You want your dog to sleep peacefully through the night, but your dog has other ambitions. Most dogs are going to try their best to weasel their way into your bed. But for a variety of reasons, that’s not always feasible — or desirable. What can you do to make sure your dog can comfortably sleep downstairs?

Why won’t my dog sleep downstairs?

A dog will usually want to sleep where you are. You may have seen “puppy piles” in the past; that’s the natural state of a dog. They are pack animals and become uncomfortable when they can’t see their family. It’s understandable; they were bred for thousands of years to be guard dogs, and they can’t guard what they can’t see.

So, many dogs aren’t going to want to sleep downstairs because they want to sleep wherever you happen to be — generally your bedroom. But, for a variety of reasons, that’s not always a good idea. It could be that you’re mildly allergic to dogs, you don’t want fur in your bedroom, or you just sleep better without pets around. 

Some dogs are naturally independent. During nighttime, they will huff and go to their own little space. Other dogs are going to want to be around you to excess — they will claw, whine, and scratch at the door if they aren’t allowed in. It’s just a matter of training. A dog can be perfectly happy sleeping downstairs, but they need to be encouraged to do so.

Naturally, not all dogs actually do want to sleep with their owners, and they may be hesitant to sleep downstairs for other reasons altogether. The downstairs area may be a temperature that they don’t like, it may have sounds they don’t like, or it may just not have a comfortable area in which to sleep. In fact, dogs may just object that the living room is too large; if the area is too open and spacious, they may not feel that it is safe. In the wild, dogs often dig dens in order to protect themselves, and will have many other wild dogs watching out for them. 

How to get my dog to sleep downstairs?

So, your dog isn’t going to be comfortable sleeping downstairs largely because it doesn’t feel like it should. It wants to guard you and it wants to make sure it doesn’t lose its pack. There are a variety of tactics you can use to get your dog to sleep downstairs.

Create a Dog Den Downstairs

Dogs like enclosed spaces. It’s possible that your downstairs area is just too wide open. Your dog may feel vulnerable there, especially without the rest of its pack. You may want to get a crate to make a dog den, with a mattress and blankets inside of it. You don’t need to actually lock your dog in the crate. Instead, place a blanket over the dog den and leave the door open. Your dog will very likely adopt the new home themselves.

Many dogs want to have a den. They want to have a place to call their own, much like a personal bedroom. By giving your dog a place that’s theirs and theirs alone, you give them a place to retreat to when they’re stressed. And that can help on many levels, not just getting your dog to sleep downstairs.

Praise Your Dog for Staying Downstairs

Praise is the best way to get a dog to do anything. Positive reinforcement is what matters to dogs; otherwise, they may know something is wrong but struggle to understand it.

Use training treats to encourage your dog to stay downstairs. Make sure your dog is fed and watered downstairs so it has more of a reason to stay there. Spend time with your dog and encourage them the longer they stay down there. If your dog seems nervous or anxious, don’t go overboard trying to reassure them; act as though everything is fine and they will pick up on your mood.

Install Puppy Gates Around Your Downstairs

If you’re really having a hard time getting your dog to sleep downstairs, consider installing dog gates. Dog gates can be installed at the base of stairs to allow people to step through but not pups. This is a great solution if, for instance, you’re trying to keep your dog away from a baby on the other floor. A caveat; if you don’t train your dog, you may just be listening to them scratch at the gate the entire time.

When training your dog not to scratch, it’s important to remain positive and use positive reinforcement. Encourage your dog to enjoy it downstairs rather than yelling at them or scolding them when they touch the gate. If you scold them, then it’s more likely they are going to associate the entire experience with something negative, get stressed, and seek comfort even more.

Depending on your dog, you may find that any of these tactics work or none of them do. Some dogs are particularly obstinate while others are willing to please. If you can’t get your dog to sleep separate from you, it could be time to see a behaviorist. It’s possible that your dog has separation anxiety or some other issue that’s preventing it from sleeping in a healthy way, 

Is it ok to make a dog sleep downstairs?

There’s thing particularly harmful about making a dog sleep downstairs. The major issue is that they may whine or claw at things or get into things out of frustration. And, of course, you don’t want to frustrate or stress your dog unnecessarily. 

