Training

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2 min read

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How to Train Your Dog to Use Stairs

Training

|

2 min read

|

1

Comments

How to Train Your Dog to Use Stairs
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-10 Days
General training category iconGeneral

Introduction

It’s chilly at night and you want to be able to cuddle up to your canine friend for extra warmth. He happens to be rather on the large side though, and as strong as you might be, you’re not an Olympian power lifter. That means somehow he needs to navigate up and down the stairs himself. He has attempted to a couple of times, but stumbles and quickly thinks better of the idea. It also makes giving him the odd bath somewhat challenging. If you could place him in the upstairs bath he’d stay. Instead, you try and hose him down outside, but holding onto him there is a challenge in itself.

Training him to use the stairs would alleviate these problems and give you a dog to cuddle every evening. It will also give him greater space to roam and call his own when you’re out the house.

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Defining Tasks

The good news is - training your dog to maneuver the stairs isn’t as difficult as you might think. He simply needs walking very slowly up and down them to help him develop a technique. Throw in some treats and support from his owner and he’ll soon be bounding up and down them at a worrying speed. If he’s a puppy, he should be confident and energetic and could be climbing stairs in just a few days. If he’s older and always avoided steps then he may need up to 10 days before he gets the hang of it.

Get this training right and you’ll be able to call him up to join you where ever you are. You’ll also find it will come in handy when you’re out in public and there are steps to navigate.

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Getting Started

The most important component of training will be a good set of stairs to practice on. Your stairs at home should do the trick just fine. Just find 10 minutes each day to train where there won’t be kids rushing up and down getting ready for school, or a partner bolting down them because they’re late for work.

You’ll also need a stockpile of your dog's favorite food or treats to motivate and reward him. Apart from that you just need patience and a can-do frame of mind. 

Once you’ve collated all of that, it’s time to get to work!

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The Slow and Steady Method

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Start on step 1

Take him to the bottom of the stairs and ensure you have a generous supply of treats with you. Make sure you won’t be disturbed and that his attention is on you.

2

Place a treat on step 1

Put the treat on the step in front of him so he can see you do it. Then give him some verbal encouragement and point to it. This should all help him take the first step.

3

Onto step 2

Now place another treat on the next step and do exactly the same thing. Then once he’s up to step 2, place another treat on step 1 one to guide him back down. If he’s focusing on food he won’t be so concerned with the dizzy heights he’s climbing.

4

Slowly work your way up

Use this same technique to gradually get him all the way up and down the stairs. Make sure you stay close behind him when he goes up to put him at ease and catch him if he stumbles.

5

Final support

Once he can get all the way up and down comfortably, stop paving the way with treats, he knows what to do now. Stand at the top and call him up to make sure he’ll still come up when there’s no treats to motivate him. You can hold a toy out for him the first couple of times.

The Lead By Example Method

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Sit on step 3

Call your dog over to the bottom of the stairs and have his favorite toy in your hand, with some treats in your pocket. Make sure nobody will come bowling down the stairs in the next 10 minutes.

2

Dangle the toy in front of him

As you do this, encourage him to climb up the stairs in a playful voice. Really try and get him to come up the couple of steps to get to it. If you make it seem like a big game he’ll be much more inclined to get stepping.

3

Hit the steps with your hand

Patting the two steps with your hand will help signal to him that you want him to step on them, just like many owners hit the sofa with their hand to let their dog know he can jump up.

4

Reward heavily

As soon as he does brave those first couple of steps, which may take a few minutes, give him a treat and lots of praise. Let him play with the toy and enjoy his reward. Then stay on that step for a couple of minutes. This will help him feel more comfortable if he spends some time with nothing going wrong on the steps.

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Gradually work up and down

Using the steps above, slowly lead him up the stairs, taking them a couple at a time. Then stay on the step for a little while and get going again. Once he’s at the top, lead him down in the same fashion. Just make sure you position yourself so you can catch him if trips. Practice this for a few days until he seems confident on the stairs, then lose the treats and toy, your work is done.

The Leash and Treats Method

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Place him on a leash

A leash will give him some confidence that he’s got you close by, plus it will help you steer him up and down. Also set out a treat on every step of the stair case. Food is always the best motivator!

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Aim for step 1

Stand on the first step, then point to the treat and slowly encourage him up by gently pulling on the leash. Be sure to take it slow, you don’t want to scare him, this needs to happen at his own pace.

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Keep going

Once he’s retrieved the first treat, step onto the second step and gently pull him up again while pointing to the next treat. When he does reach the second step, spend a little time there and play with him. It’s important he realizes he’s safe on the steps and that he can even have fun if he braves them. Then work your way all the way to the top of the steps.

4

Set up for going down

Secure him upstairs, then lay out treats on all the steps again. Also have a friend or family member sit at the bottom of the steps in case he falls on the way down. Seeing a familiar face will also put him at ease and encourage him to go back down.

5

Follow gravity

Now follow the exact same technique for going down. Make sure you take it steady and have the friend encourage him from the bottom too. Once he successfully gets down, shower him with verbal praise. Practice going up and down like this until he seems confident, at which point you’ll no longer be needed.

By James Barra

Published: 11/02/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Luna

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Bulldog

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Eight Months

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Question

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Very string anxiety over everything especially teenage kids unknown reason why got her at 6 months

Sept. 8, 2022

Luna's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Some anxiety can be due to genetics but socialization is also very important in the first six months of life, so if whoever had pup before you rescued them never had her inside or around people, that can be a lot of the reason for the anxiety. Check out the article I have linked below. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ The below video channel I have linked has some good examples and explanations on desensitizing and counter conditioning with dogs - which is the type of training often used to help anxious dogs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AElTVoIPlOw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWoivpkvXgqhAC44tlofiw-CS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlZmJlllP7Y&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a If there is fear aggression also present, there will need to be additional safety measures in place and the training approached carefully to avoid anyone being bitten. For that type of need, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like fear aggression, who works with a team of trainers to they have access to lots of different people who can practice being strangers during training sessions to more quickly counter condition pup to new people, and who will come to your home for at least some of the sessions to help build Luna's confidence at home with you also, building trust with you in the process. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Sept. 8, 2022


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