Help with a dog and stairs

Hi all. Since there was another thread about crate training I was wondering if you had any suggestions about dogs and stairs. I’m going to ramble on so I don’t blame you if you tune out and don’t read this.

We have a 5 year-old yellow Lab (Sunshine). She’s a great dog. Doesn’t chew anything that isn’t hers and rarely has accidents in the house (only if she has an upset tummy while we’re out). We don’t need to crate her during the day - she just sleeps on the bed until we get home. She’s awesome except for the fact that she’s a freak with the stairs. She hasn’t always been this way. When she was a pup it took us forever to train her to use the stairs, but once she got the hang of them she was off and running.

Over the last few years she has been fine going down the stairs, but won’t go up them. (I must insert here that we have a foyer and there are 2 sets of stairs from there - one goes up to the kitchen, dining, living and bedrooms and the other goes down to the family room. It’s an actual foyer not like in a raised ranch style home. They each only have 7 stairs).

At first it was only trouble going up the set of stairs from the downstairs part of the house to the foyer. She’d stand at the bottom and whine until my husband or I got up, stand in front of her, then move out of her way and say “get up there” - then she’d run up the stairs. We still have to do this with her. She didn’t have a problem with the stairs going to the upstairs part of the house. This tactic does not work for the stairs going to the upstairs.

Now, it’s worse on the stairs going up. It’s unbearable really. She now spends most of her time in the sunroom off of the foyer because she knows she won’t do the stairs. We can’t even coax her up with treats (unless it’s her dinner, then she’ll run up, but not without whining about it for a few minutes). She used to come up while we were eating dinner, but not anymore. She goes out to “her room” (the sunroom) and lays in her bed. I think it depresses her that she can’t/won’t get up the stairs.

We have doggie doors going to the outside, fenced-in yard, so she can come and go as she pleases when we are home. One door is right at the bottom of the stairs to go up. She crashes through the door, stands with her front paws on the third stair (so she’s half-way up the stairs already), but she won’t just walk on up. It’s ridiculous and we’re at our wits end.

We’ve also been trying to get her to walk up the stairs instead of run up them. She’s not interested.

I think she is OCD, but I don’t know what to do about it. It’s not a problem with her limbs because we’ve had her checked out by the vet. I don’t really want her on medication and my husband doesn’t agree with pet drugs for mental issues. He feels there is something that we should be doing to control this behavior ourselves. Something we are missing. We were/are thinking about getting another dog to see if having another dog who’d use the stairs would get her over this. We would like another dog anyway but we keep hemming and hawing over it. It is another expense that we aren’t sure we want to take on. And there’s always the possibility that another dog would make her worse.

We love her so much but just don’t know what to do. If you haven’t guessed, she’s our baby. I don’t think she’s overly spoiled just really loved. Any suggestions you may have would be most welcome. I’m thinking about writing to the Dog Whisperer. Seriously. It’s breaking our hearts and we miss our old Sunshine.

Thanks in advance.

Perhaps your vet should check her to see if she is getting arthritis or some other joint problems that would cause her to not want to climb the stairs.

We did have her checked. Everything seemed to be okay. I have had her on 1500mg of glucosomine since last summer for any joint pain, in the off-chance it is arthritis. She’s not hobbly at all and runs around just great.

Could be old fashioned laziness :rofl:

Beyond pain or fear I can’t imagine what would cause such behavior.

Probably is “old-fahioned laziness” :rofl: I know I’m guilty of that from time to time myself. It’s certainly not fear of us. She’s got it good, believe me. I’m totally coming back in my next life as my dog.

I’m way more patient than my husband is about letting her whine it out. I figure when she gets herself worked up enough to get up the stairs she’ll do it. However, even though I say “let her go” my dh cracks before I do and starts working with her on getting up those stairs.

Thanks for reading my sad, sorry saga, KG!

