Dogs who can’t figure out stairs: How to train them?

Dogs like to run and explore the house. They tread through the corners of the home from a very young age. But have you noticed that your dog refrains from using the stairs? This is a fairly common problem in young puppies and even older dogs. There can be many reasons why dogs can’t figure out the stairs and a major one is the lack of exposure and confidence.

Other reasons include the prospective mountain-like climb stairs seem too small dogs. It can also point towards a medical condition. Before reaching out to the vet, you can go through this article to understand the reasons why your dog doesn’t seem to figure out the stairs. You will also find an easy trick to overcome such stairs as well as safety measures to prevent dogs from falling downstairs.

Reasons why dogs can’t figure out stairs:

  • Intimidating size of stairs

Young puppies under the age of 12 months or the smaller breeds can find it an intimidating task to climb up those tall stairs. Imagine being at your little pup’s height and climbing up the stairs. It might be a frightful task for the little animal.

  • Hip problems and other medical conditions

It’s advisable to prevent your pups from climbing the stairs before the age of 12 when their mind, as well as physical attributes, are better grown-up. You may have to wait longer for larger dog breeds like Labrador, Retriever, Shepherd and so on. The large breeds commonly develop hip problems and climbing stairs can be an extremely painful task for them.

Instead, pick up your dog and move him through the stairs in such cases. Other medical issues that prevent dogs from climbing stairs I include joint issues, damaged nerves, back pain and arthritis. Notice if your dog is tumbling while climbing the stairs or he’s leaning on the wall while coming downstairs.

You should consult a vet immediately to treat any such internal problems until they get serious. Most of these issues have proper medicines that will prevent long term issues.

  • Lack of exposure

If you have always lived in a single-story home or you never allow your dog inside your home, it is possible the dog hasn’t learnt how to climb stairs. If he’s always playing in the yard or the ground floor, he can get intimidated by the size of the stairs. Some dogs also develop a fear of stairs if they had fallen from them earlier in their lives.

Overcoming the dog’s fear of going up and down the stairs:

You can easily help your dog overcome the fear of going up and down the stairs by a few easy tricks in case he’s not suffering from a medical condition. The following steps will slowly but steadily help him become more confident and get rid of this phobia.

  • Remove obstacles from the stairs- your dog might be scared that he will trip over objects kept on the staircase. Clear off the staircase to make sure he becomes confident while climbing up.
  • Distract your dog- You can help your dog ease into the process of climbing by distracting him from the fearful task. Pushing him to climb up or down forcefully can have a rather adverse effect increasing the fears inside him. You should perhaps give him a lot of attention and encourage him to climb one step at a time while playing with him. Make him climb one step upwards and then one downstairs while his mind is distracted somewhere else. You can keep one of his favourite treats two steps above him to encourage him to climb and catch the treat. As he obeys you and climbs up the stairs, reward him with a pat and shower praise on him to make him feel confident about himself.
  • Increase the number of steps gradually- Slowly increase the length he climbs from one to three and so on until he climbs up and comes down all the way. Just pick him up to the first stair in case the fear is just mild. Keep a treat one or two levels away from him and direct him to go and take it. Ease him to attain the comfort zone and make the navigation effortless.
  • Reverse the process- Once he’s climbed all the way up, you can make him come down in the same way. Just put your hands around him to prevent him from falling. If he does fall even once, the might fear might get compounded and much more difficult to overcome.

Tips to ensure your dog doesn’t fall down the stairs:

Falling down the stairs can be extremely painful and cause severe injuries to your dog. Additionally, it can induce a permanent fear that can stretch to a long time. You may have to permanently lift your dog up and down the stairs in cases of emergency. Here are a few tips that can significantly reduce the chances of slipping away and ensure your dog’s safety.

  • Consult the vet

As discussed earlier, your dog’s discomfort while climbing stairs can be a sign of an internal problem that can’t be spotted otherwise. If your dog hops awkwardly on the stairs, he may be having a hip issue while a stumbling dog may indicate joint problems. If your dog leans on the wall while climbing the stairs, it can be an issue with nerves. Immediately consult your vet to treat this problem.

  • Block your stairs

If your dog has the habit of climbing the stairs and fall off it more often than now, you might consider attaching a pet gate on the staircase entrance. While it will block your pet’s entry onto the stairs, you can open the latch and climb up anytime you want.

  • Get rid of the slippery staircase

This one is specifically for those with uncovered stairs and people who have carpeted stairs can ignore this one. A slippery staircase can be a reason why your dog slips often while climbing up. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have shoes/slippers that help us grip the stairs properly. Our body’s balance on two legs is also much better and we can hold on to the railings for balance and leverage.

Overcoming the dog's fear of going up and down the stairs

Your dog is prone to slipping on the staircase made up of teakwood, hardwood, tile and linoleum. You can stick a stick-on stair tread to remove the slipperiness from the stairs and ensure your dog never falls off it. You can also use a stair rug or carpet to help your dog grip onto the stairs.