup only visits that locations twice a year for vetting, an in home sitter could be a good option if you feel nervous about leaving pup. Either way I have had to leave my dogs in similar situations when they were young before training for more independence was in place. They may have had a rough night if it was an abrupt change but they were also alright afterwards since the location was trustworthy. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Molly
Rottweiler cross German Shepard
6 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Molly
Rottweiler cross German Shepard
6 Years

How do I get he to sleep downstairs in her own bed, she’s got really bad separation anxiety

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
946 Dog owners recommended

Hello Leah, 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 (in the crate - where he needs to be sleeping for now) 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! But the overall process will go faster if you can stay strong. If you practice the daytime routine first while your husband sleeps on the couch for a few more days, then start the nighttime routine once pup understands the new rules, 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. Once pup is doing well at night for at least six months in the confined area, and has developed a habit of sleeping alone downstairs, you can test out whether they are ready for more freedom by leaving the crate door open and gating off a room like the den or kitchen, or placing a baby gate at the bottom of stairs - whatever your home layout is to keep pup from coming to your bedroom door at first. If pup starts destroying things, scratching at the door, or barking, then go back to crating for longer before trying again. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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