Get thee to thine own bed

OK, so here’s the situation:

Prior to a few months ago, jeevdawg lived in a ground floor apartment with his mother, my bride-elect. At nights, he slept in the living room, and his mother would sleep in the bedroom. After his mother and I started dating, he continued to sleep in the living room while we slept in the bedroom. The door to the bedroom would be open except when we wanted a little bit of alone time. All of these rooms were on the same floor, separated by a relatively short distance.

We are now in a much larger home, with an actual upstairs and downstairs. We have been trying to have the dog sleep in the downstairs. He has his chair, his toys, and a window to look out of. It’s actually where he spends his time when we’re not home.

At some point in the middle of the night, he creeps upstairs and sleeps on the bedroom floor. Neither of us usually hears him come in, but he’s there in the morning when we wake up.

Now, I don’t want to close our bedroom door because a) I want to be sure that he does have access to us for legitimate purposes (i.e. potty), and b) I don’t want him scratching on the door, or deciding that if the humans aren’t around, he’ll chew on the furniture. (Bitter Apple and other aversives don’t work on this dog.)

We also don’t really want to gate him so he can’t come upstairs. We did that once, and found that he had an accident. He has had separation anxiety issues in the past, and still exhibits tendency towards the behavior (example - when we’re awake, he follows us from room to room, unless appropriately distracted by food or something walking by the window). So whether the accident was because of anxiety or because he was downstairs when he woke up in the morning and we couldn’t hear him whining to tell us he needed to go outside, it was still our fault, not really his. (He’s pretty good about not messing in the house otherwise, notwithstanding some earlier episodes).

Crating him is definitely not an option. He was a rescue dog and is quite crate-phobic. I think he only does well when we board him because a) they exhaust him so much that he sleeps through, and b) he knows we’re not there.

I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to induce him to stay downstairs because I never see him come in and therefore can’t correct him.

Any thoughts?

Just gate your bedroom door so he can come up, press his nose against the gates, and stare at you…

p.s. it creeps me out when people talk about their pets as their children, particularly when they say things like “At nights, he slept in the living room, and his mother would sleep in the bedroom. After his mother and I started dating…”

My ex-girlfriend shares your sentiment.

Well, it would help in getting appropriate responses. I was ready to help deal with a sleep issue in a child, but was confused and a little annoyed when I found out this was a dog problem.

Is there a reason why you don’t want him in the bedroom at night? Dogs are social animals, and he probably gets lonely at some point during the night and decides to join his “pack.”

If you are asleep when he arrives and you don’t even hear him come in, I’m not sure what the problem is.

I’d call my girlfriend a big old meanie if she wanted to keep my [hypothetical] dog out of peacefully sleeping on the bedroom floor, especially since he’s so nice about it that you don’t even hear him come in.

It wouldn’t be a problem with me. Can’t help you.

Well, to name a few:

  1. Barking jags - he tends to get on them, and is still learning the art of being quiet when we tell him to. Our bedroom overlooks an alley that has some traffic, and there are some proximate dumpsters from area restaurants.

  2. Jumping on the bed. He’s not a small dog, so things get a little crowded, and I don’t want to keep getting up in the middle of the night to push him off the bed.

  3. Having the dog in the room doesn’t really do wonders for the ol’ sex life. Getting frisky in the morning is less of an option for us since he started coming in early.

  4. Because he has had anxiety issues in the past, we worry that having him upstairs with us will reinforce those issues.

Those are just some. Plus, I’m a little concerned at what seems to be his inability to sleep through the night. Though he does sleep most of the day which should make up for it.

Did you move recently? Maybe he’s just adjusting.

Otherwise, I would suggest chucking him out as soon as you become aware of his presence. He should catch on eventually.

Also, do you let him in the BR the rest of the time? It should be simple enough to teach him to stay OUT (unless expressly invited) - my family dogs growing up were barred from the living room and dining room.

You don’t say how old this dog is. If he is old, he could have a little canine senility, be losing his hearing or have other health problems. Arthritis can make a dog restless too because they have a hard time getting comfortable. That’s something to talk to your vet about.

If he’s not an old dog then most likely he is not getting enough exercise, which is why he doesn’t sleep at night. I’d say at least 50% of behavioral problems with dogs - if not more - could be resolved or reduced by making sure the dog gets enough exercise.

It also sounds like you could both benefit from an obedience course. They can teach you how to train your dog to happily do what you want.

Letting the dog sleep in your bedroom will not reinforce anxiety issues. It is natural for a dog to want to be with his family. Separating him from you for what in his mind is no good reason could actually make the anxiety worse. Isolation is never a good thing for a social creature.

If he were my pup, I’d fix up a nice soft spot for him in a corner of the bedroom and teach him that is his sleeping spot. That will keep him off the bed.

As for the sex thing, do you have a patio or garden he could be let into for the duration? Or could you use a baby-gate to keep him out just during nookie? I know our dogs, when we first got them, were initially pretty interested in figuring out what we were doing so we had to put them elsewhere for a bit, but eventually they just stopped caring and don’t pay us any mind at all.

I’ll second the opinion that isolating the dog will increase any separation anxiety issues, not decrease them. All dogs are pack animals, and generally want to sleep with the pack, and I’d expect this is particulary true with animal that have separation anxiety. I’d work on training out the barking problems and the jumping on the bed problem, and kick the dog out of the bedroom when you want to have some private recreation time if he’s annoying you then. Luckily my dog just goes to his crate or goes to another room.

Do you want the dog on the bed only when you call him up there, or never? If the former, you can train the dog out of the jumping on the bed problem but teaching him that it’s a privilege, not a right. Call him up on the bed with whatever command you want to use, tell him to get off with whatever command you want to use, give him a treat, and repeat - make a game out of it. If he ever gets up on his own, reprimand him and tell him to get down immediately (no treat, obviously). Any time he comes up uninvited, tell him to get off. If you do this consistently, he should learn pretty quickly that the only time he’s allowed up is when you invite him up.

I think setting up a comfy bed for the dog nearby may also discourage him from jumping on the bed. One of the big advantages of crate-training is that the dog always has a spot to go to that’s his, but you said that’s not an option for your guy. If he’s not a chewer, each of you should throw a t-shirt that you’ve worn on the doggie bed so he has something that smells like you with him.

I’m with the other dopers who say that dogs are social creatures. This particular behavior sounds normal to me. I think most dogs follow their owners around if they can. They just like being with their family, even if they don’t necessarily want food/playtime/a walk.