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Dogs terrified of stairs

January 9th, 2005, 06:39 PM
I've been trying to coax him with food but he literally shakes. He's so eager to please he tries hard but it's like he just can't go up or down them. He's at least 8 years old and a rescue. I'd eventually like to rehome him so the question is should I just leave it be or keep trying? He gets so upset I'm not pushing the issue. Does anyone have any idea's how to make this a little easier for him?

January 9th, 2005, 06:55 PM
My dog was afraid of stairs because we never had any so he didn't know how to go about them. I was at a friends one time and we went to the basement. He sat at the top of the stairs and i tried everything to get him to come down. Finally, my friend just grabbed him and dragged him down the stairs :eek: . Ever since he learned that, he LOVES stairs.

Now being as though your dog is a rescue, he may have had bad experiences with stairs(thrown down them?). Was he/she abused before? If so, maybe forcing him to go down stairs isn't the right way to go about it.

Can you carry him up or down? Does that help?

January 9th, 2005, 06:58 PM
How long have you had him, or been trying to get him OK with stairs?

If it hasn't been a long time, maybe he just needs a bit longer...he's had (presumably) eight years to be afraid of stairs, may take a while to get him OK with them!
I am wondering if you trying TOO hard to coax him may ratchet up his anxiety a few notches....if you are trying too hard, too fast for him? Maybe he needs a little more time just being in a house with stairs, walking past them, watching others use them. If that makes sense.

If he is shaking and stressed while you're coaxing him, my suggestion would be ease up. You're just going to create more stress for him, and by not "complying" he is being set up to fail, not succeed. Maybe praise/treat just when he's near stairs, for now. Rather than trying really hard to make him use them, just work on other areas of confidence so he can succeed & feel braver.

January 9th, 2005, 08:09 PM
Personnaly, I've found that whenever introducing a dog to something he's afraid of (be it stairs or the dreaded vet), you should keep your voice upbeat. Don't try to console him ('awwww, are you ok? Poor baby...') but try to make it sound like fun : 'O! Wow look at those stairs! Woohoo!
Your tone of voice sets the mood for the experience, it's the same thing with kids. If your kid falls down and you rush over saying: OMG, are you OK? Poor baby, was that a bad fall? Then you have more chances of the child breaking down into tears. If you check on him, to make sure he's not hurt, and sorta laugh it off, then he will too.
Maybe you could try picking him up and putting him one step up, then encouraging him to come down. When he does have treat ready for him and a whole lotta praise. Then, tomorow you could try 2 steps and so on and so forth...
Good luck, and keep us posted! :thumbs up

January 9th, 2005, 08:46 PM
He was the neighbors dog and I'm sure didn't have run of the house. He was clearly made to stay at the door when they did let him in because he had to be coaxed through ours. We moved here in the middle of Nov and he pretty much moved in then too. We moved from a bungalo and ours were'nt used to stairs either but this is different, ours bounce up and down them. I don't think he's been thrown down them, just that he's not used to stairs or being allowed to go where he wants to freely. I haven't pressed the issue because he does get so upset and by that I mean I'm not trying to get him to go up or down them often. We have 3 stairs at one door to go outside and 4 at the other. He had to be coaxed up them as well and he's fine with them. As for the steps going upstairs he'll go as far as he can reach with keeping his back feet on the floor,I put the treat one step higher but he's not going for it. There's 7 steps and a landing. One time he made it to the landing, didn't stop for the treat I had on the step. I gave it to him and more with lots of praise but he's not into doing it twice. He loves cheese but not enough, made a roast today, maybe that will do the trick! :D Thanks for the suggestions, I've been keeping it upbeat and trying not to push him! :D

January 9th, 2005, 09:29 PM
I have had two fosters who were terrified of stairs. I spent almost a month with each of them carrying them up n down the stairs. The funnier of the two was a boxer female who after a month of carrying her, looked at me when I went to pick her up and just jogged down the stairs. It was almost as if she were saying "K, lady, I can do this on my own now".

