How to train a scared dog to go down the stairs

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Dogs that have never used stairs can be scared about walking up and down them. Going down the stairs can be particularly scary. With a little patience, you can train your scared dog to go down the stairs. Before you know it, your dog will be running up and down the stairs as if he has been doing it his entire life. Here is how to train a scared dog to go down the stairs.

Things You'll Need

  • Dog that can use stairs confidently, if available
  • <br>Leash
  • <br>Small staircase with 3 to 4 steps
  • <br>Treats
  • <br>Patience
  • Train on a small staircase. A scared dog is going to balk at walking down a long staircase. Locate a small staircase with only three or four steps for training.

  • Model how to use the stairs. If possible, bring along a dog that knows how to climb the stairs confidently. Your scared dog's biggest hurdle might be the fear that climbing up and down the stairs is not even possible for a four-legged creature. By watching another dog confidently climb up and down the stairs, your scared dog will observe how to walk up and down the stairs and have a better understanding of how to do it himself.

  • Teach the dog how to climb up the stairs first. While using the stairs in either direction can be scary to a dog, going down the stairs is even more daunting. Once the dog masters climbing up the stairs, she will have more confidence about going down the stairs.

  • Provide incentives. Many dogs will break through their fear in order to eat a tasty treat, so bring along a box of the scared dog's favorite treats. Place a treat at the top of the stairs that the dog can only reach after she climbs up the stairs.

  • Lead the dog up the stairs. Put the scared dog on a leash to make sure he does not run away. Gently tug on the leash and encourage him to climb up the stairs. While doing this, talk to the dog in a gentle and encouraging voice.

  • Place the dog's feet where they need to go. If the dog is really scared, she might freeze up. If she does, gently place her front paw on a step, comforting her the entire time. Place her other front paw on the next step up. Continue moving her paws where they need to go until she reaches the top of the stairs and then give her the treat.

  • Praise the dog. Make a big deal out of the scared dog climbing up the stairs. Give her a few minutes to bask in her glory before climbing back down.

  • Use the same techniques to walk the dog back down the stairs. Be sure to give him a treat and lots of praise.

  • Repeat the process for reinforcement. After the dog has gone up and down the stairs, do it a few more times, with plenty of praise and treats, so the dog can build his confidence.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be patient. Stairs can be scary for a dog. With lots of patience and reassurance, your scared dog can learn how to go down the stairs.

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  • Photo Credit (c) Faith Allen
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