How to Train Your Young Dog to Walk Up Steps

Medium
2-7 Days
General

Introduction

You’ve recently welcomed the cutest ball of fur into your life. He’s cuddly, cute and downright irresistible. He’s slowly finding his feet around the house and his confidence is growing. He’s stopped using your kitchen floors as a toilet, much to the joy of every of everyone else in the house. One thing he hasn’t quite figured out though is how to brave steps. This means he can’t run upstairs to give you cuddles in the evening, and he can’t mount steps when you’re out on your normal daily walk. You don’t mind carrying him now, but the bigger he gets the harder it will become.

Training him to walk up steps when he’s young will be more than worthwhile in the long run. It will also mean further down the line he’ll be braver when it comes to working things out himself. You don’t want him always looking to you for help.

Defining Tasks

Training him to walk up steps when he’s young is relatively straightforward. He’s probably just nervous and unsure at this point in his life. He simply needs some guidance. Training will consist of motivating him to tackle steps, using a variety of tasty rewards. You may also need to lead by example, to put him at ease and build his confidence. Because he’s young, he should be full of energy and a quick learner. This means you could see results in just a couple of days. If he’s particularly stubborn and not quite the sharpest tool in the shed then be prepared to invest up to a week in training.

Succeed with this training and not only will you never have to carry him up steps again when he’s wet and muddy, but you’ll also find training him to walk down steps far easier too.

Getting Started

Before you get to work you’ll need to check you have a few things. Some steps to practice on will, of course, be essential. Before you tackle outside steps, you’ll teach him to walk up steps at home, where he’ll feel more comfortable. 

You’ll also need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. Make sure you can train for 5-10 minutes each day, at a time when there won’t be noisy kids rushing up and down the stairs getting ready for school.

Once you’ve got all of that, you’re ready to make a start!

The Food Lure Method

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Step
1
Setting up
Start with the staircase at home. He’ll feel more comfortable learning in his own house than he will on steps in public. Place a treat so it’s easily visible on each step. Make sure he sees you setting up as well, this will peak his interest further.
Step
2
Encouragement
Now stand at the bottom of the steps and have him with you. Point at the treat on the first step and talk in an animated voice. The playful voice will make him think he’s playing a big game. You may also need to gently push him up to start with.
Step
3
Reward
When he finally takes the first big step, make sure he gets the treat and you give him lots of verbal praise. The happier he feels when he gets his reward, the more likely he is to brave the next step.
Step
4
Continue upward
Once he’s mastered the first step, let him rest for 30 seconds, then encourage him to tackle the next step. Follow the same technique as before, giving him the encouragement he needs. Also make sure you follow him up the steps just behind him. That way you can catch him if he falls and he’ll feel more at ease. Continue until he can do the whole set of steps, then carry him down and practice again the next day.
Step
5
New steps
Once he’s mastered the stairs at home confidently, try the same technique on a different set of steps. It’s important he feels comfortable climbing up all steps. So place treats on each step somewhere in public and encourage him up again. When he seems confident climbing any set of steps, you can slowly cut out the treats.
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The Lead By Example Method

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Step
1
Clamber up
Sit on the first step, facing down. Make sure you have a tasty treat in your hand and that your dog is below you, looking inquisitively up at you. Dogs look to their owners for guidance, so you need to show him how it’s done.
Step
2
Temptation
Now hold out the treat, or you can use a toy, and guide him up with it. You can hold the treat directly in front of his nose and slowly pull him up with it. The more high pitched voice you talk in, the more upbeat and relaxed he’ll feel.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as he joins you on the first step, give him the treat and lots of praise. You can also give him a nice cuddle. Wait there for at least 30 seconds so he can get his bearings before you venture upwards.
Step
4
Onward and upward
Now sit on the step above and follow exactly the same procedure. Use a treat to lure him up and talk in a playful voice. Once he joins you on the next step, reward him again and then continue onto the next step. Continue doing this a couple of times a day until he looks confident. Then you can cut out the treats.
Step
5
Don’t rush
If he looks nervous or unsure, slow down. You don’t want to scare him early on, this will just set the end result back further. If he gets half way and he begins to look a bit terrified, carry him down and start again. You may need to just go half way up the first couple of times. Slow and steady wins the race!
Recommend training method?

The Play Time Method

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Step
1
At ease
Spend a few minutes each day playing around at the bottom of the stairs at home. Play tug of war and get him excited with toys. As you play, you can sit on the first step. These few minutes will make him feel more comfortable around the steps.
Step
2
Tug of war
After a day or so, it’s time to use playtime to get him clambering up those steps. Tug of war is the best game to get him worked up. You can gently pull him up onto the first step.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as he gets to the first step, let go of the toy so he wins the game. The joy of winning will completely distract him from the fact he just climbed up a step. Give him lots of verbal praise and cuddle him too.
Step
4
Back down
Now carry him back down the step and continue to play around again. You’re going to build his confidence up very slowly. If he’s young he may be particularly nervous so you don’t want to rush training.
Step
5
Repeat
Now using play, lead him up the second step. Again, tug of war is often an effective means to distract him from the climb. When he makes the second step, carry him back down and start again, this time heading for the third step. Continue with this each day until he can manage all the steps. At this point, practice on a different set of steps, at a friend's house or in public.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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