Are there any noises upstairs that frighten her? I know my dog at home and one of my dogs now is a scaredy cat and has from time to time hid out downstairs and come to find out there was a fire detector or some random noise that freaked the dog out. My dog at home avoided stairs for quite sometime after a smoke detector beeped all day long and he was home alone. Our puppy hates the car now b/c ONE time my hubby turned the rear windshield wiper on while she was in there and now 4 months later she still goes the other way when you mention the car. We take her for fun short trips all the time, but she will shake and pant for the first 10min of the drive. Funny how animals remember things and hang onto them.
As for trying treats, the trainer (we’re in doggie school) says that if the puppers doesn’t respond to our treats we aren’t using the right treats…
OH and another thought - my old fart at home - I notice as he gets older he likes to be in “his room” but doesn’t like to be alone so he will bark and talk until someone comes to sit with him. If you don’t go sit with him he will go back and pout and try again in 30min to get your attention. Maybe he wants you in his room or maybe he needs another bed in the living room. We actually put beds for both dogs in the living room.
As an aside I do think Sunshine would like another dog. I think our old fart is much less OCD and much more lively now that he has a friend.
best of luck

Are your stairs carpeted or hard wood/laminate/tile? My dog had issues for a long time with hard wood floors and stairs. He would slide on them and for the longest time we had to take him out one door and walk all the way around the house to go in the other door because he would slide coming off the stairs and then wouldn’t walk across the wood. He got over it eventually, but he’s still skittish coming off the stairs sometimes.

Just a thought.:??

Exactly what I was thinking. Could be fear of falling.

Sigh…I had the opposite problem last summer. Cyrus could go up, but not down. Poor dog, it started when was weakened by an illness and he fell down the stairs. It took forever to get him down the stairs (he was pottying on the deck, thank goodness for the deck!)

He will go down now, but it took a loooooooong time and even now he gets nervous sometimes and I have to cajole him a bit.

What I did was have his very best favorite people come over and stand at the bottom of the stairs. His love for his special friends made him get his big butt down but it did take time. Mostly I just left him to his own devices and he came around.

One thing though, he will not go down OR up slat type stairs. You know the kind you can see through. And I can’t blame him as I hate those kind too!

I wish I could say I had a great solution, but we have a problem with our yorkie and have yet to get it solved. We bought a new bed about a year ago that is much higher than the old one. He wouldn’t jump up on it and admittedly he missed once so probably got frightened. I went out and spent $$$ on doggie steps that everyone raved about and said their little dogs took right to. Uh, uh, not Fortune. The only way he goes up those stairs is if I grab his collar and pull him up them to get him started. I worked for 2 weeks with him but he won’t use them. I gave up and they are sitting in my closet. Well, he now jumps off the bed in the middle of the night then does the whiney or yip to have someone get him back onto the bed. He won’t stop until you haul out of bed. Some nights are awful and he does it 3-4 times. I have tried taking him out later so he doesn’t feel the need to go to the bathroom, but he still does it nightly. Drives us nuts and since my dh has to get up at 5 AM he gets mad at him some of the time. So, with all that being said, the only encouragement I have is to just keep trying maybe working with her with a leash on and guiding her up and letting her go down then guiding up and letting her go down. If she isn’t have joint issues I imagine it is just some stubborness on her part.

Thanks for your ideas all - you guys are great!

  1. Both sets of stairs are carpeted. We even took off the decorative runners that were taped down so there was no threat of them slipping out from under her.

  2. There are no noises that would bother her. Nothing that has anyway. The only thing that ever bothered her was when I used the dishwasher one time at Christmas a few years ago. I think it was more of a rumbling in the floor that she didn’t like rather than a sound. She wouldn’t go in the kitchen for weeks afterward except to run in (not in front of the dishwasher), eat and run out. To this day, we still do dishes by hand. Always.

  3. Sunshine won’t go over slatted stairs either. I think all dogs have that fear and I can’t blame them.

  4. She sometimes will bark when she’s in “her room” and if we go out and chat her up and pet her, she’s fine. She doesn’t want to come in. We don’t really mind this especially because the weather’s getting nicer (that room’s not heated but it’s enclosed and we have beds in there for her), however, she does like to sleep with us at night and we like having her with us too.

vaknitter, you may be right though in the fact that she’s a bit older and likes to be alone. How old was your dog when you brought the new one in?

I know you said you had her checked by the vet, but did he/she check her back?? That’s all I can think of, I’m sorry. Something must have happened for her to all of a sudden start this behavior. And you just weren’t there to witness what it was.

:yay: to you for loving and caring for your dog so much.

Personally, I would wait on the second dog until this gets resolved. If she’s that scared then having a puppy might make her even more nervous. I really don’t know. Honestly I would call a animal behaviorist about it. One visit shouldn’t set you back too much money-wise and they do know what they are talking about. Ask your vet for a recommendation so you don’t end up with a cukie person whos in it for the money and not for helping the dog.

Good luck!

