Why Does My Dog Sleep Downstairs? (Trainer Explains)

Why Does My Dog Sleep Downstairs

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It might not be for everyone, but I love it when my dog sleeps with me. My dog is one of my favorite creatures and there is nothing better than snuggling. One of my dogs sleeps in the bed every night and will even sleep under the blankets when it is cold. Studies show that interacting with dogs helps with anxiety and improves moods, both for you and your dog. Maybe this is why some people love it when their dog sleeps in their bed or at least in the same room as them.

However, not every dog likes to sleep with you. Many dogs prefer to sleep in another room or will sleep downstairs. No matter how much you call them or lure them to sleep with you, they will always end up downstairs at night.

So why does your dog prefer to sleep downstairs?

There is a good chance your dog is sleeping downstairs because of their independent nature, they are more comfortable or have watchdog instincts. Other dogs might find climbing stairs uncomfortable due to age or breed, or something might have frightened them and they feel safer downstairs. 

Do not worry, your dog choosing to sleep downstairs rather than with you is probably not a personal attack. In this article, we will explore various reasons why your dog might enjoy sleeping downstairs. While it is usually not a big deal for them to sleep in a different place, we will offer some tips to try to change your dog’s behavior to help both of you get a good night’s sleep.

Why Does My Dog Sleep Downstairs?

There are several reasons your dog might prefer to sleep downstairs than with you in an upstairs bedroom. Ultimately, it comes down to the situation, your house’s set-up, and your dog’s personality.

Let’s explore 7 reasons why your dog might sleep downstairs, and learn when to let sleeping dogs lie, or if there might be a health concern or something else to worry about.

Reason 1: Your Dog Is More Comfortable Downstairs

While your dog might like to try to sleep with you, they could find sleeping downstairs a lot more comfortable than sleeping in bed with you. For example, huskies are known for being extremely social and affectionate with their humans, but sleeping downstairs is going to be more comfortable for them because of their thick coats and how easily overheated they can get sharing a bed.

It might not be about overheating, it could be comfort about where they are sleeping. Perhaps your dog finds the couch or their dog bed downstairs to be a lot more comfortable than the sleeping situation upstairs. Dogs also like sleeping in the dark, so if you use a nightlight it could disturb their sleep.

You might be concerned if your dog is sleeping in unusual places downstairs and refusing to sleep upstairs with you, but some dogs honestly are happier with the comfort of sleeping downstairs. For example, in my house, I have carpet upstairs and hardwood downstairs. One of my dogs prefers sleeping downstairs on the hardwood rather than on her bed. She is happy and healthy so I do not worry about it, I just understand it is her preference.

Reason 2: Your Dog Is Independent

Not every dog likes to sleep in bed with you or are natural snugglers. Here are 8 breeds that would rather not cuddle. A lot of the breeds on this list would prefer to sleep downstairs simply because of their independent nature. For example, livestock guardian dogs were bred to protect their livestock without help from a human handler so they usually choose not to sleep with their owner because of their nature.

The livestock guardian dogs in the video below are very independent and would probably sleep downstairs if they had to be inside at night.

Your dog does not have to be a livestock guardian dog to want to be independent or prefer to sleep downstairs. There are plenty of dog breeds that were bred to work independently, including hounds of any kind, sled dogs, and guard dogs. Despite their breeding, some dogs simply have an independent personality by nature. Because of this independence, they like to sleep downstairs.

Reason 3: Your Dog Likes Being A Watchdog

Instinctively, some dogs are prone to be protective and enjoy being watchdogs. Every dog has their unique personality, but some dog breeds are prone to be more protective and enjoy being vigilant watchdogs. At nighttime, it is a lot easier for them to be alerted to strangers or creatures if they sleep downstairs.

Dogs like the livestock guardian Great Pyrenees, traditional guard mastiff-type dogs, or loyal watchdogs like the Chow Chow are accustomed to sleeping away from their handlers to protect their humans, other animals, and property. This instinct makes them light sleepers, and by sleeping downstairs they can hear strange sounds easier than when sleeping upstairs with you.

Be careful that your dog’s protective instinct does not become aggression or resource-guarding. Resource guarding refers to dogs that feel the need to control high-value resources including food, places, toys, or you. They can become defensive and aggressive. If your dog already has resource guarding issues, they might sleep downstairs as a way to guard the house.

If you are concerned about resource-guarding behaviors in your dog, here is a great video by Zak George about how to manage your dog.

Reason 4: Your Dog Is Too Young To Climb Stairs

New puppies tend to enter their household in a whirlwind of energy, snuggles, and destruction. Raising a puppy can be difficult at times but they also bring a lot of joy into their new home, especially when they cuddle in bed. But does your puppy prefer to sleep downstairs?

Most puppies should wait till they are around 6 months old to climb stairs. This is because puppies’ growth plates are still developing till at least 6 months old (longer for large breed dogs) and they can seriously injure themselves if they overexert on stairs or exercise too much. Many puppies have to be managed and blocked from going up the stairs and carried until they are old enough to go up and down the stairs on their own.

However, some puppies physically struggle to climb stairs. This is why they might choose to sleep downstairs. Toy breeds and long-backed puppies like Dachshunds and Corgis have a harder time using stairs than bigger breed puppies because of their confirmation. Since your young puppy should not be climbing stairs anyway, it is okay to carry them up and down the stairs or let them sleep downstairs until they are old enough to learn how to navigate stairs on their own.

