Whether it’s because it’s bedtime or just because you have company coming over, learning how to teach your dog to go to bed is an important area of dog training that every pup parent should know.
Get a proper handle on this, and you’ll be able to work around the house in peace while your pup is treated to a nice slumber. Some dogs will take longer than others, but with time and the methods below your dog should be going to bed on command before you know it!
1. Give the command.
First chose a command such as “go to your bed” or “go to bed.” For best results you’ll want to stick with the same command from here on out so choose one that’s simple, natural to say and easy to remember.
Most likely, you’ll need to start by guiding your dog to his/her bed several times as you use the command so that they associate the command with the action, because this will all be new to them.
2. Have a reward ready.
Having treats ready — especially during the learning process — is very important. Ask your dog to go to their bed and make sure to give them treats and praise when they do as they are told.
Once there, place your dog in a down position and give them another treat and praise. Repeat that several times, making sure that you don’t work on this command too long as your dog will eventually tire of it.
At this point, the dog doesn’t stay on the bed for more than a second or so. You’re just encouraging them to go to the bed. Not stay in their bed for an extended period of time. Remember to have some sort of word to release your dog from their bed such as “free!” or “ok!”
3. Increase the distance gradually.
Increase the difficulty gradually. Instead of guiding your dog to the bed, ask for them to “go to your bed” from a short distance away (3-6 feet). Once they are successful at 3 feet, increase to 6 feet, then increase the distance again.
Eventually you’ll be able to ask them to go to their bed from across the room. If it helps, you can put their leash on to guide them during this step.
4. Gradually increase the time.
You want to teach your dog that “go to your bed” means to go and stay there until they’re released. Ideally your dog will stay on their bed for up to a half-hour or more while guests are over, a repair man is at the house, or you’re doing something that you need them out of the way for.
At first, only expect them to remain on their bed for a few seconds while you’re in the room. When the time is up, release with “ok” or “free” and give treats. If your dog leaves their bed before you release them, just calmly say “no” and say the command (“go to your bed”) again or put them back on their bed.
If your dog is getting up or is restless while on their bed, then you know it’s time to take a break from training because they have too much energy to pay attention or they are being challenged beyond their current abilities.
Pushing them too far, too fast will cause stress and make your dog associate their bed with a negative experience.
5. Increase the distance between you and your dog.
Now you can begin to put distance between you and the bed. At first, you might take a few steps back, then walk to the bed again and reward your dog for staying.
Continue stepping further away each time, then coming back to the bed and rewarding your dog. Then you can do things like open your mail while sitting on the couch or dusting picture frames. This way your dog knows that even if you’re being active, they need to stay in their spot.
6. Use the command regularly.
You’ll want to continue to practice on a regular basis. Ask your dog to go to their bed before a walk or before you leave the house to help calm them. Have them go to their bed when the doorbell rings or someone comes into the house. But remember to go at your own pace, stay positive and use lots of praise and treats.
Making sure your dog has a nice comfy bed to go to will also go a long way towards enticing this behavior.
If after some time and practice with this method you are still having problems, then you likely have a pack leader issue. Essentially, your dog will not leave you to go to their bed because they see themselves as in charge, and you in need of protection.
A dog trainer named Dan covers how to handle the issue in his video series that you can watch here. He’ll teach you how to put yourself at the head of your pack, meaning training your dog to be calm, sit, and just generally behave will be much easier. Watch it now on his page.
Addendum (Oct. 24): Here’s some help from Dummies on teaching the down command.
P.S. Make sure to pin this in case you need to remember the steps! Good luck!!