Basements can be a great, safe place to keep a dog when you’re out of the home – or a fantastic place for a “den” even when you’re available. But if your pup hates the basement, you might need to get a little creative. It isn’t unusual for a dog to hate a basement at first and the first step to resolving the problem is to understand why.
Why does my dog hate the basement?
There could be a few reasons why your dog might hate the basement. It’s important to explore them all if you’re hoping to make it a safe, comfortable place for it.
First, they may hate the basement because you aren’t there. Dogs are family members. They want to be around people. If you’re doing things upstairs, they want to be up there with you. It can be cruel to separate them when you’re at home. Generally, dogs should only be put away when you aren’t at home, to protect them.
Second, they may dislike the basement because they may perceive it as a punishment. If you only ever put the dog in the basement to “get it away,” such as when you’re cooking, it will feel as though it’s being punished. If you put your pup in the basement when they are misbehaving, doubly so. Don’t force your dog into the basement; it will hate it.
Third, it may just hate stairs. Many dogs feel very vulnerable going downstairs. Imagine having to crawl on all four down the stairs and you’ll understand why. They have to go head first. This isn’t natural for a dog. Usually, they are going to be going sideways down inclines. So, it may just be uncomfortable for it.
Fourth, it may hate feeling trapped. Some dogs hate it when they can’t see an exit or get through an exit; they may also paw at doors if they’re locked into a bedroom. They may be worried that they can’t get out if they need to use the bathroom, or they may just feel as though they could be trapped without food or water.
Finally, it could be uncomfortable in general. If the basement is unfurnished, it may be cold, wet, and hard. It may prefer to be in warm, well-lit spaces.
So, there are a lot of reasons a dog could hate a basement. But the good thing is that there are things you can do about all of these issues.
What to do about my dog hating the basement?
What you can do about your dog hating the basement will depend on why it hates the basement. There are a lot of things you can do simultaneously to make it more comfortable.
Feed and give your dog water in the basement
Start feeding and giving water to your dog in the basement. If your dog associates the basement with food, water, and treats, your dog will be far more likely to enjoy it down there. By associating the basement with pleasant things, you’ll actually make your dog eager to go down there. Eventually, your dog may start to treat the basement like its own space.
Make it easy for your dog to go into the basement
Make sure the stairs are carpeted or have friction mats installed. The easier it is for your dog to get down there, the more likely they are to explore on their own. If your dog is elderly, you may be out of luck; it’s very hard for elderly dogs to go up and down stairs. Unless you can place a ramp somewhere (such as the side of the stairs), it may always be difficult to keep them down there (unless you carry them).
Spend time with your dog in the basement
Spend time with your dog in the basement. Otherwise, if you always avoid your basement, your dog will also fear that you are afraid of it, too. In general, put your dog in the basement when you aren’t at home. Being able to hear other people in the home while they are locked in the basement is very likely to distress them because they will feel like they are separated from their pack. This is important. Dogs have an instinct to always be with their pack because it’s dangerous if they get left behind. It’s very hard to train this instinct out.
Limit how often your dog is in the basement
Make sure your dog isn’t in the basement too often. If your dog feels like they are going to get locked in there for hours on end, they aren’t going to want to go in. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to go into a room knowing that you weren’t going to be able to come out for hours upon hours. It has to be a pleasant experience for them to want it; they aren’t dumb.
Don’t use the basement as a punishment
Never throw your dog in the basement because you’re angry. They will pick up on the punishment aspect of this and start to think they are bad dogs whenever they go into the basement. You don’t want them to associate the basement with any form of negativity; you want them to always want to go in there. This is the same as with crate training, because improperly crate training can cause a lifelong fear.
Make it more pleasant for your dog to be in the basement
Put on ambient noise in the basement. A television that has soothing, comforting sounds, or even just a Spotify playlist can help. Many people are able to alleviate some anxieties in their dogs by putting on sounds, so they don’t feel as alone, and so it can drown out weirder sounds such as water traveling through the pipes.
