Need help - major fear of stairs - now part of daily life
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Thread: Need help - major fear of stairs - now part of daily life

  1. #1
    Diesel_Dawg is offline Senior Member
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    UnhappyNeed help - major fear of stairs - now part of daily life

    Diesel has always been wary of stairs, we had the back deck which we used daily but was only 4 steps - even those sometimes took awhile. We haven't had a full set of stairs around us in over a year & none that we could have "practiced" on & well, now he needs to get over the fear because they will be a part of daily life. Luckily these are carpeted (a full flight of 12), going down isn't as much of a problem - there is reluctance, but usually if he hesitates I just go down one step, stand aside for him to pass & he'll go on his own. Going up is an absolute nightmare, on average it can take 30 min or more to get him up the stairs.

    The following tricks do not work:

    Leashing him - he becomes cement.
    Treats - me coaxing from his level, a few stairs or all the stairs up, placing treats on steps - he will lean as far as he can without going up to snag it, otherwise he'll just leave it.
    No treats - me at the top of the stairs verbally coaxing.
    Physically helping - omg he f-r-e-a-k-s out!!

    All I can do, that will get him there eventually (but not always) is say either "Let's Go!" or "1, 2, 3!" repeatedly - like a million times over & over til he goes. He does a dozen or so "false starts" where he looks like he's about to take a run for it & fly up the stairs then he stops to whine or paw at me. Sometimes I give up thinking the effort is exasperating his anxiety - which is outrageous the moment he is at the landing & knows he has to get up there - panting, whimpering, yipping, one paw on the first step the other grabbing at my foot or leg, pacing, etc. So I go up the stairs & leave him at the bottom and continue to call him while out of sight, I shake his kibble bag, squeak toys, etc. Nothing. I then ignore the crying & barking, when he is quiet I peek over the rail to see him sitting in front of the landing staring at the stairs like he wants to go up, but looking stressed out.

    I have put his food upstairs so that during his routine he will be aware if he wants to eat he has to do his stairs, we will be working on it til we get this fixed no matter how exhausting & stressful it is for me - I just want to try to get him over it without completely stressing him out, raising his anxiety or doing something to make this fear worse. BUT I need some help PLEASE!! Anyone with tips other than what I've already tried please let me know. I hate seeing him so stressed and doing my very best to be firm & not coddle him
    Last edited by Diesel_Dawg; 05-31-2012 at 08:00 PM. Reason: grammar

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  3. #2
    deidra's Avatar
    deidra is offline Senior Member
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    Does he have a favorite toy that without it he thinks he will die,lol. If so I would use it. ONLY get it out to coax him up the stairs. through it up the stairs and see if he will chase after it. Then at the top he gets his toy and a few good boys and a treat or two.

    With Bentley I used human food. I would make me a plate of something and walk up the stairs and he couldn't resist. When he would follow me he got a little piece of what I was eating. Then when he got used to them I would just use treats. The only thing was I had to wean him off of begging,lol. it only took a week though. Now he just lays in the doorway to the kitchen with tank eyeballing me(they get any left overs and when I go back for seconds I can see them begging me not too,lol).


    Sorry if this didnt work it worked with Bentley. With tank there for 5ish months he only trusted me and if I walked up the stairs he would over-come his fear and come anyway so I had to be creative with Bentley.
    ~It doesn't matter how smart the dog is,it matters how smart the owner is.

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    Neska74 is offline Senior Member
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    Poor guy... have you talked to the vet to see if it may be a physical problem?

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  6. #4
    Diesel_Dawg is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by deidra View Post
    Does he have a favorite toy that without it he thinks he will die,lol. If so I would use it. ONLY get it out to coax him up the stairs. through it up the stairs and see if he will chase after it. Then at the top he gets his toy and a few good boys and a treat or two.

