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How to Teach Your Dog to Use Pet Stairs

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Small dogs need stairs or ramps ImageYou bought the best pet stairs or dog ramp you could find. You placed it next to your bed with a flourish. You called your dog over and… he doesn’t want anything to do with it. He won’t use it and, if he does, he bails off the side part way, No matter. We can fix that and here’s how to teach your dog to use pet stairs:

  • Block bailing. Put the dog stairs or pet ramp up against a wall, if possible, or something that prevents your dog from leaping off one side. This makes safe use more likely and helps create success during your teaching phase.
  • Stabilize. Dogs don’t like to go up and down things that shift. Who can blame them? So if your set of pet steps isn’t inherently that stable (or your floor that level) wedge it between the wall and something heavy to hold it in place. You want it immovable while in use. Especially at first.
  • On leash. Start with your dog on leash so you can support and assist as needed. Always attach to a flat collar or a traditional back clip harness.
  • Approach then retreat. With some yummy treat in the hand closest to the stairs, approach them, praise and treat then walk away quietly. The good things happen as you go toward the stairs, not when you walk away.
  • Give it a go. When you dog is relaxed approaching the stairs then approach the stairs again only this time encourage your dog to put front feet on the first stair. Do NOT drag her or force her. That will only create resistance. Cheer bravery when you see it, repeat the approach retreat when you do not.
  • Bait the step. Put some treats on steps when you are done with the session. That way she can go get them when she wants to – at her own speed in her own time.

Taking your time is the fastest way to get a dog used to something new. Rushing things takes the longest. That is just part of the zen of dog training.

If your dog is small and you can safely do it, put your dog on the bottom step and let her get off. Then the second to the bottom. Same routine with the top stairs up on to the bed. Do this on leash so you can support good choices and prevent leaping off the side. If she does leap, just try again. Reward proper dog ramp/pet stair use warmly and well and your dog will soon be using them safely and consistently.

Having trouble? Ask me below!

Now you know how to teach your dog to use pet stairs. Go give it a try.

 

 

Author: Sarah

Sarah Wilson, Dog Expert, offers experienced-based dog info with humor. Author of 8 books, seen on PBS, Sarah knows all about dogs. {Pip} is her rescue dog.

6 Comments

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for your advice. U fortunately, my dog will have nothing to do with the dog stairs and we have been trying for three days. I will put her on the bottom step and she will just lay there staring at me and will not move. I am unsure why she is so afraid as she gies up and down the stairs in the front and back of my house. It is just the dog stairs she refuses to use. Help me!!

    • Hi Amanda – My guess is they must move a little and that movement spooks her. So make sure they don’t budge even the tiniest amount then, put her on the bottom step. Also, is the stairs are slippery themselves, maybe that unnerves her.

      Anyway, put a yummy treat on the floor in front of her and put your feet up. Relax. Nothing bad will happen to her on that step. When she hops off, celebrate her bravery warmly and for at least a minute then – back on to it she goes. She’ll get it! Sarah

  2. Hello, My 3.5 year old Brittany has a pinched nerve in his neck, therefore jumping off our bed is off limits for now…but he’s used to sleeping in our bed (and we want him there with us)…bought pet stairs and he is so spooked by them he will not use them. Unfortunately I tried to force him up them and he would have none of it. Do you still think it’s possible to get him to use them? He flies up and down the stairs in my raised ranch and the stairs on the deck!!! What gives?

    • Yes, it is possible but it will take some time. First, make sure the stairs are stable and don’t slip. At all. That may mean a mat or something underneath them. Then, for 2-3 days, ignore your sweetie unless YOU are sitting on those stairs. You praise and treat from that location. When he starts approaching you happily when you’re on them, circle back here and I’ll give you the next steps. 😀

  3. I have a tripawd boxer who is my developmentally disabled twin sister’s service dog (medical alert). She had her amputation one month ago, it took her about a week to gain confidence on the stairs to go potty but now she is totally fine with them. However, she cannot hop high enough to get on my sister’s bed. She will jump off the bed just fine. We purchased a carpeted set of heavy (and I mean heavy) wooden doggy steps that are no skid. She refuses to even get on them. She won’t touch a treat on them but will sniff for a treat on the bed. She is tall enough to put her head onto the bed and top of stairs but won’t even consider stepping on them. What do I do? I want to help her to feel more confident. She is 63lbs. and its killing my back to pick her up and down. We even placed non skid rubber/carpet mats on our wood floors so that she wouldn’t fall going from room to room to give her full access to the house. Any tips would help.

    • Hmmm… she might feel more confident with a larger landing pad like a trunk with carpet on the top. Something large enough she can negotiate jumping on to better. Or, you set up a bed next to your sister’s so she can touch her but not have her on the bed or you can put the mattress on the floor (if your sister’s disabilities allow for that). Hopefully one of those will work for everyone. Glad she’s doing well. Best – Sarah

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