How to Help a Dog Scared of Stairs
Walking up and down stairs seems like an easy task; however, traversing stairs can be scary for some dogs and puppies. A few stairs are easy to navigate for most dogs and puppies, but it’s when it’s a full flight of stairs that can be downright spooky for them. If you live in an apartment building or have a second floor in your home, it’s important to teach dogs and puppies that stairs are fun and safe. Below are dog training tips to help a dog scared of stairs.
First, Add Non-Slip Rugs
Most dogs and puppies dislike walking up or down stairs because they’re slippery. It takes balance and coordination to maneuver four legs within small spaces that suddenly incline or decline, and coordination has to be learned. To set your puppy up for success, place non-skid rugs in the center of each step and the top and bottom of each landing space.
Decorative stair rugs are available online for indoor stairs. For outdoor stairs, use remnants of rubber-backed rugs. Either way, providing traction is an important step before teaching your dog that stairs are fun.
Walking upstairs is a little easier for most dogs and puppies. They can take their time placing paws strategically to pull themselves forward. While getting your puppy to walk upstairs is easier than downstairs, she may still find it scary at first. This is why it’s so important to teach puppies that treats can be found on each step.
Sprinkle a few super yummy treats on the first step, while your puppy watches you, and stand about 3-4 feet away from the step. Your puppy will likely walk over and eat the treats off the step. Next, sprinkle a few treats on the first and second step, and let your puppy find the treats. She may find getting to the treats on the second step a bit challenging, but she will figure it out and self-reward herself. After a few minutes of sprinkling treats on two steps, end the puppy training session.
Walking downstairs is downright scary for dogs and puppies. It takes lots of balance and courage to maneuver four legs downstairs carefully while gravity is pulling you downward. Practice teaching your dog or puppy how to walk up one or two stairs first. When your puppy is standing on the second stair, sprinkle a few treats on the first stair and the bottom landing spot. If she becomes scared, while walking downstairs, pick her up and bring her down the stairs. Continue practicing daily by adding one or two stairs until your puppy is comfortable climbing up and downstairs.
When Dogs Refuse Stairs
It’s common for dogs and puppies, that haven’t encountered stairs before, to hesitate walking up and downstairs. However, if a dog suddenly becomes scared of stairs, then it’s time for a veterinary visit. Older dogs may develop arthritis, which causes severe pain while stepping up or climbing downstairs. If a younger dog refuses stairs, she may have an injury, congenital issue (hip dysplasia) or torn pad. Some dogs slip when walking up and downstairs, and become afraid to navigate stairs again. If this happens, follow the above recommendations for teaching your dog that stairs hide treats.
Take it one step at a time, and reward all progress.