    With Bentley I used human food. I would make me a plate of something and walk up the stairs and he couldn't resist. When he would follow me he got a little piece of what I was eating. Then when he got used to them I would just use treats. The only thing was I had to wean him off of begging,lol. it only took a week though. Now he just lays in the doorway to the kitchen with tank eyeballing me(they get any left overs and when I go back for seconds I can see them begging me not too,lol).


    Sorry if this didnt work it worked with Bentley. With tank there for 5ish months he only trusted me and if I walked up the stairs he would over-come his fear and come anyway so I had to be creative with Bentley.
    This is a time when I wish he was toy crazy or the kind of dog that carried around a favourite stuffy or something like a security blanket, lol. He is oblivious to anything other than a treat being waved in his face which he then just wants & hopes I nix the stairs for him. He stares so intently it's almost like he's playing the "Little Engine That Could" in his head... "I think I can! I think I can!" Poor baby I know he wants to but he seems so afraid

  7. #5
    Diesel_Dawg is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neska74 View Post
    Poor guy... have you talked to the vet to see if it may be a physical problem?
    We were just at the vet last week for his annual & he was poked, pulled and prodded - hips etc seem fine & no ailments. He did have a slip when he was younger on ceramic stairs, just slid down two steps & hit his chin on one, but it didn't seem to phase him as he went up anyways - he was reluctant even before this incident & it hasn't worsened since so I don't think it's that. Diesel has a few other phobias such as hardwood or other slippery floors where we go through the same thing as stairs but not as debilitating since there is no incline I can get him across the floors WAY easier than up a flight of stairs. I wish it wasn't so many in a row, but nothing I can do about that lol! I just don't want to inadvertently make this a bigger issue than it already is, but we have no choice with these stairs - he's got to do them.

  8. #6
    Samson is offline Senior Member
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    Maybe the treats are not a high enough reward ?

    Try something else such as raw liver or roast chicken.

    Praise praise praise for even one step

  9. #7
    Diesel_Dawg is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Samson View Post
    Maybe the treats are not a high enough reward ?

    Try something else such as raw liver or roast chicken.

    Praise praise praise for even one step
    I think you are right - they are his treats that I get the best recall from so they are "high reward" but likely not high enough given the stress factor!! I think this calls for.... BACON!!

  10. #8
    tammyhuffman is offline Senior Member
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    We had this problem with Maxx as we have no steps inside and only 4 from the deck to back yard. But, his training center has a very steep set of about 20 steps and it was just a constant challange 2 times a week getting him down, he would go up though. We finally found that chicken breast pieces worked the best to coax. He still does not like going down but does so very slowly, almost sideways. He is fearless when it comes to anything else! I know it is frustrating and sad but if he loves bacon bring it and make as little fuss, other than praising when he does what he should. Make sure you take a deep breath before beginning the steps, I noticed a significant difference when I stopped getting anxious and just acted like we were doing something perfectly normal. Good luck, this process took us quite a few weeks but I know you will be patient with him. He will get it, he may never like it though! I would continue to feed upstairs also, especially if he is as food motivated as Maxx is!
    Tammy
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    Ozzy - 10/16/02 - 06/28/11 - Always in my heart.

    Sometimes the hardest part isn't letting go - but learning to start over.

  11. #9
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    vanike927 is offline Senior Member
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    I have no suggestions other than the ones stated here. But a couple of thoughts. My first thought was maybe his depth perception is off, but I think you would have noticed that by now. My second thought was that you mentioned deck stairs, and I generally think of those as having no back (they're just slats). And maybe he has a fear of slipping into one of those spaces? As a human child I was a bit wary of them. And Autumn herself tried running up a set of those stairs once, and slipped and got caught. Luckily she was fine though.





  12. #10
    buddybaby is offline Member
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    Buddy was petrified of literally everything when we first brought him home. Steps were the same. My boyfriend got on all fours and showed him how it was done...even going down (which was almost very bad!) After Buddy saw that it was okay and nothing was going to happen, he would follow suit and now has no problem!

    "A person who has never owned a dog has missed a wonderful part of life."

    Buddy-1 year

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