As some readers know, some dogs are petrified, up and down the stairs. To us this may seem silly-it’s just stairs! But it is important to remember that your dog does not “pretend” to be afraid or just strange. From their point of view, their fear is completely rational and justified. Just like a child petrified by storms or darkness, stairs for some reason have assumed monstrous proportions in their minds.
It is often helpful when addressing this or other anxiety to first try to figure out where it might come from. Has your dog fallen down the stairs or stumbled and suffered as a result? If your dog is a rescue, has he been yelled at or mistreated near or on a staircase? Or has he simply never experienced stairs and finds them a new and strange addition to their environment?
To turn your dog into a Stairmaster champion, your task is to change the stairs of enemy number 1, where amazing big things happen. Forcing or dragging a dog up and down is a big no-no-although he can bodily take you up the stairs, this can only reinforce your idea of the stairs as an evil place that should be avoided if possible.
Instead, start exercising with treats and toys at hand. Be patient and reward every progress, no matter how small, from your dog to conquering his fear. Keep the treat or toy on the lower step and when you put your front legs on top to reach it, praise and reward excessively. If the bottom step does not turn into a big deal, proceed to the next one.
Remember to keep up with your pace-10-minute workouts a day can often be better than a one-hour session a week where your dog’s attention span is tense and you get frustrated.
Also remember, once your dog has learned to ride, the descent will be a new experience that will probably require a training process similar to the one you just completed.
With patience, your dog should learn that stairs are harmless and that there is nothing to worry about.
However, if your dog has serious problems and no perseverance from you seems to work, maybe it’s time to ask if your dog really needs to go upstairs or use the services of a professional dog trainer. For some dogs, the severity of their worries may not be worth the hardship they will suffer trying to conquer them, and it may be best to leave things in place.