How to Train a Dog to Go Down Stairs

Is your dog afraid of going down the stairs? Don’t be surprised, as this fear is pretty common among dogs, especially in young ones who may not have encountered them while they were still puppies. 

So if you notice this behavior from your dog, don’t fret because there are ways you can help your dog get over this phobia. In this article, we will share some tips for training your dog to go up and down flights of stairs with ease and confidence. 

Consult Your Veterinarian

Before you dismiss this as a behavioral issue that needs to be corrected, you might want to have your dog checked by your veterinarian first to rule out any possible medical conditions.

By consulting your veterinarian, you’ll find out if the fear stems from a physical problem, such as an injury or arthritis. Since it is possible that your dog doesn’t want to go down the stairs because it is painful, the best thing to do is have your dog checked up before starting the training.

Why Dogs Are Afraid of Stairs

Most dogs that are afraid of stairs develop this phobia simply because they are not exposed enough. It can be because you used to live in a single-storey house, and it is only later on in its life that your dog sees stairs.

Other possible reasons may include a traumatic experience such as your falling down the stairs, or you may even have unknowingly discouraged your dog from using the stairs to keep it confined in a specific part of the house.

Training Your Dog to Use the Stairs

Whatever the reason is, you can help your dog overcome its fear of stairs. Below are some effective tips for training your dog to go up and down the stairs:

  • Clear off the stairs, ensuring that there’s nothing on the steps that your dog might accidentally knock off or trip over. When your dog gets startled because of these, the training progress might be affected. 
  • Try not to make a big fuss out of teaching your dog to go down or up the stairs. You might want to try tricking your dog into using the stairs by distracting it a little. For instance, you can pat your lap and hype up your dog while you take a step up and then back down. Dogs love attention, and when you use a happy tone, you might be able to trick it into following what you do. As your dog successfully takes the stairs, give it some tasty treats as a reward. This approach might work for those with a mild phobia, and you might be able to get your dog to go up or down the stairs without even realizing it. Always remember to give positive reinforcements in the form of treats, verbal praises, and cuddles every time your dog manages to take even just a few steps up or down the stairs. When done right, your dog will be able to go further up or down your flight of stairs sooner or later.
  • Don’t rush with the training– a full flight of stairs might be too much for your dog. Be patient and take things one step at a time. Start with just a single step and then gradually increase as your dog increasingly becomes more comfortable using the stairs. For starters, pick up your dog and wave treats in front of its nose to lure it down one step. Repeat this process until your dog learns to do it without fail. Later on, increase the number of steps your dog has to take to get the treats. Similarly, use rewards to encourage positive behavior.
  • Be extremely patient with your dog. Keep in mind that training takes time. There are different factors that affect how fast your dog learns, including its level of fear, age, and presence of distractions. Because dogs have such short attention spans, short training sessions that may last for just a couple of minutes are recommended. If you notice that your dog is starting to get frustrated, distracted, bored, or stressed, it’s time to stop. Don’t let your dog get overwhelmed, as it won’t certainly help with your dog’s progress. Always end the training session on a positive note so your dog will look forward to it.

Final Thoughts

Training your dog to go up or down the stairs can be challenging. However, with patience and consistency, you’ll be able to teach your dog to overcome its fear and navigate stairs calmly.

If you feel that you’re not making good progress in training your dog by yourself, or if the phobia is too intense, you might want to try seeking expert help. Delaware K9 Academy is one of the most trusted professional dog trainers that offer private classes, puppy training, and two-week bootcamps, depending on your dog’s needs.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about what we can offer!