Tip #1: How to Introduce Your Puppy to Stairs
Getting your dog to use stairs safely can be difficult. This is especially true of young puppies. They are so eager to please they will have a go at anything. However, the lack of coordination in those little legs often means that they will struggle with steps.
Just like with small children, puppies have to be taught how to use stairs safely. Like all dog training, some dogs will learn this skill quickly; others will take longer.
Puppies Should Be Introduced to Stairs at an Early Age
Provided your puppy is healthy, introducing him to stairs at an early age will not do any harm. The right age depends on the individual animal, but a good rule of thumb is to start training at about 12 weeks old.
If you can get your puppy to climb a whole flight of stairs at the first time of asking, then that is great. However, do not push him into something he is not comfortable doing. Attempting one or two steps here and there can often be a much better way of gradually building his confidence.
You may also find that if your home has more than one set of stairs, your puppy needs training for each. Dogs do not generalise well, so what is just another set of stairs to us, maybe regarded as a whole new challenge by your dog.
Large Breeds Should Not Climb Stairs Until 12 Months
Large breeds like retrievers and shepherd dogs can be prone to hip problems. Introducing these puppy breeds to stairs too soon will make any existing or inherent problem worse. You may therefore have to carry these breeds up and down stairs until they are at least 12 months old, or until they are too heavy to carry safely.
If you are the owner of such a breed, or are at all unsure then ask your vet, breeder, or animal shelter for information that is specific to your dog.
Make Your Stairs Puppy Friendly
Dogs can easily lose their grip on slippery, hardwood, polished, or waxed staircases, which can seriously affect their confidence. If your dog has trouble keeping a grip on the stairs in your home, then you may want to fix some padding or carpeting to them.
Do not Play Games on Stairs
Playing games that involve your puppy running up and down stairs to fetch a toy can seem like fun at the time. However, lots of climbing and jumping at a young age can easily lead to an accident; which could cause him injury, or even death.
A friend of mine had a young Poodle. She was devastated when her adorable new puppy lost its footing whilst racing down the stairs to welcome someone at the front door. Unfortunately, the dog tumbled down most of the staircase, and broke her neck.
What this unfortunate accident teaches us is that if you want your dog to be safe, they need to be taught to negotiate every obstacle in your home safely, including stairs.
Teach Your Puppy to go Upstairs First
When you begin training your puppy, start with teaching him to go up the stairs. To a dog, going up stairs seems like climbing, whereas going down can feel like falling. Climbing comes much more easily to an inquisitive young puppy. He is therefore much more likely to take on the challenge.
Start your puppies’ training by sitting on the first step and offering a treat to coax him into joining you on. When he does join you, reward him with the treat and lots of praise. Then begin to move up the stairs one step at a time. On each step use a treat and lots of encouragement to coax your puppy into following you. Every time he climbs up another step, give him a reward and lots of praise.
If you reach the top of the stairs or when training has finished for the day, put your puppy on the lead. Then, with a tight hold on the leash, carry him down to the bottom of the stairs. Tightly holding onto his lead will prevent your excited puppy jumping out of your arms and taking a tumble.
Once your puppy is confident with going up the stairs, place him at the bottom and slowly start to walk up them. Use a toy or treat to coax your puppy into following. Many puppies will walk the whole flight of stairs with you; others will need a lot of encouragement. You may need to play the “up-the-stairs” game a few times until he is entirely comfortable.
When your puppy will go up the stairs with confidence, you can start to train him to go down them. Teaching him to go down stairs is done in much the same way as you taught him to go up.
Obviously, you start at the top of the stairs this time, rather than the bottom. Then using a treat and plenty of encouragement, coax him down the stairs one step at a time. Having already perfected going up the stairs, your dog will probably learn to go down them a lot faster.
Takeaways for Puppies and Stairs
- Puppies’ should be introduced to stairs at an early age.
- Large breeds should not climb stairs until 12 months.
- Make your stairs puppy friendly.
- Do not play games on stairs
- Teach your puppy to go upstairs first.
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