How to Train Your Dog to Stay Downstairs

Easy
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

You love your dog, but you can’t help but get the feeling he loves you even more. I mean if he follows you around the house everywhere you go, toilet included, then well, he’s a big fan. While you normally don’t mind him being needy, things are getting a little out of hand. For example, you can’t go to sleep without him wanting to be in your bed. If you don’t let him in your bed, he just whines outside the door until you let him in. 

Training him to stay downstairs will afford you some privacy. Also, it will prevent him developing separation anxiety. If he can’t learn to spend any time without you, he will be miserable when you leave him to go to work.

Defining Tasks

Training him to stay downstairs is thankfully pretty straightforward. The first thing to do is take a number of steps to prevent him coming upstairs. Then you can focus on using obedience commands and incentives to keep him downstairs. If you can give him everything he needs downstairs, upstairs will no longer enter his mind. Then once you’ve trained him to stay downstairs, you can remove the deterrence measures.

If he’s a puppy you will see the quickest results. This is because he is still learning what is and isn’t acceptable and should respond well to training. You may need just a week. If he’s older and always had access to upstairs, then you may need up to a month. Get this training right and you won’t have muddy paw prints on your upstairs carpets anymore!

Getting Started

Before you can begin training, you will need a few bits. Some baby gates to put across the stairs to start with will be needed. A deterrence collar and a water spray bottle will be required.

You will also need a decent stockpile of treats. These will be used to motivate your dog during training. Try and find 10 minutes each day to train, at a time where you won’t be distracted by a noisy house.

Once you have all those boxes ticked, just bring patience and optimism, then work can begin!

The Day One Method

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Start as a puppy
The earlier you stop him going upstairs, the easier it will be to keep him downstairs. If you never let him go upstairs, even from the beginning, he won’t even think to do it.
Step
2
Crate
So he isn’t tempted when you leave him alone, place him in a crate. This removes the temptation and reinforces your position as pack leader, dictating where he is and isn’t allowed to go.
Step
3
Bedtime routine
Get in the habit of putting him to sleep each night downstairs. It is important you don’t let him sleep with you. He will then become needy and find it far harder to stay downstairs on his own each night.
Step
4
‘Bed’
Stand close to his bed and hold out a treat. The when he is paying attention, give a ‘bed’ command. Look and point at the bed as you give this instruction. He may look at you strangely for a while, but he will eventually catch on.
Step
5
Reward & practice
Give him a treat as soon as he touches the bed. Then practice each day, moving further and further away from the bed each time you give the command. Practice until he gets the hang of it, then gradually cut out the treats. Now use this command whenever you catch him showing any interest in going upstairs.
Recommend training method?

The Prevention Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Baby gates
The most effective way to keep him downstairs is to put gates across the stairs. They take just a few minutes to install and they will remove the temptation entirely.
Step
2
Always react
If you don’t want to use gates, you will need to be vigilant and react every time you catch him trying to go upstairs. Take him by the collar and lead him firmly back down.
Step
3
Water spray bottle
To further reinforce the point, you can also give him a quick spray of water near the face. If he always associated going upstairs with unpleasant consequences, he will soon want to stay downstairs.
Step
4
Deterrence collar
The other option is a deterrence collar. You simply hit a button when you catch him trying to go upstairs and an unpleasant spray of citronella will be emitted. This will make him think twice next time.
Step
5
Team effort
It is important you sit everyone in the house down and bring them on board with your plan. If one of you lets him up, your dog will get confused and training will be rendered useless. Everyone must react whenever they catch him upstairs.
Recommend training method?

The Motivation Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Move his bed
You need to make downstairs a pleasant place where he has everything he needs and where he is content. If he always wants to sleep upstairs, move his bed to a more enclosed space. You may also want to get him a new bed with some comfy blankets.
Step
2
Toys downstairs
Make sure his toys and food puzzles are all kept downstairs and away from the stairs. If any of his belongings are upstairs, he will think his territory extends to there. So, keep them all close to his bed.
Step
3
Boundaries
Secure him to a leash in the morning and evening and walk him around the downstairs perimeter. This may seem strange, but you are showing him where his territory ends. Do this every day and he will soon stop thinking of upstairs as somewhere he can go.
Step
4
Tether
Until you break the habit, you may want to tether him to a long leash when he is downstairs. Make sure he has enough space to roam around, but not enough that he can get upstairs.
Step
5
Praise & reward
It is important you give him treats and praise whenever you see him come away from the stairs. If he has a motivation to stay away, he will do so, especially if it is food. He will soon start associating downstairs with tasty rewards.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Franklin
Terrier cross
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Franklin
Terrier cross
2 Years

Many challenges but desperately want him to sleep downstairs , as a result of us allowing him to sleep in our room he is not happy if he’s anywhere else but by our side. It’s causing a rift in our relationship because we can’t even cuddle in bed without franklin wanting to lay between us or separate us. If we do lock him downstairs he scratches at stair gate and whines constantly which then wakes baby which means we give in and let him
Back upstairs

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Georgina, 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. Practice confining pup alone where they will be sleeping at night - either in a crate or behind the baby gate or in a room downstairs, while everyone else is upstairs. If pup is destructive when left alone, use the crate especially. Whenever pup stays quiet in the crate/confined area for 5 minutes, return and sprinkle some treats into the crate/area without opening it or 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/leaving him in that area alone 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 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 or scratches at night (in the crate/downstairs behind the gate - 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 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. If you are willing to crate pup, crating might be your easiest option, for pup to settle quickest in the crate, instead of being able to pace and try to get up the gate as much. Don't worry about feeling bad for pup. I know it's hard but your relationship is most important. It won't hurt pup to sleep alone downstairs. Ultimately, every ones relationships being healthy and rested is better for pup too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Franklin's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd