Training a Dog Not to Be Afraid of Stairs

Silver Post Medal for All Time! 398 Posts
October 22, 2010

A white dog sitting and looking up at camera on circular beige carpeted steps.Put a baby gate at the third step from the bottom of the stairs. Hide upstairs and call the dog to you. He will be able to go up the three stairs because he does not feel he will fall. However, he won't be able to come past the three stairs, so his fear response won't be reinforced. Come down to him and put the baby gate up three more stairs and go back up and call him if he hasn't already climbed them. Keep on doing this, and treating him with love and soft words, and soon he should lose his fear of falling. Hopefully. :)


Source: pets section

By Robyn Fed from Hampton, TN

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October 26, 20100 found this helpful
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Great tip! For smaller staircases, you could also try this:

We once had a rescue boy who came to us also terrified of stairs, and the dog railed against any kind of gentle coaxing; the DH rigged up planks over the stairs to make ramps. Since this dog loved playing ball, we rolled the ball down the planks and he followed soon after. Then we took away one plank and rolled the ball--and he still followed. And then went the other until he didn't care about the stairs any more, because his urge for the ball was higher than his fear level by then.


It only took two days; remember, though, that this was a short, eight foot, stairwell, and we used two four-foot pieces of planking. Any flight of stairs longer than this, or very steep, may not work with this method. Both the OP and our methods really have psychological basis, they are a form of cognitive therapy, not unlike what docs will urge humans to do in order to face fears.

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3 Questions

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August 22, 2017

I have been doing some work on my house. I removed the carpet from my stairs and painted them. My puppy now refuses to go up and down them. Could removing the carpet be the cause?


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August 22, 20170 found this helpful

Yes. It might be more slippery for him. He will learn to go more slowly and get used to it.

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August 22, 20170 found this helpful

Be sure his/her nails are clipped. Are the stairs slippery to you? They do have special paint products to add to paint to make them less slippery but hopefully your puppy is just afraid of the change in his regular playing field.


Maybe you could help your pup by sitting on the stairs and let him come to you - just a few steps at a time until he adjusts but they may be a danger to a puppy if they are very slippery.
Puppies like to bound up and down stairs and a fall may cause even more fear. Try to keep him calm around the stairs - no hurrying and no standing at the top or bottom clapping your hands to get him to try it - wait a while for that.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
August 22, 20170 found this helpful

The puppy may have slipped when you were not around and now he is frightened of getting on the stairs. are the stairs slippery to you?

Why not try sitting on the stairs and getting him to come up one or two steps at a time.


Try to keep him calm around the stairs so he will not slip/fall and get hurt.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 433 Posts
August 26, 20170 found this helpful

Yes he probably felt safer with the rug.It is probably slippery he will get used to them.I have had many dogs scared of stairs in time they all get use too them.Make sure you help him down until then, so he does not fall.

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February 7, 2016

I have a two year old Bullmastiff and he is afraid to go down the stairs. He goes up just fine, but going down is a struggle. What should I do to make it eaiser on both him and me?


February 7, 20160 found this helpful

Try putting a piece of food on the next stair, then the next, and so on. Also, if the staircase has an outlet, put a night light there.

It's possible his depth perception is poor.

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