Fill the basement with toys and soft things. The more comfortable the basement is, the more the dog will start to treat it like a “den.” If you fill the basement with toys that they already love, they will also start to associate it more with themselves. Most dogs do want a “den,” or a place that they can feel safe and feel as though it’s theirs.
Put down some pee pads
Put some pee pads down. If your dog is trained to use pee pads, having them down may alleviate some of their anxiety of having to go while they’re down there. But you should always make sure you’re still walking them frequently enough as otherwise they could develop serious health issues.
Control the temperature
Make sure it’s temperature controlled. You might be surprised to discover just how cold a basement can get occasionally. You can temperature control a basement quite easily with something like a portable heater (pet-safe) rather than having to heat or cool your whole home. This is one reason it can be advantageous to keep your pet in the basement when you’re out. Dogs can’t regulate their temperatures as readily as people can, so if you feel hot or cold, they’re feeling it far more significantly.
In short, if you don’t like it in the basement, they probably won’t either. Dogs are sensitive creatures and will pick up on any negativity they feel from you. Hang out in the basement and see whether it’s comfortable.
Can you keep a dog in the basement?
There are a few challenges to keeping a dog in a basement.
First, you need to make sure it’s ethical and humane. A dog shouldn’t be kept in a basement as a punishment or to “keep it away” from the family. Rather, a basement is a great place to put a dog when you’re out of the house so that they don’t get into things that could be potentially harmful, such as the trash.
But, if you’re going to do this, you need to obey crate rules. It has to be safe and your dog should never be kept in the basement for longer than four or five hours at a time and no longer than eight or ten hours a day. That is because they will not be properly socialized otherwise and because it isn’t healthy for them to “hold it” any longer.
Alternatively, you can always make a basement a cozy space that your dog can willingly go, by creating a doggy door and making sure the basement is comfortable and temperature-controlled. But before you choose to keep your dog in the basement, you should think thoroughly about why you are keeping the dog in the basement and whether it will truly be comfortable there. If it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” proposition, it may need to be rehomed.
Many people create some fantastic dog dens for their dogs that are temperature-controlled and comfortable. If you can do it, a basement is the perfect place to keep a dog as an alternative to a crate; they are able to roam around, relax, and feel comfortable, while also being restricted from other areas of the home.
Furthermore, dogs can be much safer if they’re kept in a basement when you’re out of the house. There can be all sorts of things around your house that could be dangerous for them. A great usage of basement space is for a pregnant mother and her pups. This keeps the puppies from getting out and chewing on things like cords, while still making sure they have enough room to explore and grow.
Why is my dog scared of the basement?
Dogs are simple creatures. They are usually only scared of things that are unpleasant to them.
Frequently, dogs are scared of the basement because they don’t like being there. It can be that it’s boring, cold, or otherwise uncomfortable. So, they aren’t going to want to go there, and will need to be forced. The more the dog is forced into the basement, the more they will hate it. It will become a punishment and something to avoid.
On the other hand, dogs can be scared for reasons that you can’t perceive, as well. It may be that there’s a certain tone (such as an electrical tone) that your dog hates, or your dog may even be able to perceive things like mold and mildew before you can.
But the simplest answer is usually best: Most dogs are going to be scared of the basement because you aren’t there. Because dogs are social animals, they need to see that you are enjoying something to enjoy it too. So the best bet for you to get your dog to enjoy the basement is for you to start spending time in it as well.
There is one exception–a dog can be afraid of a basement because they were kept in one before. This is common with shelter dogs. If you notice that your dog is strangely and excessively afraid of the basement, this is likely to be the problem. If this is the situation, it’s going to take longer to condition your dog to accept the basement. If they were kept in a basement for a long time before, they may hate it regardless.
A basement is a great place to keep a dog when you want to make sure they’re safe and not damaging your home. But it has to be handled properly or you could just cause further behavioral issues. Think about what you would want in a basement and work from there; while a dog isn’t a person, many of the things that could distress them or frustrate them are similar to what would distress or frustrate a human.