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
0 Votes
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
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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bobbi
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
15 Weeks
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Question
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Bobbi
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
15 Weeks

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Marvin, Pip and Jessie
Mixed
9 Years
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Question
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Marvin, Pip and Jessie
Mixed
9 Years

Hello
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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Remmy
Fox red Labrador retriever
4 Months
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Question
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Remmy
Fox red Labrador retriever
4 Months

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Milo
Jack Russell/collie
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Milo
Jack Russell/collie
3 Years

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

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
112 Dog owners recommended

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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