How To Teach an Older Dog to Stop Sleeping in the Bed

Meet Daisy, an adorable and loving seven-year old Shih Tzu who was raised and cared for by her mom, Marina, since she was a puppy.  Daisy is quite the lucky and well-loved pup; she rarely leaves Marina’s side. She is even allowed to sleep in the bed every night!

Recently, Marina and her significant other, James, moved into a new apartment together, and as much as they love Daisy, there just isn’t quite enough room in the bed for everyone. As some may say, “three’s a crowd!”

Teaching Daisy to move out of the bed she’d slept in for over six years and minimizing the stress of the transition were the hardest but most important parts of the training. Moreover, Daisy showed signs of separation anxiety when left alone. She followed Marina everywhere, and she would bark and cry when she was left alone.

How to Make this Transition

The ideal training plan included teaching Daisy to sleep comfortably in a separate dog bed, while reducing the separation anxiety that made it hard for James and Marina to leave in the morning and go to bed at night. This training could improve Daisy’s quality of life and boost her independence and confidence!

By teaching your dog to be more independent, you’re also teaching them to be confident.  They will learn that it’s OK to not be with you every second of every day, and that the world doesn’t have to be scary when they are left alone. Your dog should be calm, comfortable, and settled when home alone. Of course, this doesn’t come naturally to your social dog!

Our primary focus was helping Daisy with her separation anxiety in order to teach her to sleep in her own bed.  The first step was to create an environment where daily independence training could be practiced. With dogs who are terrified of the crate, you can establish a confinement area where you can move out of sight but still remain in the home.

The Process

Once a safe area has been established with a crate, or in Daisy’s case, baby gates that confined her to one room, real training can begin.  Training shouldn’t be a big shock so we recommend putting your dog in the confinement area for 2-20 minutes 10 times per day, and only return to your dog during a time when they are settled.

If they don’t settle, you can walk in and out of the room, playing “I Can’t See You.” After a while you can let your dog out, but it’s important to completely ignore him before, during, and after the confinement area exercises.  The goals of these exercises are to teach your dog that there is nothing to worry about and that barking and crying will not receive any attention from you.

In Daisy’s case, we recommended practicing confinement area separation anxiety exercises during the day, in addition to tethering Daisy at bedtime and starting a new bedtime routine.  Using the tether allowed James and Marina to practice while watching TV or sitting on the couch. Randomly standing up and leaving the room helped instill the lesson that Daisy could not follow people from room to room.  Doing many short repetitions taught her that departures are brief and there is no reason to become concerned.

We also recommended that James and Marina go to bed an hour earlier than usual in order to actively set up an evening training scenario. They tethered Daisy next to her new bed, helped her settle in it, then “went to bed” themselves. They practiced getting out of bed and leaving the room when Daisy cried, helping her learn that crying makes things even worse!

Resist the Temptation

The most important thing to remember is to shun, or ignore, the crying and whining. We know that when a dog cries, our first instinct is to go and comfort it. But, Daisy had a seven-year routine that was changing, so patience and consistency were especially crucial in this situation.

By consistently shunning and ignoring Daisy’s demand behaviors while using a confinement area, a tether, and establishing a new routine, James and Marina will be able to teach Daisy to be calm when alone and sleeping in her own bed, ultimately leading to increased independence and therefore confidence.

To learn more about separation anxiety and creating environments for success, visit or contact Zen Dog Training.