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Teaching Your Dog to Go Up and Down Stairs Politely is a Must

by Robin MacFarlane

Dogs are usually either afraid of stairs, or they bolt.

Dogs seem to possess one of two behaviors when they are around a set of stairs. Either they are afraid of them and won't proceed, or they bolt, taking them 2, 3 or more at a time.

Both situations are problematic. The dog that is fearful of stairs often ends up being carried, and thus they never learn to overcome their hesitation.

The bolter is just plain dangerous. They make the flying leap off the last few steps to the landing below risking potential injury to themselves. Not to mention the possible hazard to anyone else that may be attempting to go up or down that stairs at the same time. You best be hanging onto a railing when a bolter goes flying past and bumps into your knee!

There are two ways to go about teaching your dog some manners around stairs. One it to teach them to wait at the bottom (or top) until you give permission to go up or down.

The other is to teach them to accompany you step for step in such a way that they match your pace and don't trip you up.

In either case, one of the first things they need to understand is to take it one step at a time.

With young pups I often place a treat on each step, so they are motivated to pause on each individual step as they come down. Keeping the lure at the level of the tread works far better than floating it in the air in front of them on stairs. It keeps the pup's nose angled downward rather than "out" with leads to more potential for a misstep or the flying leap to get the food.

If the pup is really nervous or intimidated I work backwards by placing him on the next to last step so he only has to go down one before being at the bottom. Then I place him on the second to last step and the third etc. In this way you continue to build confidence about descending.

With an older dog that hasn't learned about stairs, I will often just accompany them step for step (keeping them on leash to prevent problems). I move with a speed that forces them to go step for step rather than bolting. It usually only takes a few passes before the dog are over the hesitation and can navigate up and down without much difficulty.

Once they get the basics of going step for step, I can then begin teaching them to either accompany me in a heel position or teach them to wait as I go first. But the process is always started by first showing them "how" to negotiate stairs.

Take a look at these young pointers as they experience a set of steps for the first time.
-- Robin
Next Article: Training at a Distance

Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
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  • Pull-Quote= Expose your puppies to stairs early in life so they learn how to manage them.

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