Climbing Stairs

Posted by kjd
Aug 31, 2010
[COLOR="Red"]"Well, it appears there is another problem with my boy wonder. We recently came into possession of a condo in the city. It is about an hour drive from our house. For now, we are planning in spending about 25% of our time there, in various chunks.

I was very concerned about how much limit setting I would have to do in the condo . . . especially because it is a loft-style unit with an open floor plan. This is our first day here and he has been adjusting remarkably well. Of course he was very anxious at first and kept pacing, but now has settled down nicely. And it has been a piece of cake to teach him where he is allowed and where he is not.

Ok, I am getting to the point . . . the unit has a metal winding staircase going up to the loft area, which will be used primarily for sleeping and not much else. I knew he might have a problem going up the stairs and sure enough, he wanted no part of them. I was kind of shocked when food would not lure him to take even one step up.

To see if the problem was his being able to see through the stairs, we taped up some towels to cover the open spaces of the first few stairs. At first he was still reluctant, but with a little coaxing and a food pellet, he finally did go up and get the kibble.

So, is there some way I might be eventually able to get him to go up? Maybe I should post this in a new thread. The problem may come when it is time to go to sleep. At home, he sleeps in his bed which is at the foot of our bed, which is upstairs. He will not want to sleep alone. And I don't want to start carrying him up and down the stairs, for a number of reasons.

I again welcome any and all suggestions . . . even though the pay sucks. " [/COLOR]from raffee

My Zoey had never seen stairs and she was scared of them all -- open or closed. There were three humans in the house at the time and we all encouraged her to come upstairs. No way! She slept downstairs.

Then, one day, we were congregated at the top of the stairs, one of us sitting on the top stair. It was too much for her. She had to join in and up she came! From then on, she had no problem with regular stairs.

The stairs to the basement, however, were open. Those she couldn't handle. She finally came down them to see what was going on, but we had to let her outside to come up the solid stairs. She was just beginning to conquer the open stairs when she got bloat.

From this experience, raffee, I am suggesting you go on up to bed. Call him up. If he doesn't want to come, OK. I wouldn't be surprised if you woke up with him in his normal bed. Let him figure out for himself that being with you is more important than being afraid of the stairs.

I don't like the idea of you carrying him up -- suppose you trip? And forcing anyone to do something that scares them seems wrong to me.

The only problem I see is if he starts crying because you aren't with him.

Someone else may have a suggestion. (I saw Cesar Millan get a dog to climb closed stairs, but I still think my way was far better.)

Posted by KOPCaroline
Sep 1, 2010
Hey raffee,

I could see open stairs being a bit much for dogs.

I like the idea of just carrying on up and down them when you want to, and sleeping up there. Call your dog up, but like kjd said, if he's too nervous to come, let him be. Sometimes dogs just need a lack of attention to figure scary things out. The more you yourself go up and down the stairs, the less anxious the dog might be about them.

Echoing kjd, I wouldn't recommend carrying him up. If you put him up there and he's too nervous to come down on his own it only adds more stress. Similarly, if he does come down on his own but then wants back up where he just was, he'll learn to whine at you to bring him up again. You don't want to encourage that I'm sure.

If he does take to whining at the bottom, ignore him or give a "no" command, and then ignore. Don't come down to him, he'll learn to whine if he wants you to get out of the area he doesn't go to.

You might try a bit of the stairs at a time. The bottom quarter or so, sit on about the 3rd or 4th stair up, with treats, and ask him to come up. Giving him less of a feat to manage will help him. And if you're stationary on one of the stairs he'll get the idea that they are sturdy enough to go up. Work on more and more stairs until he's comfortable with the whole set.

I hope this helps. The idea of blocking the gaps with towels might be a good thing to do when he's learning the bottom quarter, like I suggested. Seeing through what he's supposed to be walking on would be confusing for him!

Good luck!
Posted by raffee
Sep 1, 2010
Hey kjd & KOPcaroline,

I wasn't clear what I meant about taking him up or down the stairs. I agree with both of you . . . and I have absolutely no intention of doing so, for many reasons, some of which you point out.

I did try a little more stair training with him . . . and he will come up a few stairs but only if they are closed. It could be that given enough time and training he might learn to overcome the fear.

But for now, I think I will let him do what he is most comfortable doing. It is not at all a problem for me and my wife if he never comes up. I decided to put his bed downstairs and he is sleeping in it right now. After I go up, if he complains or starts to whine, I will go down and bring the bed upstairs, letting him know it is fine for him to come up as well. But if he continues to whine, I will ignore it. At some point after he has settled down, either temporary or permanent, I may (or may not) bring his bed back down (he has a nice padded mat downstairs that can serve as his bed, if need be).

We are headed back to our regular home tomorrow. And we may not be back for a month or so, as we have some trips coming up. But after they are done, then we will be back here for a few days or more on a regular basis, so there will be plenty of opportunities for him to decide wherre he wants to sleep.

Thank you both for your help . . . I feel comfortable with the plan right now. It may get a little more difficult a little later tonight, but I am not too concerned. He is not a dog who has any history of whining and complaining all night . . . he sleeps a lot, especially at night, and he also sleeps very, very soundly. I just don't think he has it in him to stay up for too long . . . oh, wait a minute, I forgot about food, well that won't be in the equation, thank heaven.
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Sep 1, 2010
Hi raffee,

I am in agreement with kjd and Caroline too re: the stairs issue.
It is just a matter of time. He will figure out how to handle this rather quickly. Once he understands it is stable and nothing to worry about he would run up and down as if he was never afraid of it. But the key is NEVER FORCE HIM on the stairs. Encourage/coax him is good. Going up would be easier than going down the stairs. In any case, if he is determined to go up or down, he will do it very carefully.

I would go one step ahead/higher (not literary though). I would use this opportunity to retrain him with some of his bad behaviors. First of all, this condo is new to him so this will be a great opportunity to set him new rules. Not on the couch, nothing to protect/guard. Don't let him claim anything as his possession.

Secondly, he now has a fear (the open stairs) and he cannot come close to you without trying hard to focusing/controling himself. Going up the stairs will take his courage and great deal of concentration and, most of all, motivation! YOU, will be more valuable to him than ever. When he accomplish this endeavor, give him a big hug and praise! This will give him a confidence and I am hoping that his obsession/guarding aggression will diminish after the fact.

Anyway, if I were you, I would utilize this new environment to establish a better relationship (2 way) as much as possible. Good luck