Is your dog afraid of stairs?

Is your dog afraid of stairs?

Is your dog afraid of stairs? Some dogs may be afraid of going up and down stairs.
This is actually a pretty common problem. Fortunately, you can help your dog overcome this fear and go up and down stairs safely. Here's what you need to know if your dog is afraid of stairs...

Prevent a Medical Condition
Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before you start looking for behavioral issues that may be causing a dog's fear of stairs. Your dog's fear may be due to a physical problem. He or she may not want to go up and down stairs because it causes pain (in cases of arthritis or injury). If there is such a problem, have your veterinarian address the medical issue before starting any training.

Reason for Fear of Climbing Stairs
Most dogs who are afraid of stairs develop the fear due to a lack of “early exposure.” For example, if you live in a single-story house, it is possible that your dog will not see stairs until later in life. Of course, this habit may be challenging for the dog in the future when it encounters the opposite situation. Remember, your best friend's life is based entirely on habits.

In some cases, a dog may develop a fear of stairs from a traumatic experience. For example, a dog that falls down the stairs may be left with a phobia of climbing stairs.

Overcoming the Fear of Climbing Up and Down Stairs
Most of the time, a dog's fear of stairs is easy to overcome. The following tips can help you navigate the process:

Make sure there is nothing on the stairs that your dog could trip over or fall over. Therefore, if your dog falls, gets injured or gets scared, it can cause a major disruption in your training.
Distract your scared dog. Rather than forcing your dog up and down the stairs, you can try tricking him into going up or down by distracting him a bit. Pat your hands on your legs, talk to your dog in a happy tone, and give him plenty of attention. Take one step up and then back as Happy continues talking. Next time, go up a few steps and come back. This way, you can have your dog follow you up and down a few steps without even realizing it. If you manage to get the dog up the stairs, be sure to give plenty of praise and some treats. Gradually try to persuade your dog a little more each time.
A tall staircase can sometimes be too much for your dog to handle. If his fear is mild, I pick him up and help him take his first step. Wave a few treats in front of his nose and pull him down a notch. Again, use lots of positive reinforcement to encourage him. Once he feels comfortable with one step, move him up one more time and lure him down with treats. This way, you should be able to gradually get your dog comfortable navigating the stairs.
You can follow the same steps above to teach your dog to climb stairs. Start by giving him treats while he's under the stairs. Then, throw in a few treats in the bottom step. Once he feels comfortable receiving these treats, take the next step and throw in some treats. Gradually try to get your dog to climb the stairs to get the food. Before you know it, your dog will be navigating the stairs like a pro!
Remember to be patient with your dog. Depending on his level of fear, it may take some time for him to become comfortable on the stairs. Work in short, upbeat training sessions. If your dog seems overwhelmed, irritable, bored or stressed, it's time to end the session. Always try to end on a positive note. If you find that your dog's phobia is too intense to handle, it's a good idea to seek help from a dog trainer or behaviorist. You can ask your veterinarian for recommendations to help you find the right specialist.