January 10th, 2005, 10:05 AM
What great timing! I just emailed Tenderfoot on this very topic, as my dog is petrified of stairs as well. He is a rescue and we are unsure of his past, but fully aware that stairs were a no-no in his past. Here is the reply from Tenderfoot on how to teach your dog to love stairs. I have not attempted this exercise yet, as the weekend was quite hectic. I hope you find this helpful.

Old January 5th, 2005, 08:06 PM
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tenderfoot tenderfoot is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Posts: 122
Re: Another dog fear issue.
If we as humans have a fear or insecurity, we have to go through the fear to get confidence. The more times you face your fear the more confident you become. You are desensitized to it. Picking your dog up at the stairs avoids the problem and does not teach.
Pretend your hands are full (so you can’t pick him up) and you have to go downstairs with the dog on the leash. Put the dog at the top of or preferably at the bottom of the stairs. Walk 4 steps up to the end of the leash. Slowly pull the leash just hard enough to move your dog 2 steps & quickly loosen the leash. Repeat this all the way up the stairs.
OR pick your dog up and place him in the middle of the staircase and have a leash with you. Human does 4 more steps up to the end of the leash. Never allow your dog to go even 1 step backwards by using the leash as a control. However have a totally loose leash and lots of verbal praise when the dog chooses your direction. Every step gets a warm verbal reward. At the top of the stairs reward your dog with loving touch, a treat and your voice. Immediately head back down the stairs with a cheerful “heading to a party downstairs” attitude. Up and down about 6-7 times. The first 3-4 times are the hardest and quickly they will loose their fear and get desensitized.
We believe the reason a dog performs for you is relationship – love, trust and respect. People work on the love but not on the trust and respect side. To perform stairs or something scary might come down to trust and/or respect. On our video “Love Them & Lead Them”, we explain a drill to teach your dog to give to the pressure of the leash and not fight it. If your dog pulls back on the leash they are fighting pressure. If you pull your dog softly up or down the stairs they should give to that pressure and come with you. Put the leash on the dog for control and as nicely as you can go up and down.
Try not to ‘coo’ at him when he fights you. Pull & release on every step and use your energy and voice to reward and encourage him. Never let him go in the other direction and don’t let him stop you and learn he can.
You have to be strong with this lesson. It has been an entire year and he should have overcome this by now. We are often confronted with dogs with this very issue and in a matter of minutes they are over it. It just takes you providing strong leadership and praising the heck out of every step in the right direction. He will take account of what has happened and realize that he didn’t die – he will take a deep breath and wonder what all of his fussing was about.
~Elizabeth & Doug
Dog Training the Way Nature Intended

January 10th, 2005, 03:18 PM
I had a rescue dog who was petrified of going down the stairs.. Apparently she was thrown down the stair and badly beaten often by her previous owner. At first I didn't know what to do, I wasn't sure if it was the stairs or what was waiting at the bottom... I picked her up, (although she was a sheltie and weighed in at 45 lbs ) and brought her down. At the last step I just reinforced her by saying " There, it's ok.... nothing bads gonna happen to you !" I coaxed her to go from room to room and snoop around, and she was ok after that...

I guess ( like a child ) you need allot of patience and soft methods. Don't give up, i'm sure both of you will be proud of yourselves, once the dog masters them..

GOOD LUCK ! :thumbs up

January 11th, 2005, 05:09 PM
Thanks so much for the suggestions! I found using a leash was easy in getting him in the van because he was nervous of that to at first. It just might work on the stairs as well. He's 70lbs, haven't tried to pick him up

January 11th, 2005, 10:03 PM
Well, my dog is a rescue and she was terrified of stairs too until one day we had her leach on and for some reason it gave her some security and we walked her up and down the stairs with her leach till she was fine (1/2 hour) ... now she LOVES to run up and down the stairs!!

Hope this helps!!