Tuesday, 31 Jan 2023

Top 10 why won’t my dog go up the stairs You Need To Know

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Dogs Are Afraid Of Stairs And How To Help Them With Their Fear

The fear of going up and down stairs can affect puppies, rescues, adults, and senior dogs, and it poses specific challenges for both the dog and their owner. Regardless of the dog’s age or size, there’s always a reason for the trembling, crying, and backing up that happens when faced with a threatening staircase.

Sometimes it’s only a particular staircase that puts the dog on edge, and in other cases, every raised platform or increase in elevation triggers a fearful reaction. If this sounds like your pup, the first step in helping them overcome their fear is understanding what’s causing it. Here are a few common possibilities.

Image Source: Flickr/Jesse Newland

#1 – Lack of Exposure

For puppies, a fear of stairs usually comes from the simple fact they’ve never seen them before. From the moment they’re born, puppies are exposed to a whirlwind of new experiences. Everything from the carpet they stand on to the neighbor’s cat is potentially new and scary. The first staircase a puppy sees will look like a big, intimidating obstacle. For the most timid of the litter, the sheer newness could pose a serious threat.

Puppies aren’t the only ones that develop fears based on lack of exposure. If you have an older dog that’s lived its entire life in a single-story home, there’s a good chance they’ve never needed to go up or down stairs before. They missed that vital lesson during puppy socialization, and now that they’re older, coming across something new is especially unnerving.

#2 – Traumatic Experience

Dogs learn through past experiences, and the type of exposure they receive to certain stimuli is as important as being exposed in general. If something bad happened to them on or near a flight stairs, it’s natural for them to develop a phobia. Whether they fell or were pushed down a staircase, they’re not likely to forget what happened. Even if they weren’t physically injured, being especially startled by something on the stairs could have a lasting negative impact. They’ll be reminded of that one scary experience every time they encounter a flight of stairs.

Image Source: Flickr/Ellsa Self

#3 – Learned Behavior

It’s usually an accident, but dog owners sometimes teach their pets to be afraid of stairs. If the dog isn’t allowed on the second floor during the day, for example, owners will use different tactics to discourage them from using the stairs. Baby gates are seemingly harmless, but any kind of negative attachment to the stairs is enough to convince a timid dog all stairs are bad news regardless of circumstance. Punishing a dog when they attempt to go up (or down) the stairs will teach them to stay away.

#4 – Medical Condition

If none of these other scenarios seem to make sense for your dog, it could be a medical condition keeping them on the ground floor. Arthritis, hip dysplasia, or a recent injury could make climbing stairs especially painful. If that’s the case, they’re not afraid of stairs, they’re avoiding pain. Senior dogs with no previous issues with stairs gradually exhibit avoidance behaviors for this reason, and a congenital abnormality in a young puppy can be confused for a phobia. Talk to your vet to rule out painful possibilities before moving forward with training.

Overcoming the Fear

A dog that’s afraid of stairs will demonstrate “avoidance behaviors” that should make it obvious they’d rather bypass the steps than face their uncertain heights. They might walk confidently toward the stairs only to turn tail and go the other way. Whining, puting their tail between their legs, and acting generally uncomfortable are other signs they’re not confident with the situation.

For small dogs, there’s always the temptation to pick them up and carry them up or down the stairs. This will save you time, but it’s a temporary solution. It teaches the dog they get what they want by whining or acting fearful, and it doesn’t help them overcome their fear. It’s also a bad idea to drag the dog by the collar up the stairs. This behavior can cause mistrust between dog and owner, and the dog could act out in a defensive form of aggression.

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Try these techniques instead.

Image Source: Flickr/Traci Lawson

Counter Conditioning

A dog that’s afraid of stairs is relating the staircase to something negative. To reverse their feelings of unease, try something dog trainers call “counter conditioning.” Animal Humane Society says,

“Counter conditioning means training an animal to display a behavior that is different than his current reaction to a stimulus.”

In the case of scary stairs, the dog’s current reaction is fear. Counter conditioning and positive reinforcement works by replacing fear with a positive reaction, like happiness and excitement.

Try using a favorite toy or an especially high value treat. Start by standing near the stairs and encourage pup to approach. When they do, give them their reward and shower them with praise. Make them feel like they’re the best dog in the world, and they’ll forget about the scary association to the stairs.

Desensitization

Counter conditioning works best when paired with desensitization. This is the gradual exposure to something that starts with low intensity and works it’s way up to full exposure. Rewarding the dog for going near the stairs is stage one. Next is encouraging the dog to climb the first step.

