How to Train a Puppy to Stay Downstairs

Easy
1-3 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You’ve got a new pup and everything is great. He is very cute, he is playful and he loves you as much as you love him. But while it is great to have him snuggling up in bed with you now, when he’s fully grown and wants to sit on your head all night long when you’ve got a 9am meeting at work, you’ll be wishing he wasn’t always in your personal space.

You’re going to need to set some boundaries for him. As much as you love him, you don’t want him upstairs whenever he pleases. That’s your personal space. And it’s even more important if you’re planning to have guests to stay who will also want a good night’s sleep. So, get ready to teach your puppy how to stay downstairs. It may take a little time and effort, but it will be worth it when you’re both sleeping soundly in your own beds.

Defining Tasks

Training your puppy to stay downstairs is pretty simple to do. It is less about getting them to follow commands and more about encouraging good behaviors and discouraging bad behaviors. For this reason, it will take a bit more perseverance than teaching them to sit might. It requires regular and maintained practice of the methods on your behalf in order to make it an ingrained way of life.

Most of these methods are important to start while your dog is young. Once they are older, behaviors like this are harder to change. If you can get them used to the idea that upstairs is out of bounds from the beginning, you’ll be able to maintain it throughout their lifetime with minimal effort involved.

Setting your own territories is important for establishing the relationship between you and your dog. While you love him like a child, you need to set the expectation that they will listen to your commands. If you have your own space, and they have theirs, it creates the idea that they are different from you and must listen. 

Getting Started

There are a few things that you might want to purchase before you get started. Crate training is a great way to teach puppies behaviors from an early age. Buy the correct size crate for your pup and choose an area of the household that will be their territory. It’s important not to move the crate mid-training, or even years afterward if you feel like redecorating. This will be their personal space and you must respect that. You may also want to purchase other equipment such as a child gate, although this isn’t always necessary.

But the most important thing to bring is perseverance. Changes do not happen overnight.

The Night Time Method

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Step
1
Position your crate
Choose a space that will be your pup’s territory, even after the crate is removed and replaced with a bed. It’s important that this space is not likely to be moved if you fancy a change of feng shui; you wouldn’t like it if you were made to sleep in different place every night, and neither will your dog.
Step
2
Bed time
At night time, put him in the crate and lock the door before you go to bed. There may be some whimpering, but this is to be expected, and must be endured. You can always get up in the night to let them go to the toilet, but otherwise, they should stay in their crate until you get up in the morning.
Step
3
'In your bed'
Start a positive connection between the bed and nighttime. When it’s time for bed, hold up a treat and say the command ‘in your bed’. Point to the bed and wait to see what happens. If they catch on and go to the bed, you can instantly reward them. If they need a little more encouragement, walk over to the bed and say the command again. Eventually they should catch on.
Step
4
Praise
In the morning, give the pup lots of praise and love for spending the night downstairs alone successfully. Positive reinforcement is always more effective than punishment, so make sure the process is a happy as it can be.
Step
5
Routine
It’s incredibly important that this becomes a routine. There should be no ‘treat’ nights where they can come upstairs, and all members of the family must be on board with the plan. Without the routine, training can become muddled and confused. This will slow down any progress and make life more difficult for both of you!
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The Discouragement Method

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Step
1
Begin straight away
This method works best if you begin the training from the minute your pup comes home. It requires no set routine, just continual discouragement from the behavior and a physical barrier.
Step
2
Say 'AH'
When they are a puppy and investigating their surroundings, if they begin to use the stairs sharply say ‘AH’ and move them off the stairs. Eventually they will realize if they begin to go upstairs, they won’t make it, and will stop trying.
Step
3
Child gate
Combine this discouragement with a physical barrier such as a child gate. This requires you to be a little less eagle eyed, as even when you’re looking away they won’t be able to get upstairs. Make sure you also discourage them jumping up at the gate at all times by using ‘AH’ to signal a bad behavior.
Step
4
Other physical barriers
Most dogs do not like the loud crunchy sound of tin foil, and they don’t like the feeling of sharp points on their pads. You can place tin foil or carpet runners on the first couple of stairs to make it unpleasant for them if they try to go upstairs.
Step
5
Use all three
Combine these three physical deterrents for the most effective solution. Your pup will soon realize nothing good comes from going near the stairs and will stop trying.
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The Motivation Method

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Step
1
Create a cozy bed
Make sure their crate or bed is comfy and cozy. An ideal space for a bed is in a corner or somewhere there is a wall on two sides, such as behind a sofa next to the wall. This creates a space that only they can access. It’s important that dogs have their own territory to prevent them becoming aggressive and anxious.
Step
2
Make it fun
Keep all their toys in their bed at night. This will make it as appealing as possible for them. Don’t bring toys upstairs at night with you, it gives them a reason to break the rules and come to visit you!
Step
3
Set boundaries
In the morning when they come out of their crate, put them straight on a leash and walk them around the downstairs. This shows them the limit of their territory.
Step
4
Praise
Give them constant praise for good behavior and make it clear when there is bad behavior. This includes changing the tone in your voice. The ‘AH’ sound should be firm and sharp. If you say its lovingly, or say ‘no’ softly, they won’t be able to tell the difference between a discouraging command and an encouraging command.
Step
5
Repeat
Make sure you stick to your routine perfectly. Do not let the dog go upstairs as a treat, and don’t give them praise after they have just disobeyed you. This will undo all your hard work and just set you back.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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