Reason 5: Your Dog Is Aging

As much as it breaks our hearts, as dogs get older they start to be able to do less. They need shorter walks, sleep more, become picky eaters, and have less energy. They also get sore easily and are probably stiff. Being stiff means that going up and down the stairs is harder on their joints, so they might suddenly start sleeping downstairs.

Avoiding stairs, sleeping downstairs, and general stiffness is normal for aging dogs. Arthritis and other joint pain make it difficult to do normal activities for senior dogs. A veterinarian can help you manage their pain with medication, and you also probably want to decrease the level of activity they are used to.

Make sure they have a nice comfortable bed to sleep on if they start sleeping downstairs, and spend lots of time with them on the couch. That way they can sleep on your spot on the couch when they have to sleep downstairs.

Reason 6: Your Dog Is Scared

While some dogs become clingy when they are stressed or scared and lay on you, others might feel safer sleeping downstairs. Dogs are descended from wolves who slept in dens, and sometimes getting lower can help them feel safe. For example, I have a dog that goes downstairs to the basement when she hears fireworks.

Stress or fear can cause your dog to find sanctuary by sleeping downstairs or under furniture. If they do not have access to the downstairs they might choose to sleep under the bed.

Stress or fearfulness can be caused by many different factors and depends on the individual dog. It could be separation anxiety loud noises, a new family member (human or animal), or a new routine that is stressing your dog. leading them to sleep downstairs.

In some cases, it could be the stairs itself that the dog is scared of. Like these rescue greyhounds, many dogs have never been exposed to stairs. Hopefully, the owner gave them lots of treats for trying their best on the stairs!

Reason 7: Temperature Regulation

Since hot air rises, your dog might be more comfortable sleeping downstairs depending on the time of year. Dogs regulate their temperature through a few sweat glands on their paws and through panting. So the next best thing they can do if it is too hot or too cold is to find an area of the house where it is easiest for them the regulate their temperature. Often this means sleeping downstairs.

Dogs that easily get hot might choose to sleep downstairs in the summer months simply because it is cooler and more comfortable. These dogs tend to have thick fur or breathing issues and rather than sleeping somewhere hot it is easier to sleep downstairs.

Meanwhile, dogs that get cold easily might sleep downstairs in the winter months because it stays warmer on the main level of your house. However, if your dogs are anything like mine, they probably prefer sleeping under the blankets oversleeping downstairs.

How Can I Get My Dog To Sleep Upstairs

If your dog likes their privacy or is sleeping downstairs because they have trouble climbing stairs or have watchdog instincts, it might be hard to convince them to sleep upstairs. However, there are a few tricks you can try to help train your dog so they are more willing to sleep upstairs.

Shaping

Shaping is a training tool is a training tool that allows you to slowly teach your dog a new behavior by rewarding each step until they gradually learn the behavior. Essentially you are breaking up a complicated behavior into a chain of smaller behaviors.

In this case, you would reward your dog for approaching the stairs, then reward them for climbing the stairs, getting in the bed, and staying and sleeping in the bed.

Bring their favorite bed upstairs to help make it an easier transition. Kikopup has a great video on how to shape your dog to go straight to their bed.

Block Them Off

If your dog still keeps sleeping downstairs you can close your bedroom door as long as that does not make them anxious. Another option would be installing a baby gate to block them from sleeping downstairs.

Crate Train

Another idea is bringing the crate into the bedroom to help condition them to become accustomed to sleeping upstairs. A vigilant or stressed dog might sleep better in a crate at night anyway because it gives them a safe space.

Carry Them

For dogs and puppies that have physical limitations with stairs, it is okay to carry them up the stairs. However, if they do not like to be carried, it might be easier to allow them to sleep downstairs if they are comfortable and happy down there.

Hopefully, if you decide to carry your dog they are not this big!

White Noise

Finally for hot dogs or dogs who react to noises (whether they are being watchful or it is causing them stress) a cheap fan might be a great solution. The fan will cool off overheated dogs and create white noise which can help relax dogs that are easily triggered by noises. 

Should I Worry?

Usually, there is nothing to worry about if your dog prefers sleeping downstairs. They might find it more comfortable, like the temperature, or are independent by nature.

However, a dog who has changed their behavior and is suddenly sleeping downstairs might be a different story. An injured or sick dog might not feel well enough to climb up the stairs. Certain breeds that have trouble with stairs and senior dogs suffering from arthritis are normal, but your veterinarian can still prescribe them pain medication and an exercise routine that will help them feel more comfortable.

Yet if your dog is also bloated, lethargic, not eating, has diarrhea, or is vomiting the problem could be more serious and you need to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Destructive dogs and puppies should not be allowed to be unsupervised at night while sleeping downstairs. They are more likely to get into something and can cost you a lot of money either with destroyed furniture or eating something that leads to an emergency veterinarian visit.

Final Thoughts

Many people get a dog with the intention of being snuggled together upstairs all night. So it can be frustrating when your best friend chooses to ignore you and instead sleeps downstairs.

Perhaps your dog has an independent nature, is more comfortable downstairs, wants to keep a vigilant eye on the front door, or has a hard time climbing the stairs. Some puppies and aging dogs naturally will have a harder time with stairs, but be mindful if you think it is caused by anxiety or is a sudden behavior, and talk to your veterinarian when you suspect they are injured or sick.

Nonetheless, it is usually okay for them to sleep downstairs, unless they are destructive or insist on barking all night.

If you spend a lot of time with your dog adventuring and cuddling during the day, it is okay for you two to have some time apart and for them to sleep downstairs! And who knows, maybe they are coming upstairs and checking in on you at night to make sure you are safe.

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