There are only a few times when it’s not okay to make a dog sleep downstairs. If your dog is ill, you should stay with it to make sure that it doesn’t take a sudden turn for the worse. If your downstairs area is uncomfortable, cold, or otherwise uninhabitable, then it’s a bad idea to make your dog sleep down there — as a general rule, if you wouldn’t stay in the room, they shouldn’t either.

And you shouldn’t keep your dog in a downstairs area like a basement enclosed for longer than a few hours at a time; dogs need to be able to “go out” regularly or they could suffer serious health issues. If you’re keeping your dog downstairs for long periods of time or ignoring your dog for long periods of time, it’s more likely to that re-homing might be a better solution. Dogs are intensely social animals and need interaction to remain happy. 

With that in mind, the more pleasant you make it for your dog to sleep downstairs, the less likely they are to be resistant to it. In fact, if you make it comfortable enough for them to stay downstairs, they’re very likely to go there themselves. They may even start to resist being called to bed.

Is it bad to make your dog sleep in another room?

Sometimes you just want to keep your dog in another room. While many people have their dogs sleeping in the same bed as them, that’s just not for everyone. Dogs sleeping in your room could lead to allergies, increase the heat and discomfort of the room, or just generally make a mess.

It isn’t bad to make your dog sleep in another room. The challenge is that instinctively most dogs aren’t going to want to. You’re going to find yourself fighting an uphill battle for this reason. It’s likely that your dog is going to resist, scratch at doors, and cry, especially if they haven’t been forced to sleep in another room before.

Indeed, the best way to make sure that your dogs are going to sleep comfortably in another room is to make sure to train them when they are puppies. The younger they are when you start to train them, the more likely they are to be able to adjust with ease. 

Of course, there are some situations in which sleeping in another room could actually be bad. Mostly, this is if the room just isn’t inhabitable. If you have your dog in a room that isn’t temperature-controlled, it’s bad; dogs can’t manage their own heat the way that humans can. And if you’re leaving your dog downstairs for long periods of time without food, water, or a way to relieve itself, it’s a terrible idea.

And keeping a dog sleeping in another room can be dangerous if your dog has some type of injury or illness. You will always want to be alerted swiftly to any major issues. 

Can you leave a dog alone overnight?

Whether you can leave a dog alone overnight depends on a few things.

First, how long is it? A dog can be left alone for eight hours or so overnight without having to be let out. But they can’t be left alone for longer than that because they might need to relieve themselves. Dogs that aren’t able to relieve themselves may either soil the floors or may cause damage to themselves by holding it. But if the dog has access to a yard or another area where they can use the bathroom, it may not be so bad.

Second, the area your dog is in will need to be puppy-proofed. If there’s stuff your dog can and will get into, such as trash, they could injure themselves and you may not be aware of it until much later. If your dog isn’t used to being alone for long periods of time, it may become stressed and eat or destroy things that it shouldn’t. 

Which brings us to the third element. Your dog should be used to being alone for at least a few hours at a time before you try to leave your dog overnight. Most dogs don’t have much of a sense of time (they react just the same to you stepping out for a few minutes as for hours). But if your dog isn’t used to being left for a significant time at all, it will likely become stressed and uncomfortable.

Before you leave a dog alone overnight, you should make sure that it can’t get into anything around your home, and that it feels comfortable (and doesn’t have any separation anxiety). You will want to make sure your dog is fed before you leave, that your dog has plentiful water, and there’s nothing that your dog could chew or choke on. 

If you’re worried about leaving your dog alone overnight, consider installing a camera in your house. You can check in on your phone periodically to make sure that your pup is still okay.

Sleeping downstairs can be in the cards for any pet, whether dog or cat — but you need to put in the time for training. For dogs, it’s natural to want to sleep with their people. Some dogs might even visit multiple people in the family throughout the night to make sure they’re all safe. Convincing your dog to sleep downstairs involves countering these instincts.

But with a little work, you can make your downstairs area even more comfortable to your dogs, and ensure that they — and you — are able to rest well.

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.