dog stairs - annoying but could have been much worse

agmss15March 3, 2014

Hi all - I have a not quite 2 year old small dog who suddenly developed a profound fear of coming down stairs a week or so ago. I am not sure what happened but figured he must have slipped. No injury thank goodness!!!!!

I used to put a gate at the bottom of the stairs whenever I went out - first while I was housetraining him, discouraging the normal puppy destructiveness - last fall when I got a kitten for similar reasons. The animals have calmed down, are bonded - so I got lax about putting up the gate.

So now what? He runs upstairs then waits in terror for me to get him. Repeat. A game but he is not having fun. The best I could come up with is sitting near the bottom steps - asking him to come up 3-4 steps and back down for a treat. Any other suggestions? My sister says he will come down for food eventually. I worked hard to make this guy socialized and confident - hate to see that damaged.

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I would make every effort to avoid reinforcing this behavior, which is what "helping" him down the stairs is doing.

Next time he is waiting upstairs, try putting a small high-value treat on every other step leading down, then leave the area and ignore him for awhile. Go check your e-mail, make some phone calls, take a shower, start cooking dinner... just go about your normal life ignoring him completely and let him figure it out---"how scared am I?" vs. "how much do I want to be downstairs doing what everyone else is doing?"

I have a small dog who likes to hang out halfway up the cat tower (that's as high as she can climb). It's a little harder for her to come down than it is to climb up, and sometimes she'll whine and yip at me to come rescue her. I'll leave the room and start making interesting conversation with the other animals in another room. Pretty quickly I'll hear her jump down and run to join us. It may take awhile the first time, but stay strong!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 11:19AM
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He must have taken a tumble that you didn't see Maybe the stairs feel slippery to him.. So glad he was not hurt. I like Ilovepoco's idea. Then when he comes down make a fuss about what a wonderful dog he is, praise, praise, praise maybe a super-wonderful treat then or throw the ball, whatever he loves.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 12:53PM
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The answer is roast beef!

I agree I was reinforcing his behavior. And he was so scared and stiff he was likely to fall again. I am limiting his access and working on the bottom steps. Last night I made a small roast. Tiny chunks of that were so exciting that he ran up and down the lowers steps easily. If I need to carry him I try to make it a quick no fuss chore.

Part of the problem is a curtain I have up to stop all the heat from going upstairs. That needs to be up for awhile more.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2014 at 6:04PM
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