Use the same positive reinforcement you did before, but this time, stand on the first step and encourage your dog to meet you there. Tempt them with their special reward, and make a big deal about their accomplishment when it happens. Keep up this strategy for one step at a time.

An effective way to accomplish gradual desensitization is by using dinner time to your dog’s advantage. Most dogs look forward to when their dish is full of food, and there’s a good chance their love of dinner will outweigh their fear of stairs. On the first day, place their food bowl on the floor next to the stairs. If they eat without hesitation, move the bowl to the first step the next night. If that goes well, go to the second step the following night. Keep up the pattern until your dog is confidently climbing the stairs to reach their dinner. You may have to stay on one step for a few days in a row before they’re ready to move on.

Patience

It will take more than one lesson for a dog to overcome a fear of stairs. Mild cases might require a few days of positive reinforcement training, and more fearful dogs could take several weeks. Petcha says,

“It’s important not to rush his progress on stairs because he may panic and his fear of the stairs could become very long-lasting. Confidence builds at its own rate, which is different for each dog.”

No matter how frustrating or inconvenient, don’t rush the process. Remember to stay calm and look for small improvements instead of expecting big results.

Featured image via Flickr/Jesse Newland

(h/t: Pet Helpful, Animal Humane Society, Petcha )

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4 Reasons Dogs Are Afraid Of Stairs And How To Help Them ...

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Frequently Asked Questions About why won’t my dog go up the stairs

If you have questions that need to be answered about the topic why won’t my dog go up the stairs, then this section may help you solve it.

Why has my dog developed a sudden phobia of the stairs?

Older dogs may develop arthritis, which causes excruciating pain when stepping up or climbing downstairs. If a younger dog refuses stairs, she may have an injury, congenital issue (hip dysplasia), or torn pad. However, if a dog suddenly becomes afraid of stairs, then “b>it’s time for a veterinary visit”/b>

Why will my dog not climb the stairs?

Climbing stairs in a calm, controlled manner is an essential skill for a pup to learn, and the best way to teach him this is by rewarding him so that he associates stairs with good things rather than seeing them as something to be afraid of.

How can you make climbing stairs easier for dogs?

Stick-on stair treads are one of the best ways to give your slick stairs some extra grip; place one on each step, and your clumsy dog won’t ever slip down your stairs again. You could also use a stair runner.

I want my dog to use the stairs, but how?

Create a trail of treats from the base of the stairs to the top and onto your couch or bed. As your dog investigates the treats, stand next to him and, with gentle praise, drop treats on the next stair or two. You can also use a lure held slightly out in front of your dog’s nose and reward him for following it.

What are signs of hip dysplasia in dogs?

The typical clinical signs include weakness and pain in the hind legs, wobbliness, reluctance to get up from a sitting or lying position, some dogs will limp, and difficulty climbing stairs. These symptoms can appear in puppies as young as a few months old, but they are most prevalent in dogs one to two years old.

How do canine anxiety attacks look?

The typical symptoms of a panic attack in a dog include shaking, wide eyes, stiff posture, drooling, panting, barking or howling, pacing, destructive behavior, or attempts to flee; they may also urinate or defecate involuntarily.

My dog won’t climb stairs; why?

It takes balance and coordination to maneuver four legs within small spaces that suddenly incline or decline, and coordination has to be learned. Most dogs and puppies dislike walking up or down stairs because they’re slippery.

Do dogs prefer a ramp or stairs?

Smaller dog breeds frequently prefer ramps because their legs may still be too short for the stairs, as do older dogs and those with joint issues.

Do dogs struggle to climb stairs?

According to Wood, dogs with back, neck, disc, and spine issues find it painful to lift or lower their heads when they ascend or descend stairs. They may also struggle on stairs if they have vestibular disease, which affects balance. You may notice this if your dog hugs the wall while ascending or descending stairs.

My dog won’t use a ramp; why?

If your dog climbs the ramp without hesitating, give her plenty of treats and praise. If she refuses to move forward, backs up or tries to jump off the ramp, lead her back to the base and start again. You may need to repeat this step in 10-15 minute intervals for several days until your dog gains her confidence.

How do I get my older dog to go up and down stairs?

Based on those experiences, I recommend trying stick-on anti-slip stair treads or carpeted no-slip tread. You can also help your dog up and down stairs using a mobility sling, lifting aid harness, or even a walking harness with a handle.

What dog breeds have hip dysplasia?

Dog breeds prone to hip dysplasia include bulldogs, golden retrievers, Great Danes, Labradors, mastiffs, pugs, rottweilers, and St. Bernards. Because canine hip dysplasia is hereditary, there is no cure. The condition starts in puppies as early as five months old and grows worse as they age.

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