Steps are not a natural thing for most dogs. While some will brave the steps on their own, other dogs may be fearful and unsure about walking up and down steps. Fortunately, you can train your dog to use stairs and have free rein of your home.
Whether you’re teaching your dog to climb your household stairs or you have doggie stairs for a small or elderly dog to get onto furniture, these training methods will help you make step training a fun experience for everyone.
Method 1: Slow and Steady
1. Start With the First Step
Start with the bottom of the stairs and place a treat on the first step. Make sure there are no distractions. Give your dog verbal encouragement to step up and take the treat.
2. Move to the Second Step
Repeat the process with the treat on the second step and encourage your dog to take it. Once your dog is on the second step, place another treat on step one to guide your dog back to the ground.
3. Work Your Way Up
Use the same technique of placing a treat on the step to get your dog all the way up and down the stairs. Stay close and take it slow. You don’t want your dog to have a negative experience that sets back your training.
4. Take Away the Treats
Once your dog goes up and down the steps comfortably, take the treats off the steps. Stand at the top of the stairs (or on the couch or bed if you’re using dog stairs) and call your dog. If your dog comes to you, reward with a treat. If not, go back a step and reinforce going up and down with treats.
Method 2: The Lead By Example
1. Sit on the Steps
Put treats in your pocket. Either on your own or with a leash and your dog, go over to the steps and sit on the steps.
2. Dangle the Treat
Encourage your dog to climb the stairs with a treat in front of it. Try to make your dog work a little for it by placing its paws on the steps. The more fun you can make this part, the more likely your dog will be to climb up willingly.
3. Pat the Steps
Pat the steps with your hand to signal to your dog that you want it to climb them, much like you would pat the couch or the floor to encourage your dog to come to you.
4. Reward, Reward, Reward
Once your dog takes a few steps comfortably, offer a lot of treats and praise. Let your dog enjoy the treat and just hang out on the steps for a few minutes.
6. Gradually Work on Climbing
Using the previous steps, slowly encourage your dog to move up the steps a few at a time. Take breaks and enjoy treats along the way. Once your dog reaches the top, lead it back down in the same way, going slowly to avoid any negative experiences like tripping or falling.
Safety Tips for Step Training
Steps may seem like the most natural thing in the world, but they aren’t for your dog. Negative experiences, such as tripping or having unsure footing, can give your dog a fear of the steps that will impede your training.
Not all dogs understand how to use stairs, and even if they try, a slip or fall can make stairs terrifying. Training your dog to use steps is a great way to give your dog more freedom and confidence moving around the house, including onto your couch or bed for cuddle time.
Featured Image Credit: Switlana Sonyashna, Shutterstock