Our old fart was 11 when we brought the puppers in. We took him to the SPCA to meet her and he just ignored her so we brought her home and introduced them in the yard. He got sooo much attention from us for days that he thought he was in heaven (not that he wasn’t normally spoiled, but we wanted him to associate the new puppers with good things). We feed him first all the time and got her a new bed, crate etc.

Yeah, we were going to wait until she was older before we brought in a new puppy. She’s only 5 now. We may have an opportunity to bring in an older (2 or 3 year-old) dog. He’s housetrained and very sweet. But we’re not sure if we’re going to.

Yesterday was much better than it has been in a while. We got her to come up to bed and she stayed the night. We’re going to take her to the vet again. Thanks for the suggestion about the animal behaviorist. I’ll ask the vet about it.

Take her for a LONG walk and when you get home RUN to the door and just keep going through the door and up the stairs. If you have to have someone there to open the door WHEN you get to it.DON"T stop just run.Then take her back outside running down the stairs.Repeat many times till she goes up and down without hesitation.See the walk wears her out and the run to the door doesn’t give her the chance to think about the stairs,she just follows you.If she puts the brakes on DON"T panic or she will too.Just go down the walk way and try again.You might have to pull her a little bit.Don’t say ANYTHING to her until she has done the stairs.Just pretend it is a everyday thing for her to do.Don’t feel sorry for her or she will sense that something is wrong from you and panic.Good luck!!

And did your vet check her eyes? I’m wondering if it could be a vision thing as well. The stairs may be difficult for her to see clearly? Her distance vision may be ok, but maybe she needs bifocals LOL! Seriously, I’ve heard of dogs who have had problems with stairs because they can’t accurately judge the distance of the stairs well.

Another thought was that for stairs that only have a few steps (like 3 or 4) could you build her a small ramp that she could walk up instead?

I’d also call a dog trainer who may have some suggestions on helping your dog navigate steps. Maybe some intensive stair climbing to get her comfortable with them?

It could also be that it’s a control thing for her. I have one that doesn’t like to climb up on the bed when I’m in it, she wants me to get up and lift her onto the bed. She will circle around and then put her front feet on the bed and wait for me to lift her. She does that 4-5 times before she gives up and jumps up on her own. It took me a while of lifting her to realize that she could do it on her own, but I finally caught her on the bed during the day and I hadn’t helped her.
On the second dog. We got our female from the pound when she was about 2 years old. We had her for a year and decided because she was so high energy and demanding of attention that we would get her a dog of her own. We heard of a male that was brought to a local vet to be put down because his owners were leaving town and didn’t want him. We brought our dog to the clinic and they brought him out into a fenced area and introduced them. They are best buds to this day 4 years later. He was about 3 years older than she and didn’t mind being her wrestling buddy. They are similar in size and are mixed breed.

We’ve always had dogs, and they seem to do fairly well, happy, healthy, etc. Our oldest now is 13, and really beginning to slow down. She doesn’t like the flooring in our kitchen because she slides on it, even though her nails aren’t all that long. She’s 60 pounds, so when she falls on those old hips, it’s hard to get up sometimes.

Since it seems that you have checked out EVERYTHING, maybe it is a control issue. My Maddie has a behavior like that, she won’t poop in front of me. Her dad has to take her out. Only if she has some kind of abdominal distress will she let me take her. It’s funny in a way, but also kind of annoying.

Let us know what you find out, OK? I’m hoping you get her a companion.

Thanks to all of you for your input, help and suggestions. I’ve talked to my DH about all of them and we’re keeping an eye on her.

However, I believe she goes in phases with the “I don’t want to climb the stairs” behavior. This past weekend she’s been much better. We still have to stand with her and say “get up the stairs”, but she’s not nearly as difficult about it. It’s a control issue.

Oh - and we did have her eyes checked and they are okay.

Plantgoddess, I loved your story about getting your second dog from the vet. Very cool. I love a happy ending.

Thanks again all. I’ll let you know if we get a second dog.

I didn’t see this mentioned - have you checked your dog’s toe-nails? My dog has always had a very difficult time with stairs and it has been a combination of him having a very hard time with linoleum (due to his nails) and also of his being a scaredy-cat. There have been many times where I have had to ‘push’ him up the stairs (we have 11 stairs between the basement and the main floor) from his crate. My dog is 85 pounds, so I wouldn’t be able to carry him up the stairs unless I felt like busting a gut!

We trim his nails but we can only get them so short before he yelps and starts bleeding. :frowning: