Some dogs are afraid of heights, stairways and ramps, but you need to know how to train a dog to use stairs, as it's vital for them to be comfortable around dog steps or any types of stairs in general.
There are many reasons why dogs might avoid using stairs at home or outside:
- Your pooch might have gotten scared a few times while on stairs,
- Maybe your dog was yelled at a lot while climbing certain stairs,
- The dog could've possibly fallen off the stairs more than once,
- Or they simply don't know what steps are, and are simply cautious.
There are also even more reasons for you to know how to train a dog to use stairs in any environment. Obviously, if those are the dog steps – small, 2-4 step ramps, then the process of training your canine will be much simpler. The “human” stairs – big and long – are the ones which some dogs are mostly scared of. And it can become an issue.
RELATED: WHAT ARE THE BEST DOG STEPS?
How to Train a Dog to Use Stairs
First, you must NEVER force your dogs up or down the stairs if they obviously are scared of the stairs. This will only make them fear the stairs more (even if they do make themselves to go up/down while you're forcing them). Just like with crate training, or training your dog not to poop in the crate – positive behavior enforcement dog training techniques are the best way to go. This includes praise, dog treats, petting, other motivators and calming your dog down when needed.
Second, make sure to check with your veterinarian beforehand to rule out any types of disorders, conditions or other serious issues with your dog that might be preventing him/her from climbing up or down the stairs. That could be something you're not aware of, maybe a certain pain that is not visible to the eye. There are plenty of medical conditions that could lead your pooch to becoming “step-shy.”
If you adopt a puppy dog, you'll need to make sure that your puppy is learning about the environment that will surround him/her for the rest of their lives. Take some time out of your day to socialize and spend time with your puppy; take them wherever you can. By the time your pup is around 4 months old, he/she should have already seen people, kids, other dogs, random situations, possibly other animals and pets, and of course – stairs and stairways.
Your puppy is impressionable, to try your best to ensure that all new encounters and experiences are positive for the young dog.
For dog owners with older dogs, or who have adopted preloved dogs, there's still a way how to train a dog to use stairs, even if they aren't as impressionable any longer. Just like people, dogs continue to learn throughout most of their lifetime. Socialization is a big part of this game. Focus on spending time with your dog, and eventually getting around to stairways and introducing your dog to this construction very gradually.
Training your dog to climb/descend the stairs
Here are the three major pointers to keep in mind while training your puppy to use stairs:
- Do it very gradually
- Reinforce good behavior
- Avoid forcing or shouting
Approaching steps. To begin the process, simply start taking your dog to the stairs. Leave them be nearby, and go up the stairs yourself – keep demonstrating for a little longer. If the dog has enough courage to even approach the steps – that deserves reinforcement and praise. Any baby steps deserve acknowledgement in this training process.
Don't overextend the training process. Once you successfully approached the steps, go away for a second – play with your pooch, have fun, and come back to the stairs after a while again.
Luring them in. It's time to start making those first steps onto the stairway. Please understand that as even the slightest forcing will set you back for a long time, if not forever. So without forcing the dog at all, find ways for your Fido to make a conscious, independent decision to step onto those stairs. You can try using different types of dog treats that your puppy loves, or some of those dog toys they can't resist. Even if your canine makes half a step progress towards climbing the stairs – it's time to reward.
Some dogs learn quicker, while others are more stubborn or substantially more scared of those damned stairs. It's all about patience.
Confident step. Once your dog is comfortable being around the steps (and possibly even step onto them occasionally), you need to focus on getting them completely used to stairways so that they won't even think twice about climbing or descending the stairways. There are two methods of training your dog at this stage.
First method is to get up the stairs yourself and call for the dog from above. You will most likely have to use luring techniques with toys and treats.
Second method is to stay behind the dog, and lightly encourage them to go up the stairs. You can still use toys and treats, but you need to stay behind the dog.
Both methods have worked with different dogs and different pet owners, so there's no one quintessential way to do this. Simply try both and see to what method your puppy or older dog responds the best.
After the first step has been confidently conquered by your pooch, it's time to progress to the next one. Always use the same technique that worked previously, whether it's encouragement, praise, treats or toys, or simply taking the whole training process really slow. Use the proven method to conquer the whole stairway up.
Last step on top. Once you're dog is ready to reach the final step and be “on top of the world,” make sure to have some really good dog treats with you – something that you know your pooch loves. This will happen either in the first day or two, or it could happen in a month or two. But you want your Fido to associate “top of the stairs” not with scary things that can happen to them but with good, positive feelings: your appraisal, toys and awesome dog treats.
You will soon finding whether descending those same stairs will also be a problem or not. Most of the time, it isn't, but if it so happens, take the exact same approach that worked with your dog previously and do the exact same thing to go down the stairs with your pal. Remember that a lot of dogs are very scared to go down the stairs.
Moving to a different set of stairs. After you've accomplished your task and have successfully ascended and descended the stairs with your pet, it's time to move on. Find different set of stairways and do the exact same thing. Your dog needs to get used to not only one particular place, but to the whole process of “climbing stairs” in general.
We understand that stairs are stairs, but dogs don't. Different set of stairs will present your dog with a new set of fears to overcome.
Stay patient, and stay positive. And of course, have fun training your pooch!