A few months ago, I moved to a new house with my fiancé and the 2-year-old mini-Pinscher Papillon mix that has snuggled her way into the center of our lives. At our previous house, our dog slept in her crate with the door open in our bedroom, because we shared our house with roommates. However, now that we have a house of our own, we moved her crate to the other room, but our dog doesn't want to sleep there. She constantly tries to sleep in our bed with us, but we want her to learn enough independence to sleep in another room.
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Studies don't show any real harm to sleeping with your dog. In fact, sleeping in close proximity can ease anxiety on both sides and increase the bond owner and pet. However, for a lot of us, we prefer a little separation from our furry friends while we get our beauty sleep. If you're like me and you find that your dog has established a habit that you don't like, there are some simple steps you can take to teach your dog to sleep in a different room.
First, create an appealing new sleeping space.
When you're trying to change your dog's habits, you need to make the new behavior as enticing as possible. Dogs prefer to sleep in a space that feels safe and secure, because they don't want anything sneaking up on them in the middle of the night. Try to find a cozy corner in your dog's new space that will make them feel as safe as possible. You can also add some other appealing things to the new bed, like a favorite toy. Or, if you can spare it, using the blanket or pillow from your dog's current sleeping area may help smooth the transition.
Make sure your dog gets nice and tired, to discourage them from acting out.
One of the worst things you can do when trying to change your dog's sleeping habits is to put a dog to bed that isn't tired enough to go to sleep. You probably understand the feeling – get yourself tired enough and even the most uncomfortable hotel bed will feel like a dream. Take your dog on an extra long walk a few hours before bedtime. If your dog likes mental stimulation, you can also do some training or give them a treat puzzle. Whatever you can do to tucker your pup out, try it in the early days of changing your dog's bed location.
Lead your dog to their new bed, don't put them there.
Nobody likes to do something that they were forced to do, and our pups are no different. Whether your dog is big or small, they don't really like when you pick them up and put them somewhere. You want your dog to feel like their bed is a safe space that they can choose, so you want to entice your pup to go there. Lead your dog to their new bed space with its favorite treat or reward. Keep going there and back a few times, and your dog will begin to develop positive associations with going to their bed.
Make your dog's new bed a positive place.
Continue the positive reinforcement by making your dog's bed a positive place. After you lead your dog to their bed, reward them with treats and/or praise. Practice a command like "stay" or "go to bed" by saying it to your dog and then walking away. Most likely, your dog will not stay in the bed, so lead them back, reward them, and then try again. Repeat these steps several times every day, until eventually your dog stays in bed. You can even use the bed space to practice other training moves like "sit" or "lie down" to help create more positive associations with the bed space.
Praise your dog in their new bed, and ignore them in their old one.
You need to teach your dog that their new bed is amazing and their old bed is old news. Though your dog may try to sleep in their old spot, try not to reinforce that decision by giving them your attention. Instead, lead your dog back to their new bed, where they can all the petting and attention they want. Eventually, your dog will hopefully learn that the new bed is way better than the old one, creating a habit that makes sleeping more peaceful for everyone.
As with any kind of training with your furry friend, changes take time. You may have to endure some difficult nights and a pup that doesn't quite know what to do with bedtime for a while. Stick to your plan, because consistency will eventually work in your favor.
With the a little persistence, some treats, and a lot of encouragement, your pup will soon learn to love sleeping just where you want them to.